High disk usage can be difficult to fix, but here are the most common reasons why it happens and how you can fix it and make Windows responsive again.
There are several things that can cause 100% disk usage in Windows, and this can be a difficult problem to resolve. But help is just around the corner: here are all the common reasons why it happens and how you can fix it.
When one process, or a combination of processes, takes too much of your computer’s hard drive, everything can slow down. It was probably the lack of response that led you to check the Task Manager where you discovered that your disk is at maximum.
Finding the problem is only the beginning – you still need to fix whatever caused the return to normal.
Restart your computer
The first thing to try – as with most Windows problems – is to turn it off and on again. It sounds too simple, but it can often cure issues that you might have studied for a long time.
You cannot use the Shut Down option on the Start menu. With Windows 10, it doesn’t really do what it says and records the state of the system so that it can boot faster. And that means the problems don’t go away.
Instead, use the Restart option which shuts everything down properly and restarts fresh.
After that, if the problem persists, leave your computer alone for an hour to do whatever it takes. A weekly virus scan or a scheduled backup might take place.
These shouldn’t cause such a problem, but if you have an older computer with a relatively slow hard drive, it might be more noticeable.
In this case, it may be useful to to put update your old drive to a much faster SSD.
Before that, run a virus scan using the software you installed – malware could be the problem.
If you haven’t done so already, search Task Manager for the application or process that is processing your disk.
A quick way to launch it is to press Ctrl + Shift + Esc simultaneously. Click the “More Details” arrow if Task Manager does not display the full interface, then click the Disk column heading to rearrange the list so that it is sorted by disk usage with the higher up.
This might be all you need to identify the offender, but more often than not, it will be a Windows service rather than an application causing the problem.
You might not even find any evidence of a heavy disk load by any process.
And if you can’t see any process using a lot of disk resources, your computer might be using the wrong storage driver. Microsoft is well aware of the problem and this is the “official” solution to the 100% disk usage problem.
In a nutshell, it’s a firmware bug in some SSDs that makes Windows think it hasn’t completed a task and repeatedly resets the device.
The solution is to turn off ‘MSI’ mode, but only if you are using the inbox AHCI driver. Of instructions step by step can be found on the Microsoft website.
However, of all the Windows 10 laptops and PCs we saw with 100% disk usage, none suffered from this particular issue.
Similar to restarting your PC, you would be surprised how often you update anything that fixes issues. We have fixed at least one Windows 10 laptop with 100% disk usage by installing the latest updates.
To check if your machine is up to date, open the new Settings app (Start menu> sawtooth icon), then click Update & Security.
You may see a “Check Now” or “Install Now” button if any updates are already downloaded.
Disable Windows Features
Unusually, a Windows feature will be the cause of the problem. Some people have found that the search results in high disk usage and disabling the feature fixes it.
Others say turning off Superfetch, BITS, the print spooler, or even sound effects can cure it.
However, even though you can go down this route, this is not the one we recommend. Disabling features like the print spooler means you won’t be able to print until you enable it, and none of them should be the root problem: they don’t cause 100% damage. use of the disc under normal circumstances.
However, if you want to temporarily disable a service to see if the problem goes away, follow these steps:
Press the Windows key and R together. Type services.msc in the box that appears and press Enter.
Now the Services window will open. Scroll down and find the one you want, right click on it and choose Stop.
If all else fails, and it’s a very extreme course of action, you can reinstall Windows.
Windows 10 has a few options that make this easy. One is ‘Reset this PC’ which lets you keep all your documents and files, but you can also completely erase your hard drive and start from scratch.
You’ll need a backup of all your data before you do this, and it’s worth reading our separate guide on how to reinstall Windows 10.