Use Task Manager To Identify Excessive Disk Thrashing In Windows

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winlogo.jpgHow many times have you been force to wait for a simple task to complete because something in the background ends up thrashing your hard drive, slowing everything down? Helpless, you watch the light on the hard drive go from a flicker to a continuous glow, leaving you to wonder what process or program is the culprit.

To get to the bottom of annoying disk thrashing, an often over-looked feature of Task Manager, in both XP and Vista, provides the capability to add disk counters that can identify excessive disk activity.

By default, Task Manager displays the familiar CPU, Memory, Description, etc columns for each process that is running on your System. These columns are actually performance counters that are also found with Windows perfmon (performance monitoring) tool.

To add, additional counters, specifically for monitoring disk activity, open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc or right click on the Taskbar and select Task Manager.

Then, from Task Manager menu, select View \ Select Columns

taskmanagerdisk1.png

…scroll down and check I/O Reads, I/O Writes, I/O Read Bytes, I/O Write Bytes. Click OK when finished.

taskmanagerdisk2.png

The four columns will be added to Task Manager. If the columns are not visible (because you need to scroll to the right), you can easily click and hold on a column, then drag it to the left and order the columns to your preference.

taskmanagerdisk4.png

As you can see from my Task Manager, vmware-vmx.exe has been the most active process in the I/O Read Bytes, I/O Write Bytes columns.

NOTE: To easily identify the most active process, click on the column name to sort the data either highest to lowest or lowest to highest.

taskmanagerdisk5.png

What's interesting, is that most of the disk thrashing that occurs is not from writing to disk, but caused by reading.

To help understand, what these counters mean, let's take a look at their definitions listed  below.

  • I/O Read BytesThe number of bytes (bytes/sec) read in input/output operations generated by a process, including file, network, and device I/Os. I/O Read Bytes directed to CONSOLE (console input object) handles are not counted.
  • I/O ReadsThe number of read input/output operations (operations/sec) generated by a process, including file, network, and device I/Os. I/O Reads directed to CONSOLE (console input object) handles are not counted.
  • I/O Write BytesThe number of bytes (bytes/sec) written in input/output operations generated by a process, including file, network, and device I/Os. I/O Write Bytes directed to CONSOLE (console input object) handles are not counted.
  • I/O WritesThe number of write input/output operations (operations/sec) generated by a process, including file, network, and device I/Os. I/O Writes directed to CONSOLE (console input object) handles are not counted.

Now that you know how to identify what is causing disk thrashing on your Computer, you can begin to troubleshoot. Start by disbaling programs or process, Do not just uninstall applications.

Make sure you pin point the problem and understand why it is occurring. Once you do, your disk thrashing days can finally come to an end.

Filed under Windows Tips by  #

Comments on Use Task Manager To Identify Excessive Disk Thrashing In Windows Leave a Comment

February 26, 2009

ELMER @ 7:23 am #

HEHE

April 4, 2009

Geoff Jenkins @ 9:01 pm #

Surely these reads & writes are NOT (operations/sec) as per your article BUT total counts since startup!

April 7, 2009
June 1, 2009

Rob @ 3:18 am #

Hi – very useful article, thanks. I didn't realise (hadn't looked) that taskman could show those perfmon stats. Just worked out what was caning my disk this morning (Symantec AV downloading half a gif of new AV defs by the looks of it!)

I agree with Geoff that you can't really can interchange Bytes/s and Total Bytes. It's either one or the other, the article needs a small edit there as it is confusing. :-)

August 26, 2009

Peter @ 3:03 pm #

Yes, I also agree. Remove the reference to seconds where talking about the I/O counters — they have nothing to do with seconds!

Another important thing to note (although this is mentioned in the article) is that I/O numbers include network traffic. This means for example that webbrowsers will score high numbers, even though they may not be the applications that are causing all the disk activity.

February 17, 2011

FlyingBoat @ 2:11 pm #

I checked my PC's with both XP and Vista. Neither one have the option to view additional columns under task manager!

FlyingBoat @ 2:14 pm #

Forget it. Yes I do. I needed to switch to the Processes tab. Dah.

March 19, 2011

deckard cain @ 5:15 am #

I think you can also try AnVir Task Manager!

try google on it

September 22, 2011

Jon Doe @ 7:00 pm #

@deckard cain: Indeed very useful SW – thks for the tip!

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