Avast Academy Performance Performance Tips Fix 100% Disk Usage in Windows 10 Task Manager

Fix 100% Disk Usage in
Windows 10 Task Manager

Is Windows 10 impossibly slow? Is your Task Manager reporting 100% disk usage? Then your hard drive is likely running at full capacity. 100% disk usage strains hard drives and slows down your system. Read on to learn about high disk usage and how to relieve overworked disks, or streamline the process with Avast Cleanup.

Written by Deepan Ghimiray
Published on July 1, 2021

What is disk usage?

Disk usage is the percentage of your hard disk currently being used by your computer to run programs and carry out tasks. Disk usage relates more to the performance of your hard disk rather than its storage capacity.

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This Article Contains:

    High disk usage in Windows 10 can overwork your hard disk and lead to slow performance speeds, system crashes, and unresponsive systems. Many of the causes of high disk usage may have nothing to do with your computing habits at all. High or 100% disk usage can even occur on new devices.

    Note that disk usage shouldn’t be confused with disk storage, which is the total amount of storage space on your hard disk.

    If you find your disk is always at 100% disk usage, the first step is to identify what’s causing the issue — a cleanup or optimization tool can help. From there, you can directly address the issue and get back to a faster PC.

    Windows 10 high disk usage: what’s causing it?

    To know what’s causing 100% disk usage, you need to figure out what’s making your hard disk work so hard. Here’s how to analyze your hard drive and see what’s causing high disk usage in Windows 10:

    1. Open the Windows 10 Task Manager by right-clicking on the task bar and selecting Task Manager. (Or use the keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + Esc.)

       Windows 10, start menu expanded, highlighting Task Manager.
    2. Click the Disk column in the processes tab to review all currently running processes. If the arrow at the top of the column is pointed downwards, the programs with the highest disk usage will appear first.

      Windows 10 Task Manager, under the Processes tab. Highlighting Disk usage.

    If there are bright orange boxes in the Disk column, that means disk usage is high. Generally, any disk usage that exceeds 1 to 2 megabytes per second (MB/s) on individual processes is suspicious.

    It’s common for your disk usage percentage to periodically spike to 100% for a few seconds, but it should quickly come back down to under 20%. If you’re constantly experiencing numbers close to 100% disk usage in Windows 10, there’s likely a problem you need to address.

    High disk usage is often only one aspect of a larger issue causing a slow system. A comprehensive cleanup tool like Avast Cleanup can automatically check, fix, and prevent hard disk errors — as well as clean out your browser, manage your apps, and much more.

    How to lower disk usage

    If your disk is at 100% usage, you may be able to lower disk usage by checking for viruses, resetting your virtual memory, performing a clean boot, or wiping your hard drive. A simple restart might also clear up the issue.

    High disk usage often results from multiple factors, not just the one program showing a high percentage in Task Manager. It’s possible there’s more than one reason for your high disk usage, so try all the relevant solutions below.

    Restart your device

    As a general rule, restarting your device can work wonders. A fresh start will flush your computer’s RAM, which will stop all the short-term tasks and data bogging down your computer. This can also plug memory leaks and improve performance. A system restart just might be what your device needs to lower disk usage.

    To restart your Windows device, open the Start Menu, click Power, and select Restart.

    Windows button and power buttons highlighted on Windows 10

    Check for viruses

    Hackers create all kinds of malware that targets different parts of your system, including your hard disk. While it performs well against malware, Windows Defender may not be enough to protect against additional threats like phishing attacks.

    If you’re experiencing high disk usage, a computer virus or other malware may be the reason. Thankfully, there are many free and powerful antivirus software options available to snuff out potential attacks.

    Avast One is a comprehensive cybersecurity solution that will scan your system and eradicate threats to your hard disk — as well as the rest of your device. And it’ll monitor your device 24/7 to detect and block future viruses and other threats.

    Clean junk files

    Junk files are temporary files that your computer creates when you perform a task, like browsing the internet or viewing an image. These files are used only once, and if left to accumulate, they quickly build up. They can slow your system, cause performance issues, and contribute to high disk usage.

    Junk files are an inevitable part of how your computer operates, but you can regularly delete them to free up disk space. If you’re using one of the fastest browsers available, and you’re still experiencing slow browser speeds, examine your junk files.

    Like removing bloatware, clearing out junk files is one of the easiest ways to clean up your PC. Here’s how to use the Disk Cleanup feature in Windows 10:

    1. In the search box on the taskbar, type disk cleanup and select Disk Cleanup from the list of results.

      Windows search box with "disk clean up" and the results.
    2. Choose the drive you want to clean and select OK.

      Disk Cleanup feature in WIndows 10. Windows drive selected.
    3. Under Files to delete, choose the file types to remove. Choose Downloaded Program Files and Temporary Internet Files, and then select OK.

       Disk clean up for Windows feature open. Set to delete: Downloaded Program files and Temporary files

    You can also choose other file types like Recycle Bin to create more space. Just be sure you don’t delete anything you might miss.

    Through normal usage, your computer accumulates numerous unneeded files, and they’re often hard to find. Our dedicated optimization experts know how time-consuming it is to sift through and manually clean up all these files. That’s why we built an intuitive and powerful tool that thoroughly cleans your entire system.

    Avast Cleanup automatically seeks out and removes bloatware, junk files, and other unwanted files. Free up space to fix hard disk problems and get your PC running like new again.

    Uninstall Flash Player

    Adobe’s Flash Player was once popular for multimedia applications and streaming music and video. But since the end of 2020, Adobe no longer supports Flash Player and strongly recommends that you delete it.

    If that’s not enough incentive, Flash Player updates consume unnecessary disk space and have been known to cause problems with Windows disk usage, like spiking it to 100%. Microsoft has already released system updates that automatically delete Adobe Flash Player.

    1. Click the Adobe uninstaller link to download the uninstaller for Flash.

      Link to Adobe uninstaller for Flash Player
    2. On the bottom-left of your window, click the downloaded file for the uninstaller. When asked if you want the app to make changes to your device, click Yes.

      An Adobe uninstaller file download on WIndows 10.
    3. When the uninstaller opens, click Uninstall.

      Adobe Flash player uninstaller
    4. Follow the onscreen instructions and restart your computer when prompted.

    Reset virtual memory

    Virtual memory is a storage management technique that lets your computer’s RAM borrow space from your drive when it’s overloaded. Virtual memory will temporarily take data from your RAM and transfer it to your hard disk.

    RAM (random access memory) is your computer’s short-term memory, responsible for immediate computing tasks like running an app or browsing the web. It’s faster than your hard disk, which is used for longer-term storage.

    If you check your RAM, you’ll see it’s smaller than your main hard disk: generally 8 GB on an average desktop. If your RAM is maxed out, virtual memory will transfer some of the unused data to your hard disk, freeing up more space on your RAM. It will swap the transferred data back to the RAM once you need it.

    This is a great strategy on your system’s part, but it can also contribute to disk usage of 100% on Windows 10. The best solution is to add more RAM to your system, if you can — this isn’t possible on every computer.

    If you don’t want to add more RAM, here’s how to reset your virtual memory:

    1. On your keyboard, press the Windows key + Pause/Break key.

    2. Click Advanced system settings on the left side of the window.

      Windows 10 Control Panel with Advanced system settings highlighted
    3. Under the Advanced tab in the Performance section, click Settings.

      System Properties with Settings highlighted under performance.
    4. Under the Advanced tab, click Change in the Virtual memory section.

      Performance Options in Windows 10 with the Change button highlighted in Virtual Memory.
    5. Untick Automatically manage paging file size for all drivers. Select the [Windows] drive and tick Custom size to set the values for Virtual memory. Click Set, then click OK. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

      • Initial size: This value depends on your computer’s specifications. If unsure, use the value next to Recommended.

      • Maximum size: This value should be about 1.5 times the size of your RAM. So if you have 4 GB (4096 MB) of RAM, you shouldn’t set your maximum value higher than 6000 MB.

        Virtual Memory window with Custom size values added.
    6. Next, delete your computer’s temporary files. Press the Windows key + R. In the Run window that opens, type temp and press OK.

      Run form with "temp" typed in.
    7. Select all the files in the Temp folder and delete them.

      Temp folder in Windows 10 with all folder about to be deleted.

    Update Windows 10

    Bugs and general issues with Windows 10 (or any operating system) are inevitable. Developers release software updates to fix these problems as they arise.

    If you use Windows and 100% disk usage is an issue for you, make sure you have the latest version of Windows 10 — it might include patches to help fix your disk usage problems, as well as other issues you may be experiencing.

    Here’s how to update Windows 10:

    1. Open the Start menu and click Settings.

      Windows start button menu with Settings highlighted.
    2. Select Update & Security.

      Windows 10 Settings menu, Update & Security is highlighted.
    3. On the left side of the page, select Windows update. From here, check for available updates.

      Update and Security menu on Windows 10 w/ Windows Update tab opened.

    Windows 10 can bombard you with constant updates, which may cause 100% disk usage issues. Pausing automatic Windows 10 updates may help, but you’ll need to remember to check frequently for new updates — these are often essential for your computer’s security. We do not recommend disabling or stopping Windows 10 updates.

    And while you’re at it, make sure your drivers are updated. Drivers are a collection of files that tell your computer’s hardware how to work. A problem with the drivers associated with your hard disk might be causing high disk usage.

    Choose one of the best driver updater software options to ensure you always have the current drivers for your system’s hardware.

    Perform a clean boot

    A clean boot will restart Windows 10 with a limited number of drivers and startup programs. From there, you can reinstall third-party programs one-by-one to see if any of them are causing your system to use 100% of your disk.

    Here’s how to perform a clean boot in Windows 10:

    1. In the search bar, type: msconfig and open System Configuration.

      Windows 10 search tab with "Msconfig" typed with search results for System Configuration app
    2. Under the General tab, tick Selective startup. Then, tick Load system services, untick Load startup items, and keep Use original boot configuration ticked.

      System configuration Menu highlighting Selective startup options
    3. Under the Services tab, tick Hide all Microsoft services and click Disable all. Click Apply/OK and reboot your computer.

      System Configuration window in Windows 10 under Services Tab.

    Wipe hard drive

    You may have already tried to delete programs or defrag your hard drive, but sometimes, you just need a fresh start. If Windows 10 is using 100% of your disk, you can back up or clone the contents of your hard disk, wipe it completely, and then reinstall Windows 10.

    Larger or newer hard drive

    If your hard drive is at 100% disk usage, an obvious solution is to swap it for another one. A larger hard drive will provide more storage space, but this isn’t always the solution to high disk usage in Windows 10.

    It’s possible that, despite having enough space, your hard drive is outdated. Newer solid-state drives (SSDs) are faster and use less battery power. And since they don’t have moving parts like typical hard disk drives, SSDs are more durable than HDDs.

    As programs and apps constantly update and demand more from your system, it’s important that your hardware can keep up. If you're experiencing high disk usage, a new hard drive — like an SSD — may help.

    Change energy options

    Windows 10 offers a variety of energy options to help your computer save energy, maintain CPU temperature, and perform optimally. The default setting is Balanced, which is usually enough for most users.

    But if you continue to experience 100 percent disk usage on Windows 10, changing your energy option to High performance could give your system a boost, though this is a general performance tip and may not directly impact 100% disk usage.

    Here’s how to change your energy options on Windows 10:

    1. Press the Windows key + X on your keyboard. From the pop-up menu select Power Options.

      Pop up menu on Windows 10 highlighting Power options.
    2. In the Power & sleep menu, click Additional power settings.

      Power and Sleep options in Windows 10
    3. In the Power Options window, click Change plan settings.

      Power Option window in Windows 10 highlighting Change plan settings.
    4. In the Edit Plan Settings window, click Change advanced power settings. In the Power Options window that pops up, click the downfacing arrow next to Balanced and select High performance.

      Advanced settings in power options window in Windows 10

    Check for disk errors

    Disk errors occur for various reasons, including malware, corruption, power issues, and physical damage. Since they can lead to data loss, disk errors should be addressed immediately, and Windows 10 will usually prompt you if it detects a hard disk problem.

    But if you don’t get a notification and your disk is running at 100% usage, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Here’s how to check for disk errors on Windows 10 using CHKDSK:

    1. Type Command prompt in the search box on the taskbar, click Command Prompt, and select Run as administrator.

      Search result for command prompt app on windows 10. Run as administrator is highlighted.
    2. When prompted to let the app make changes, click Yes.

    3. In the Command prompt, type: chkdsk.exe /f /r and press Enter. Then type Y to finalize the disk check next time you reboot.

      Admin command prompt with command.

    Disable Superfetch

    Superfetch is a Windows feature designed to improve performance by optimizing your RAM. Superfetch anticipates what programs you’re going to use and pre-loads their data for you. This can decrease load times, but if you don't have the latest hardware, Superfetch can cause high disk usage.

    You can try disabling Superfetch, but if that doesn’t help with your high disk usage, re-enable it to reap its performance-boosting benefits.

    Here’s how to disable Superfetch:

    1. Right-click on the Windows Start button and select Run. In the window, type: services.msc. Click OK.

      Windows 10 Run feature with services.msc typed in.
    2. Under Name in the Services window, double-click SysMain, select Disabled, and then click OK and reboot your system.

      Services program in Windows 10. Options expanded for the SysMain feature.

    Do not try...

    Although there are many ways to address the issue of 100% disk usage, avoid the following tactics:

    • Disabling BITS: BITS is a key component in Windows used to download system updates. Disabling this service will stop important updates, which could harm your system.

    • Disabling Windows Search Services: This commonly used feature indexes content and provides search results for emails, files, and other data. Once disabled, apps that rely on the service may not work properly.

    • Modifying page files: A page file is the hard disk space used by your system for virtual memory. It’s best to leave it so Windows manages this file. Don’t try custom values, which could further harm your hard disk.

    • Disabling antivirus software: It’s possible that malware is causing your high disk usage; disabling your anti-malware tool could put your system at risk.

    • Disabling Windows updates: Windows updates can include critical patches for security vulnerabilities. Without these updates, you could jeopardize your computer.

    Clean up with Avast

    It’s possible that a single issue is causing your high disk usage. But more often than not, it’s a combination of the issues detailed above. Managing every corner of your Windows system can be a daunting task — but Avast Cleanup makes it effortless.

    Avast Cleanup will thoroughly assess your device and optimize it for peak performance. In addition to fixing disk issues, it will remove bloatware, cleanse your browser, and clean out your Windows registry. Once your system is optimized, Avast Cleanup will maintain your device and automatically update your most important apps.

    Avast Cleanup can get you back to a faster and cleaner Windows device right now — and keep it that way.

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    Performance Tips
    Deepan Ghimiray