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Windows 7: Frequent hdd access, horrible performance

04 Jan 2011   #1

Windows 7 Professional x64
Frequent hdd access, horrible performance

I've been trying to pin down this problem for months now, and I can't tell if it's getting worse or I'm just getting more frustrated with it. Every once in a while, for no apparent reason, my computer will just stop responding, and any audio or video will pause, for 5 to 10 seconds while the hard drive whirs noisily. By not responding, I mean the cursor does not respond to the mouse, and keyboard entries are remembered but not acted on until the 10 seconds are up. It has made watching video files an exercise in waiting for the inevitable. It (or something similar? not sure) happens very often when using Firefox with several tabs open - haven't yet tried other browsers to compare.

Interestingly, while video files (on system hdd or others) simply pause 10 seconds, and continue afterword as if nothing had happened (sometimes with temporary artifacts), a DVD will pause, then spend an additional 10 seconds playing the video first at maybe 2x speed, then switch to 0.5x speed, and finally back to 1x.

Memory usage almost never goes over 50%. Hard drive is less than half full. I have updated everything I can think of, including the hard drive's firmware. The problem persists in safe mode. There are no correlating events in Event Viewer. I've tried to use Performance Monitor and Process Monitor to track down whether there's any particular process that's causing it, but no luck so far. It doesn't appear to be reading or writing anything to disk during this time, but the %Idle in Performance Monitor drops to 0, while the current queue creeps up, and then there's a burst of reading and writing in the last second. I've run the Seagate's SeaTools hard drive tests, and they come up clean. Same for Windows memory test.

I knew when I bought this machine that it wouldn't be blazing fast, but I didn't expect performance like this. Am I running into some kind of hardware problem? Or is there some problem with my Windows 7 installation or settings that is causing this?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #2
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64


To start with lets rule out any problem with the health status of the disk. Please download and run this program, and post the resultant image here.

CrystalDiskInfo - Software - Crystal Dew World

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #3

Windows 7 Professional x64

Nifty program. Not quite sure what you mean by 'the resulting image', but here's... something, anyway. Not sure how concerned to be by that reallocated sectors count.
Frequent hdd access, horrible performance-crystaldiskinfo.png

My System SpecsSystem Spec

04 Jan 2011   #4
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64


Thats the image right there that you posted, but please maxmimise it and post again - there are some items on the bottom that you clipped off.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #5

Windows 7 Professional x64

I notice Reallocated Sectors has increased by two in just the past half-hour.

Frequent hdd access, horrible performance-crystaldiskinfo2.png

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #6
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

OK. The reallocated sector counts are a bit of a concern, but lets try a few other things first.

Can you please run the following:

1. Click Start Orb, and in the search box type "cmd"
2. Right-click on cmd and select Run as Administrator
3. Type chkdsk /f

You will be asked if you want to schedule a check disk at next boot, select YES. Now restart the PC, it will immediately run a chkdsk. This will take some time. Its important not to interiupt it until its finished. Take note of any messages close to when it completes.

Once its done, re-run CrystalDiskInfo, and lets see if the image has changed.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #7

Windows 7 Professional x64

Checking file system on C:
The type of the file system is NTFS.

A disk check has been scheduled.
Windows will now check the disk.                         

CHKDSK is verifying files (stage 1 of 3)...
  326144 file records processed.                                          File verification completed.
  278 large file records processed.                                      0 bad file records processed.                                        2 EA records processed.                                              60 reparse records processed.                                       CHKDSK is verifying indexes (stage 2 of 3)...
  400370 index entries processed.                                         Index verification completed.
  0 unindexed files scanned.                                           0 unindexed files recovered.                                       CHKDSK is verifying security descriptors (stage 3 of 3)...
  326144 file SDs/SIDs processed.                                         Cleaning up 406 unused index entries from index $SII of file 0x9.
Cleaning up 406 unused index entries from index $SDH of file 0x9.
Cleaning up 406 unused security descriptors.
Security descriptor verification completed.
  37114 data files processed.                                            CHKDSK is verifying Usn Journal...
  37561640 USN bytes processed.                                             Usn Journal verification completed.
CHKDSK discovered free space marked as allocated in the
master file table (MFT) bitmap.
CHKDSK discovered free space marked as allocated in the volume bitmap.
Windows has made corrections to the file system.

 732469247 KB total disk space.
 262182808 KB in 286051 files.
    135376 KB in 37115 indexes.
         0 KB in bad sectors.
    452163 KB in use by the system.
     65536 KB occupied by the log file.
 469698900 KB available on disk.

      4096 bytes in each allocation unit.
 183117311 total allocation units on disk.
 117424725 allocation units available on disk.

Internal Info:
00 fa 04 00 69 ee 04 00 63 c6 08 00 00 00 00 00  ....i...c.......
06 0a 00 00 3c 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  ....<...........
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  ................

Windows has finished checking your disk.
Please wait while your computer restarts.
Frequent hdd access, horrible performance-crystaldiskinfo3.png

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #8
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

Mmmm. OK.

Well, Reallocated Sector Counts is above the threshold, but all the other SMART indicators seems OK to me. I think this is definately disk/RAM related.

Couple of questions:
1. How defragmented is the disk?
2. What is the size of your pagefile?

I noticed you have a drive E: and F:. None of the videos/audio etc, you are running are from those are they? All the issues you experience are off the C: drive?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Jan 2011   #9

Windows 7x64 Home Premium SP1

I have the 1TB version of this disk. Is yours a 7200.11 or 7200.12? 7200.11 firmware was quite bad and needed to be updated.

After checking fragmentation (Windows should be set to do this automatically), you may want to download CrystalDiskMark from the same site as CrystalDiskinfo. This will run a detailed disk speed check.

chkdsk /r will do a complete bad sector scan. You can schedule the test from Windows
Computer>right click disk>properties>tools>check now> tick scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.
This is a long test and for your disk could take ~ 2hours. It will give progress readout.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2011   #10

Windows 7 Professional x64

Thank you for these extremely prompt replies.

In general, I feel like I run into this problem more when I'm accessing something on the C: drive than when I'm accessing something on the E: or F: drives. One weird thing I ran into lately (should have thought to check it earlier) is that the problem seems to be much worse on my administrator account (generally the one I use) than on the guest account. I haven't actually verified that I can experience the problem on the guest account after a few hours of testing, whereas it is becoming a constant annoyance on my main account. I will continue testing.

It is a 7200.12 (model # st3750528as), and the firmware is up to date.

I have a scheduled defragmentation every Wednesday at 1am. Fragmentation of C: is currently at 3%, so I think we can safely assume that that level of fragmentation has accumulated over the past week.

Total paging file size for all drives: 4095 MB
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Frequent hdd access, horrible performance

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