Why Is My Hard Drive Working So Hard When My PC Is Idle?

Hard drive LED

Have you noticed this? You come back to your PC after a coffee break and the hard drive LED on your PC is flashing away constantly and you can hear the sound of your hard drive working away furiously. Try to do anything on your PC or laptop and it will crawl along slowly as if doing something really CPU-intensive in the background. What is it doing? Is it secretly part of a botnet, carrying out someone else’s dirty work despatching spam emails, is someone secretly accessing the hard drive and stealing all my data? Well possibly, but if you’re following a good PC maintenance routine, your PC should be secure. So if it’s not that, then why all this activity when I’m not actually typing anything?

This had bugged me for some time. But the penny started to drop a few weeks ago when I was looking into scheduling to run batch files automatically at set times to back up my data to the cloud. I had never ventured into the Windows Task Scheduler before and was surprised at how many services are actually scheduled to run at different times. They’re all listed there.

To access the Task Scheduler in Windows 7, just click the Windows orb at the lower left corner of your screen and type scheduler into the search box. Then click on Task Scheduler and give it a chance to load its information. The bottom of the opening summary screen actually shows the Active Tasks, tasks which are currently enabled and have not expired. There are 46 currently running on my system

Task Scheduler5

Double click on any of these and you can learn more about them – what triggers them, what programs they run, when they run, if they wait till the computer is idle before they run. Then have a look at the complete library of scheduled tasks in the left pane of Task Scheduler. For example, if you open the Windows folder, you’ll see just how many Windows tasks have been automatically scheduled to run, most probably way back when you installed Windows or bought your PC. A good example is system restore points. The scheduled task is called SystemRestore and on my system, it’s scheduled to run on startup and at midnight every day, and it’s status is Enabled. Other scheduled tasks that will likely slow your PC at various times are things like software updates.

So this will give you some idea why your PC is working so hard at times when you don’t actually expect it to be. You can also check the processes running at any time using a great utility called Process Explorer, but if you don’t want to install any additional third party software, just go to the Windows orb again and type resource. Then click on Resource Monitor. This will give you an instant overview of what’s happening on your system. Click the CPU tab for more details.

In the next post, I’ll have a look at a scheduled task that many seem unaware is actually running in Windows Vista and Windows 7 and then duplicate what it’s doing unnecessarily using third party utilities.

3 Responses

  1. Nick Says:

    Thanks for the tip.. I’ll have to check this out. I figured thats what most computers are doing. Everyone installs tons of applications and they have it update automatically in the back ground.. so when you are doing something cpu intensive and that task decided to check for an update.. there it goes bogging down your system.

  2. Gabby Says:

    Oh I should have found this blog sooner. My hard drive is ruined now. :( But on the bright side, at least I know what to do when I buy me a new one. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. my site Says:

    I like reading an article that can make men and women think.
    Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

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