Print Spooler causing a lot of hard drive activity

Some time in early June my computer started to slow down. The boot up would take a long time because of a lot of hard drive activity. While using the computer it would pause for more than 5 minutes because of a lot of hard drive activity. Also when I go in to Control Panel / Printers it took a long time to list the printers. I traced it to the Print Spooler. When it is disabled, Windows starts up normally and the computer doesn't pause.

I used Process Monitor, Autoruns and Process Explorer from Sysinternals.com to find out that SPOOLSV.EXE was the cause.

I uninstalled both my printers and deleted the drives from Server Properties in Control Panel / Printers. The only printers left are "Microsoft office Document Image Writer" and "Intuit Printer"

During the time that there is a lot of disk activity(computer is unresponsive) Process Monitor shows that SPOOLSV.EXE is accessing the following 2 folders A LOT:
c:\windows\system32\spool\printers
c:\$Directory.

I have Norton Internet Security 2009 installed and there are no threats detected. I used Autoruns to check for programs that should not be starting up.

On June 4 and 10 some Vista and MS Office patches were installed. I uninstalled the Vista patches.

Vista Home Premium
Pentium dual core
2gigs ram
88gigs free on HD
LeonGarfieldAsked:
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Ahmed Ezzat AbuRayaNetwork Developer EngineerCommented:
Is it unresponsive due to disk activity or to cpu hog?
I would try disabling the spool service, then deleting all files in (C:\WINDOWS\system32\spool\PRINTERS) .. (should end with *.spl /*.shd) and rerun the service again. And see what happens.
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Ahmed Ezzat AbuRayaNetwork Developer EngineerCommented:
Also I'd make sure there's no stuck printing job in the (Microsoft office Document Image Writer) ..

Tell me if there's a progress :)
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LeonGarfieldAuthor Commented:
Just a lot of disk activity. It is not a CPU hog.

I will check the C:\WINDOWS\system32\spool\PRINTERS folder and let you know what I find.
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LeonGarfieldAuthor Commented:
hello Zo2FoL,

you are on the right track. The PRINTERS folder does contain files. It took me some time to figure out how to gain access to the folder. It seems that there are many hundred thousand files in there. Windows has been apply the modified security to the folder for the past day and it is still doing it. Once I gain access to all the files it will take some time to delete them. I will let you know how things are going.

The next question to this problem is why there are soooooooo many spool files in the PRINTERS folder? I didn't print that much. Also, the short directory listing I have seen shows that the file sizes are all ZERO.
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Ahmed Ezzat AbuRayaNetwork Developer EngineerCommented:
well, files are created in this folder whenever there is a print job. They should be automatically deleted, but for some reason they are not in your case. (maybe there are open handles to these files.. e.g. Antivirus program? or something..)

As a workaround you can make a .bat file that is run at schedule, with these simple lines:

[@echo off
del C:\WINDOWS\system32\spool\PRINTERS\*.shd
del C:\WINDOWS\system32\spool\PRINTERS\*.spl]

This is exactly like manually deleting the files, but It saves you time and effort.

I assume you have no problem deleting the files :)

Let me know what happens :)
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LeonGarfieldAuthor Commented:
There were over 500,000 files in the folder. They were all dated July 16 or July 17. I tried to get a proper count on the number of files but the directory listing using the command prompt started to get corrupted well in to the listing. It will take some time to delete them. I will then run a chkdsk to correct any problems and return to the PRINTERS folder to see if I need to delete more.

I will keep you up-to-date.
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LeonGarfieldAuthor Commented:
Thank you for your solution Zo3FoL. I removed all the *.spl files from the PRINTERS folder and the problem is solved.

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