Windows Vista desktop harddrive is constantly whirring all the time...

Dear Experts, I have an older HP Windows Vista computer that a friend of mine wasn't using and gave to me a few months ago. Everything works okay, except that the hard drive on it is constantly cranking away on something, all day all night. I look at the processes running and don't see what it could be that's running in the background so much. It's starting to drive me bonkers frankly - all that clattering. Is this a Windows Vista thing? If so, no wonder nobody liked that OS. Can whatever background process it is, be safely stopped?

Thanks!
    Shawn
shawn857Asked:
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rindiCommented:
What are the specs of the PC? CPU, RAM, HD Size? What software are you running? What AV tool are you using?
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shawn857Author Commented:
Hi Rindi...  it's an HP a6400f with Pentium Dual CPU E2200 @ 2.20 GHZ. 3 gigs of RAM. 32 bit OS. 500 gig HD of which 248 is free.

The only software I have running in the background is Comodo free firewall. No full-time antivirus running, at least as far as I know. There could possibly be some free Symantec thing running in the background, although it's not obvious in the Task Manager. The Task manager does show a "Windows Defender User Interface" task running though. There's also a "Microsoft Sync Center" job running too... maybe this could be doing something?

Thanks
   Shawn
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rindiCommented:
The hardware should be OK, although not the newest. Remove all software you can particularly any symantec crap, but also the commodo firewall, as the Windows builtin firewall is very good.. Or even better, do a factory restore, then remove all unnecessary software, then do a complete update. Install Panda free antivirus if this is a privately used PC. Just make sure you have done a complete backup before starting.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Well that's the thing - i don't really know which background processes I can safely remove or not.

The constant hard drive activity was happening long before I put Comodo on there also.

Not so keen on doing a factory restore as I've installed some software (Delphi programming language and components) which will be a real pain to try and re-install again. Would like to avoid this if I could.

Thanks
    Shawn
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rindiCommented:
Installing software should never be an issue. Normally it doesn't take much time. A factory reset is usually the best option, and after that removing any additional software that was included with the factory image.

If you have made a good backup it shouldn't be any issue anyway, as you can always go back.
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shawn857Author Commented:
I read somewhere on the net that there's this file indexing thing that Vista automatically does when your computer is idle that could contribute to this problem. I located and stopped this process and thought I had fixed the problem, but it still kept doing it. Maybe I didn't shut it down correctly or there are still remnants of it?

Thanks
   Shawn


P.S: Really want to avoid the factory reset Rindi, as I had a crash due to virus on my main laptop and as a result had to make a extenal backup of that and also copied it onto the big Vista harddrive. That was job and I'd rather avoid having to go through all that file copying again.
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web_trackerComputer Service TechnicianCommented:
yes indexing can have a lot to do with the problem, but the process should not cause it to run for several hours after you are not using it. Other things that could be running is automatic updates, and the disc de fragment program, which is supposed to automatically run when the system is idle.  How full is the hard drive, if the hard drive is full then the disc defrag process can take longer to run due to lack of empty drive space.
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rindiCommented:
Backing up is something you should do regularly anyway, best daily, to different external HD's you rotate between. All HD's fail sooner or later...

Maybe you could even get hold of a cheap Windows 7 package on ebay or similar, then install that, and after that upgrade for free to Windows 10. Both, Windows 7 and 10 work better than Vista and are easier on the resources.
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nobusCommented:
it looks like a typical infested system with virus or malware
did you scan for these?
first use your AV - updated; then run these:
http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php                         MBAM
http://majorgeeks.com/RogueKiller_d6983.html                  Roguekiller
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks for the input everyone. I have plenty of free HD space - about 250 gigs. I do already regularly run Malwarebytes, but have not ever ran RogueKiller. I ran them both and they did find some "PUP" files, which I cleaned out. I also googled and found a Norton/Symantec tool which completely deletes remnants of old Symantec installations - I think that helped also.
    It seems to be somewhat better, but still does *some* cranking every now and then. I also went into MSCONFIG and stopped a few obvious processes/services that I don't need, but there's still quite a few running that I'm not really sure are necessary or not. I've attached screenshots of my Task Manager's listings of running Processes and Services... would anyone be able tp point out which items are unnecessary please?


Thanks
   Shawn


P.S: Rindi - I have not yet uninstalled Comodo. I'm a little unsure of the built-in Windows Firewall if it's "safe" enough. I had a Cryptowall virus a couple months ago on another computer of mine and I'd hate to get that again. Maybe I just need some reassurance!
Processes.jpg
Services1.jpg
Services2.jpg
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rindiCommented:
The Windows firewall is perfect. There is no need for anything else. You just have to make sure you don't open unneeded ports. Things like cryptowall you don't get via open firewalls anyway, but rather mostly via "the user". For example if you open an email attachment, or an executable you downloaded etc. Also, it is much easier for such crap to infect a PC if you are logged on as a user that belongs to the Admin group. You should only logon as a standard user and reserve the admin account for when UAC shows up, even if you are the admin.
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nobusCommented:
you can turn off windows sidebar in the processes
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, I uninstalled Comodo and reverted to Windows Firewall.. and disabled the Windows sidebar. I think it's helped some, but still though, every now and then it seems to take a fit and do some heavy duty hard drive processing behind the scenes on something. Looking at Task Manager, I have no idea what it could be. Then if I do a reboot, it seems to quiet that down... for a while. Weird, isn't it.

Shawn
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nobusCommented:
with older systems - many things may be the cause - often the software is corrupted
so i would stop looking for the cause, and do a fresh install
you can probably do that from the factory restore partition

that will ensure everything is fine
**you will need to do updates, or load SP1, SP2, and probably the latest IE version too
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks. I've got Vista Home Premium Service Pack 2.. I'll see if I can upgrade it more and if that makes a difference. IE - I never use. It's v9.0.8112.16421IC. Upgrading it will make a difference even if I never use it?

Most of the time (when it's not quiet), the hard drive is just doing a persistent, almost metronome-like, clicking. Everything in my Task Bar processes and Services seemed normal then?

Thanks
    Shawn
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nobusCommented:
it looks like your up to date
what you can do is :
-run msconfig and disable all programs in the startup tab - and reboot to test
-run in safe mode - and check if it still happens
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks nobus, I will try this tonight and let you know...
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Jackie ManCommented:
Schedule a disk check to check the hard disk. It seems to me that you got disk error.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks Jackie... by "disk check", you mean to do what is described here:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows-vista/check-your-hard-disk-for-errors

yes?

Thanks
    Shawn
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Jackie ManCommented:
Yes

Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors.
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Jackie ManCommented:
Disk check will be scheduled upon restart of PC.

It will take around 30 minutes to an hour to complete the disk check.
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rindiCommented:
If you do that, first run the disk manufacturer's diagnostic. Only that will tell you whether the disk itself is fine. If you run a chkdsk with repair options on a disk that is bad, you can cause bigger issues, it should only be run on healthy disks. Chkdsk only repairs file-systems.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks for the input Rindi, but how do I get the disk manufacturer's diagnostic tool? The only info I can get regarding the disk drive in this computer is from the Control panel|Device Manager, where it simply shows the disk drive as ST3500630AS.
   OK, just did a google search on that number right now and it shows that it's a Seagate drive. So there should be a proper diagnostic tool for this exact drive available for download on the Seagate site?

Thanks
    Shawn
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rindiCommented:
That's a seagate. So go to the seagate site and download the utility from there. Or boot the PC using the UBCD, the tools are also included on it:

http://mirror.sysadminguide.net/ubcd/ubcd535.iso
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shawn857Author Commented:
what is a UBCD?
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shawn857Author Commented:
is this what I need?  :

http://www.seagate.com/ca/en/support/downloads/seatools/

Thanks
   Shawn
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rindiCommented:
The link I posted above is for the UBCD. It is a bootable CD with a wealth of useful tools on it, a must have.
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK thanks Rindi... for now I'd rather just try the downloadable Seagate tool.

Is this what I need?  :

http://www.seagate.com/ca/en/support/downloads/seatools/

Thanks
    Shawn
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rindiCommented:
Yes.
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK well I ran the Seagate tool. It has a "short" test an a "long" test. The hard drive passed the short test, but the Long test only goes to 99% and is staying stuck at that. However, it does say "Long generic - Pass". So I guess I can assume it passed the Long test, and I can proceed to the Check Disk?

Thanks
   Shawn
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nobusCommented:
it should pass 100% - but since you have somewhere problems - that can cause it
i would proceed with chkdsk
and if that does not solve it, run sfc / scannow or a repair
http://www.updatexp.com/scannow-sfc.html                        SFC use in XP
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm            Repair install  XP

**make another user account -  and use that to check if the problem persists

if these do not help - a fresh install is yourt best option
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Jackie ManCommented:
If all test results are normal, the noise may be from HDD parking.

http://www.wilderssecurity.com/threads/how-can-i-disable-continuously-parking-heads.370669/
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, I ran the full Chkdsk overnight 2 nights ago and it ran clean... I'm assuming it did - since when I got up my computer was ready and booted back into Windows.
   It would still do some clattering now and then, but not too much. And when it would, it seems that doing a reboot stops it... for a while anyway. Anyway, earlier today it started to really do some whirring (like it was processing some big job), so I decided on trying to delete one process at a time from the Task Manager... in an attempt to maybe isolate which process was causing all the disk activity (see attachment Processes.jpg). I killed one process at a time until there was only 3 left (csrss.exe, winlogon.exe, and hkcmd.exe), but still the disk activity continued :-((

Nobus, a few days ago you had wrote this:

"what you can do is :
-run msconfig and disable all programs in the startup tab - and reboot to test
-run in safe mode - and check if it still happens "

Are these two *different* things to try, or to disable all in msconfig and then immediately reboot in safemode?

I haven't tried this yet, but think I will now at this time. I'm just worried that i will disable something crucial, and then the computer won't boot back up properly and I won't be able to get back into msconfig to turn it back on. Attached also is a screenshot of the Startup processes that show in msconfig.

Thanks
   Shawn
Processes.jpg
msconfig.jpg
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shawn857Author Commented:
Jackieman, thanks for the info about HDD parking, that could be it too. I read some of the stuff at the link you provided... most was kind of over my head though. In a nutshell, do I just need this "CrystalDiskInfo" and apply the  "Maximum performance" settings to it?

Thanks
   Shawn
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Jackie ManCommented:
I just need this "CrystalDiskInfo" and apply the  "Maximum performance" settings to it?

Yes

Also, when you check the process list, try to click the button on the bottom "show processes from all users" and post back the results.
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nobusCommented:
>>  Are these two *different* things to try,   <<   YES

if the disk heads are continously parking - the disk has an operational problem that would show by running a diag on it (the hangup at 99% maybe?)
can you test if it happens with another disk ?
you can even put the image of this one on it for testing
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shawn857Author Commented:
Just booted into "Safe mode with networking" and leaving it like that for a while to monitor it ... so far it's quiet as a mouse.

After that will install CrystalDiskInfo with "Maximum Performance" settings.

Just had a thought last night - would it be worthwhile trying this: Just boot up as normal, then unplug my internet connection and see if the hard disk activity still continues. I'm thinking maybe it's the "Windows Update" that could be continuously downloading or something in the background. Worth a try?

Thanks
   Shawn
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nobusCommented:
it is worth a try
also disconnect all devices from the pc

did you try the clean boot, as i suggested   on 2015-11-14 at 08:38:06ID: 41244064 ?
you said you would try, but did not post the outcome
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shawn857Author Commented:
Hi guys, sorry for the delay. I've tried the following, to no avail... there is still the persistent clicking of the HD - maybe about 3 or 4 clicks per second, at a consistent rate. Then about once a minute it will do a cluster of whirring for a few seconds, then go back to that consistent marching pattern of 3-4 clicks per second.

(1) Unplugged the internet connection, and also unplugged all other peripheral devices (ie. Magicjack phone, speakers). Didn't make any difference.

(2) Installed CrystalDiskInfo and tried Jackie's suggestion according to the site at:
http://www.wilderssecurity.com/threads/how-can-i-disable-continuously-parking-heads.370669/

The AAM/APM controls advanced feature window had all controls greyed out so I could not apply the "maximum performance" setting. Why would this be all greyed out? See attached screenshot CrystalDiskInfo2.jpg. Also see screenshot CrystalDiskInfo1.jpg for what the main screen of that program looked like - with all my hard drive's diagnostic figures.

(3) I also took a screen shot of the Task Manager again - this time first clicking "Show processes from all users". Please see attached screenshots AllProcesses1.jpg and AllProcesses2.jpg.


Nobus, I still have not tried your suggestion:
"-run msconfig and disable all programs in the startup tab - and reboot to test"

... as I'm scared that after I disable everything, it won't boot up and then I'll be stuck - unable to get back in msconfig to enable the startup programs again. Is this 100% safe to do? I'm just a little leery about trying it...

Thanks
    Shawn
AllProcesses1.jpg
AllProcesses2.jpg
CrystalDiskInfo1.jpg
CrystalDiskInfo2.jpg
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nobusCommented:
>>  after I disable everything, it won't boot up   <<  it will boot up - it only does not start these programs at startup - that's all

it's 150% safe - or even 200%
much more than running other softwares ...
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shawn857Author Commented:
Sorry for the delay guys, I'm now getting a "System fan has failed" error on bootup for this machine... sheesh. I need to get that rectified first...

Thanks
   Shawn
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nobusCommented:
if it's only the cpu fan, then you only have to replace it
if the fan runs fine, that's another story - then you have probably a faulty sensor

you can then try connecting the fan to the molex 12V connectors
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, fixed the fan problem and now back to the task at hand :-)

Nobus - I unchecked all the checked items in MSCONFIG (see attached screenshot) and rebooted a few hours ago - quiet as a mouse so far, we might be on to something. I will report back in tomorrow after monitoring this some more.

Thanks
   Shawn
msconfig1.jpg
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nobusCommented:
you can just tick "disable all"
to test later, just tick "enable all" again
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shawn857Author Commented:
Still nice and quiet all day - I think we've narrowed it down to the Startup programs. So now, should I just add the Startup programs back one at a time (one per day), and watch how it behaves?

Thanks
   Shawn

P.S:  I notice that the computer runs pretty much the same with no Startup programs. I was expecting to have problems with audio and my mouse as I figured some of those Startup programs were essential (ie. Logitech, HD Audio). Maybe I should just continue going forward with no Startup programs at all? Doesn't seem like they affect anything....
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nobusCommented:
you can also select a group of 2-3 at the time, to speed up the process a bit
the programs still do work, but only are not started at startup
and drivers are still being executed - no worries
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks to everybody during this long drawn-out question.  t seems disabling all my startup items really helped... I'm not even going to bother to wrack my brain trying to determine which process it was - I'm just leaving them all disabled. Everything works, and the hard drive is quiet - I'm happy with that!

Thanks!
     Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Not to resuscitate everything, but I should say that just every now and then - when the computer is idle and the monitor off - it starts doing some cranking (just happened now). As soon as I turn back on the monitor, the cranking stops. Is this an indication of something?

Thanks
    Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Correction - it has nothing to do with turning on the monitor. As soon as I move the mouse, the cranking stops. Just happened one minute ago.

Shawn
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nobusCommented:
not sure why the other answers were credited, if msconfig was your answer?
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rindiCommented:
It could be indexing. Indexing usually happens when the system is idle. Also AV tools often scan the system while it is being otherwise idle
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shawn857Author Commented:
Guess I spoke too soon  :-(  With practically nothing running on the machine, it started cranking non-stop for about 45 minutes... it just stopped a little while ago. I had already disabled Windows Indexing on the machine a couple of months ago.
   So maybe it isn't the Startup programs doing all this after all. I guess there's no such thing as some diagnostic software that tells you what programs are currently running/chewing up the hard drive?

Shawn
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nobusCommented:
you can Always open task manager, select Performance tab and hit the source control knob - then select the harddisk to check
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks Nobus, I'm not sure what you mean by "source control knob", or where to find it, but I did find the following - see attached screenshot. Currently, the hard drive has just started whizzing again for whatever reason, so this is perfect timing. Under the Performance tab, in the "Resource Overview" screen, I clicked on "Disk" to expand it, and it seems to show in real-time what is chewing up the hard-drive. There seems to be a couple of "system" things doing a lot of writing and reading. Can you make sense of the info in this screenshot? The "System Volume Information" thing looks like it may be the culprit. What is that exactly?

Thanks
   Shawn
ResourceMonitor.jpg
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nobusCommented:
sorry - i run another language and had not the correct translation, but it looks like you found it

>>  System Volume Information  <<  = the storage of system restore points; to reduce it's size :
In start search type Advanced and select View Advanced System Settings
 Select the System Protection tab
 select the drive that as too much space wasted and select configure.
 Adjust the max usage, this should take care of both system restore and shadow copies for you.

 This will reduce the number of files or restore states you can have, so it is a balance of space vs longer term protection.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks Nobus, ok I'm at that tab, but there is nowhere to adjust the max usage... just a button "System Restore" to invoke a restore and a "Create" button to create a new Restore point...
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nobusCommented:
on my system there is a slider for the used space...use that
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, I found how to do it by using the vssadmin DOS command. I set it down from about 60 gigs to 5 gigs. It still took a whirring fit after that though (although very quiet today). While it was cranking I took another screenshot of the resource monitor (attached). Question please: would it be a process that is doing a lot of READING or one that is doing a lot of WRITING that would generate the most harddisk chewing? Seems to me it would be the "writing" process, no? Anyway, it appears a process in "System Volume Information" and another in the C:\Windows\TEMP folder were the two main ones.

Thanks
   Shawn
ResourceMonitor2.jpg
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nobusCommented:
on my system, i have a 256 GB C: drive, and it is set to 4% of the space = 10 GB, and found that i have enough restore points
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shawn857Author Commented:
Yes I think down to 5 gigs is good. Nobus, what are your thoughts about the question in my last post?

Thanks
    Shawn
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nobusCommented:
if it is creating restore points- it reads and writes
you ca, also disable the creation for a test :  http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/33910-restore-point-automatic-creation-disable-windows.html
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK but which would make the hard drive clatter - the WRITE activity, yes?

So you're suggesting to disable the automatic creation of the System Restore point for just one day to then observe the hard disk activity during that time?

Thanks
  Shawn
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nobusCommented:
>>  which would make the hard drive clatter   <<  whazt do you mean with clatter ?
BOTH will need to reposition the heads often - maybe that's the noise you hear
you should not be able to hear any difference in reading or writing; i know of no reason really
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, well not really "clatter", but just the sound of hard drive activity. So read/write will both contribute equally then to audible hard drive activity...

Getting back to your other suggestion: "you can also disable the creation for a test :  http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/33910-restore-point-automatic-creation-disable-windows.html". So you're suggesting to disable the automatic creation of the System Restore point for just one day to then observe the hard disk activity during that time?

Thanks
  Shawn
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nobusCommented:
yes, that is what i suggest
however - before doing it  - you must know that all the restore points will be deleted
if you want to keep them, maybe best move them to another folder
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, just disabled the System Restore... will get back to you tomorrow regarding the results.

Thanks
   Shawn
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shawn857Author Commented:
Nobus, after the reboot I just did, I noticed a lot of activity for about 5-10 minutes. I took a screenshot of the Resource Monitor and attached it. SVCHOST.EXE was doing some pretty intensive work on the "Master File Table"... what would that be?

Thanks
    Shawn
filetable.jpg
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shawn857Author Commented:
it's now been steadily clicking for a few hours now, on what seems to be another job. See attached screenshot please.
windowstemp.jpg
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Jackie ManCommented:
SVCHOST.EXE was doing some pretty intensive work on the "Master File Table"... what would that be?

"How Windows stores files

Hard drives are divided into sections, or clusters, which are the smallest unit of hard space that can be allocated to a file. A file can live in multiple clusters scattered across the hard drive. The Master File Table (MFT) tracks the file's location and which clusters it uses.

When Windows deletes a file, it simply removes the index entry from the MFT, and then tells the MFT that the clusters the file occupied are free for reuse.

When Windows writes a new file, it checks to see which clusters are free, splits the file up among them, writes the file to those clusters, and then adds the index entry in the MFT with the file properties and the clusters where it is located.

Since files of different sizes are constantly being added and deleted, files end up getting scattered across clusters all over the hard drive. This is inefficient, because when Windows requests a fragmented file, the hard drive has to move to various sections of the disk to retrieve it. If only the file clusters were right next to each other...and that's what Defraggler does....the MFT stores the locations of files on the hard drive. The MFT is represented as a file (called $MFT), but it cannot be defragmented in the same way as other files...."

Source: https://www.piriform.com/docs/defraggler/technical-information/how-windows-stores-files-and-how-defraggler-works
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Jackie ManCommented:
it's now been steadily clicking for a few hours now, on what seems to be another job. See attached screenshot please.

System Volume Information is the system hidden folder to store the restore points since Windows XP.

To conclude, all your screenshots seems to be normal and you do not need to be worry about them.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks Jackie, so I should do a defrag with that too for the MFT issue?

Regarding your 2nd post, I had already disabled System Restore several hours earlier, so why would it be doing so much activity to that WINDOWS\Temp folder?

Thanks
    Shawn
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nobusCommented:
here is what svchost does :  http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/what-is-svchostexe-and-why-is-it-running/

a defrag can be useful, if you did not do one recently
temp folders are used by many programs, so it seems it is still running software
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shawn857Author Commented:
Well, I used the Defraggler tool to do a defrag. My files were only 6% fragmented and it only brought it down to 5% fragmented so I don't think it made much difference. System Restore is still disabled, but still, for the last few hours here the hard drive has been steadily and slowly chewing away while writing to some file in the WINDOWS\TEMP folder (see attachment). Why would it still be doing this while System Restore is disabled?

Thanks
   Shawn
ResourceMonitor3.jpg
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nobusCommented:
defragging was needed with small drives - but not really a help with the big ones now..

you can look in the TEMP folder what's been written there...
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shawn857Author Commented:
OK, it's been doing a lot of writing to that same Windows\Temp file all day yesterday and still doing it all day today. I took a screenshot of the contents of that folder... there's some pretty big files in these - one of them almost 64 gigs - are they system restore points?

Thanks
   Shawn
WindowsTempFolder.jpg
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nobusCommented:
the KBnnnn  folders are temporary fiels for installing updates
and the names of the files can be part of it, or of system restore points  that it is creating
is the setting still the same?

you can also install process monitor to view more dependencies : https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb795533.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396
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Jackie ManCommented:
System restore points are stored in the the system hidden folder inside c:\System Volume Information\...
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nobusCommented:
i know they are stored there - but they may create temp files also
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shawn857Author Commented:
Guys, I have had System Restore disabled for several days now. The hard drive activity has stopped, but it was going for almost 2 days straight there.

Nobus, you wrote:

"the KBnnnn  folders are temporary fiels for installing updates
and the names of the files can be part of it, or of system restore points  that it is creating
is the setting still the same?"

It appears all those KBnnnn folders are empty. But what are those huge files named TMP00000... ? One is 64 gigs, two others are 15 gigs apiece.

Thanks
   Shawn

P.S: Nobus, I will install that process monitor you mention.
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shawn857Author Commented:
Hi guys, are you still with me...?

Shawn
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Jackie ManCommented:
This question is closed.

Start a.new question is better.
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nobusCommented:
tmp files are file that are temporarily used  - usually while installing, or updating software, and can be removed if needed
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shawn857Author Commented:
Thanks Nobus. Should I start a new question on this? I regret having prematurely finalized it  :-(
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nobusCommented:
well - that is up to you
but this thread is becoming very long, and the topic now is only slightly touching the Original topic
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