100% Disk Usage on Windows 10? Here are 11 Solutions to Solve Your Disk Usage Problem

Have you noticed your computer, with Windows 10, is screeching to a halt, seemingly without warning? You can’t get anything done because suddenly the system is unresponsive and your actions can take minutes to register. You decide to open up the Task Manager (CTRL + ALT + DEL), assuming some program needs to be forced closed, but instead you see the disk column is red and reading 100% disk usage. Ending all of the applications you had running doesn’t help and you’re frustrated.

100% Disk Usage as seen in the Task Manager

Read below to learn simple ways to solve this Windows 10 problem. The 11 solutions range from simple and quick, to more involved, and even a last resort option has been included.

Unfortunately, this problem has a tendency to recur randomly, but often after Windows 10 updates. With some of these solutions under your toolbelt, hopefully you can quickly fix the problem and get back to enjoying your system.

What is 100% Disk Usage?

When your computer’s hard drive is reading 100% disk usage, your hard drive is being maxed out by some process. The disk is literally at its use limit. If you’re not doing anything intensive this can be really confusing and frustrating.

After a few minutes the problem may seemingly resolve on its own.  But if it’s a recurring problem on your system, you’ll become good at identifying quickly that your system slowdown is due to an episode 100% disk usage.

What causes this problem?

Disk usage is typically under 10% for a healthy and responsive system. Disk usage is the percentage of storage your disk is reading and writing to and from your disk. Every hard-drive (HDD)or solid-state (SDD) drive has a known maximum speed for reading and writing.

Startup programs

Startup programs often run in the background, especially during the initial startup of your computer, and can hog major disk resources. It’s recommended these are disabled from running in the background on startup. The only background programs that are sensible include:

  • iCloud
  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • MicrosoftOneDrive

This can be done simply by opening your Task Manager, navigating to the Startup tab, and disabling every program that you recognize and don’t need. Leave programs alone that you do not recognize or search the internet to learn what they are.

This option is a general option that is helpful for anyone, but doesn’t exactly solve the current Windows 10 100% disk usage problem. It’s important to know common processes that are hogging your system, but this problem usually requires further troubleshooting.

System resources

Your computer’s system resources can always be monitored to determine which processes are currently using your disk. Again open Task Manager, select the Performance tab, and select Open Resource Monitor at the bottom. This will open up a new window, where you will select Disk, and easily see which processes are reading and writing to your disk.

Solutions for 100% Disk Usage on Windows 10

Restart your PC

This solution should always be your first reaction when dealing with a computer issue. So many issues in IT are solved by restarting the machine. This will not solve the root problem and 100% disk usage may reoccur shortly after. But if you need to quickly get your machine in working order again, this may work for you.

Restart PC

To get the best results, choose Restart over Shut down.

  1. Click the Start icon or press the Windows logo key on your keyboard.
  2. Navigate to the Power symbol on the bottom of the menu.
  3. Select Restart.
  4. Upon restart, check Task Manager and see if the problem has been resolved.

Update Windows to the latest version

Another common troubleshooting solution is checking Windows Update. Significant changes have been made to the Windows updating process with Windows 10. You may not be aware if automatic updates are turned off and could be missing important security and driver updates.

  1. Navigate to Windows Update by typing ‘Windows Update’ into the search field on your taskbar. Windows Update can also be found by selecting the Start menu and clicking on the white gear icon for Settings.
  2. Select Update & Security.
  3. Then select Windows Update on the left side.
Install Windows updates

This is where information regarding available updates, past updates, and future updates is presented. If interested, you can read up on information on the latest updates and what new features are coming by following the ‘Learn More’ on the right-hand side, or the ‘See what’s in this update’.

Check for malware

Having protection against malware is really a must in this modern age. Malware is any software designed to invade your system and cause damage or steal information. This includes viruses, adware, ransomware, spyware, Trojan horses, and worms. The creators of these malicious headaches are much better now at developing software that is excellent at remaining hidden. Without malware protection your computer could be host to many bad viruses and you’d never know it.

Malwarebytes is the gold standard in malware protection and offers a Free option and a Premium paid option. The free option only retroactively removes malware, whereas the paid option acts to provide ongoing protection and prevent malware before it can compromise your system.

Malware on your system could be using significant disk resources and causing a disk usage spike. When your disk is at 100% any Malwarebytes scan will take a long time to complete, but it is still recommended.

  1. Download Malwarebytes.
  2. Locate the Malwarebytes setup file, called Mbsetup.exe and click to start installation. Unless you save the file elsewhere it should be located in your Downloads folder.
  3. When prompted select the Free or Premium version and follow all installation instructions.
  4. Scan your computer and remove the malware when completed by quarantining the discovered malware. 

Change Power Options

This is a community based recommendation because many Windows 10 users have had success in fixing the 100% disk usage problem by adjusting the energy settings of their system.

  1. Search ‘Power Settings’ in the Start Menu and select Power & Sleep Settings.
Windows Power & sleep settings
  1. In the new Window, find Related Settings on the right side and select Additional power settings right beneath it.
Customize a power plan
  1. The Power Options window will open. Most systems are automatically set to the Balanced plan. You want to select High performance to change your power plan.

Disable Windows Search

Windows 10 is known to have bugs associated with it’s search function that can lead to 100% disk usage. This service is used to search from the Start menu to quickly locate settings and programs, as well as to search for specific files inside your folders. If you decide to disable it, be aware you will not be able to use that function anymore and will have to manually locate things on your computer.

  1. Search ‘Services’ in the Start Menu and select the Services application.
Services app
  1. The Services application will open and  you want to scroll down to the bottom to find Windows Search.
  2. Right-click on Windows Search and select Stop.
  3. Check your Task Manager to see if there is improvement in your disk usage percentage.
Stop the Windows Search sevice

Disable the SysMain (also known as Superfetch) service

Updated versions of Windows 10 will list a service previously known as Superfetch, as SysMain. This service has been again linked to 100% disk utilization by Windows 10 users on many forums. SysMain or Superfetch is tasked with preloading frequently used applications into RAM. SysMain is not a vital feature to Windows 10, so disabling it won’t cause any problems.

You will be disabling SysMain the same way Windows Search was disabled.

  1. Search ‘Services’ in the Start Menu and select the Services application.
  2. The Services application will open and  you want to scroll down to find SysMain OR Superfetch. Your system should only have one of these options.
  3. Right-click on SysMain OR Superfetch and select Stop.
  4. Check your Task Manager to see if there is improvement in your disk usage percentage.

Uninstall Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash can be a problematic software that has been historically linked to huge security problems. Users have also associated Flash with the disk usage problem on Windows 10. Thankfully, Adobe Flash is no longer supported by Adobe as of December 31st, 2020. Adobe recommends uninstalling the program and browsers like Google Chrome are also phasing out Flash player.

Adobe has provided specific instructions on uninstalling Adobe Flash Player on Windows systems.

  1. Download the Uninstaller provided by Adobe.
  2. Make sure all browsers and programs that use Flash are closed.
  3. Locate the saved executable called uninstall_flash_player.exe, double-click and follow all of the prompts.
  4. Now you will locate all of the folders containing Flash folders and delete them. Search Run using the Start Menu and select the Run application.
  5. Copy and paste C:\Windows\system32\Macromed\Flash and the associated folder will open. Delete all the files in the folder.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the following locations:
    1. C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Macromed\Flash
    2. %appdata%\Adobe\Flash Player
    3. %appdata%\Macromedia\Flash Player

Change Google Chrome Settings

Some simple changes in Google Chrome’s settings have fixed the problem for some users.

Google Chrome has a resource intensive feature intended to load websites more quickly for the user, but sometimes it ends up creating unintended problems. This is done by prerendering all web pages that are linked on the current web page. If you click that link, Chrome has already prerendered it and your experience should be smoother. This setting is turned on by default so it will definitely need to be turned off if you don’t want it causing any problems.

  1. Click the 3 dots in the top right hand corner of your Chrome browser and select Settings.
  2. Select Privacy and Security from the left-hand side or scroll down to that section.
  3. Select Cookies and other site data.
Chrome cookie settings
  1. Look for the setting ‘Preload pages for faster browsing and searching’ and toggle this off.

Reset Virtual Memory

Virtual memory allows your system to compensate when it is lacking physical memory (RAM) resources. Virtual memory temporarily transfers the data from RAM to using disk storage. While virtual memory is an important management technique that allows for multitasking and flexibility, especially in systems with lower physical RAM, it can sometimes create problems. 100% disk usage can be triggered by many eros in the pagefile.sys.

  1. Search ‘System Settings’ in the Start menu and select View advanced system settings, which will be located within the Control Panel.
Advanced system settings
  1. The Advanced tab will already be selected, so select Settings in the Performance section.
Advanced System Properties
  1. A window called Performance Options will open. Select the Advanced tab and click the Change button.
Advanced Performance Options
  1. Make sure ‘Automatically manage paging file size’ is checked and select OK. Reboot the system and check Task Manager to see if the disk usage problem is solved.

Run Check Disk (CHKDSK)

In this step, you will be using the tool Check Disk (CHKDSK) to determine if your hard drive is experiencing any errors or is damaged. This utility can take a long time to finish and during that time, your system should not be used, so plan accordingly.

Chkdsk will scan the file system and file system metadata to look for integrity problems.

  1. In the search field of the taskbar, type in Command Prompt. It’s recommended to right click and Run as administrator.
Open Command Prompt
  1. The command prompt will open and you should type: chkdsk c: /f /r /x
    Using the /f will cause chkdsk to fix any errors found during the scan, while the /r parameter will locate any bad sectors and recover as much information as possible. Finally the /x parameter will dismount the drive so that it is not available to the operating system during the check.
  2. Read the results. You want to see the results read out ‘Windows has scanned the file system and found no problems.No further action is required.’ Any other message will indicate bad sectors or corruption on your hard drive which may need to be replaced. Consult a computer technician if hard drive issues are found.

Reset Windows 10

The last resort option when all of the previous troubleshooting solutions have failed, is to reset Windows 10. Windows 10 will completely replace all system files which will hopefully resolve the 100% disk utilization problem.

You do not need to fear losing your important photos and documents. Windows Recovery now gives the option to Keep my files or Remove everything. If you select Keep my files only Windows 10 system files will be replaced, but if you select Remove everything ALL of your personal documents will be wiped out.

Neither option will keep your installed programs. You will need to reinstall browsers, video games, and other software.

To reset Windows 10:

  1. Once again navigate to the Settings by selecting the gear icon on the Start Menu
  2. Select Update & Security and then Recovery.
  3. Under Reset this PC select Get Started and follow the prompts.
Reset Windows 10

100% Disk Usage Fixed!

Your disk usage should really never be at 100%. Computers now are overall quite fast and when massive slowdowns are occurring, this is an immediate red flag that a problem exists.

Ideally one of these options will have solved your problem! Return to this article as needed if the problem ever plagues you again following further Windows 10 updates or any other changes.

If none of the solutions were helpful, it’s possible your problem is related to hardware. Your drive could be failing or cables may be loose or need replacing.

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