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Windows Task Manager – Resolve High Disk Usage

Windows Task Manager

Windows Task Manager – Resolve High Disk Usage

The other day I was debugging an ASP.NET Application, and I noticed that the build and debug was really slow. I then noticed that my laptop fan was spinning continuously, and that this seemed to be related to the debug session. I stopped the debug, but the fan kept on going like a bat out of hell. It was at this point that I decided to open up Windows task manager and see what was going on. Windows task-manager popped up on my screen and I could immediately see where the problem was. It showed that the disk utilization was at 100% and it never abated, not even a percentage.

Windows Task Manager

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In this Article

  • Using the taskmgr task manager command with Run
  • Using the task manager shortcut key to quickly run task manager
  • Identifying and resolving high disk utilization
  • Speeding up your PC
  • The full list of run commands

Windows Task Manager Command taskmgr

Clicking around to find the task manager is so 90’s. As a software developer, I use many keyboard shortcuts to speed up my coding, navigation in Windows and accessing programs. A great shortcut to learn is the Windows Key + R. Pressing these keys will open up the Run console. Simply enter taskmgr and hit OK.

Task Manager Command taskmgr

The Run command by the way can be used for a variety of other commands. See the end of this article for a full list of run commands that can be used with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10.

Windows Task Manager Shortcut Key

Another very quick way to access Windows task-manager is to hold down the Ctrl+Shift+Esc keys together. This will immediately run task manager for you. This is one of the shortcuts I personally use most often.

Identifying and Resolving High Disk Utilization

By now you should know how to run task manager and should have the task manager window open on your screen. Along the top of the task manager window, you will see several tabs. These are Processes, Performance, App history, Startup, Users, Details and Services.

Windows Task Manager

You need to click on the Performance tab and have a look at your disk usage. If it is high, you might have a problem. Leave your task manager open for a while and keep monitoring the disk utilization. If your disk utilization is constantly high (or at 100% in my case), you definitely have an issue on your hands.

Task Manager

Normal disk utilization in task manager is more of a spiked graph with many peaks and dips. Sometimes when starting an application, the disk utilization can jump to 100% and stay there for a few seconds, but it should return to normal (or idle) in a matter of minutes.

If your disk utilization is constantly high, you definitely have an issue on your hands

If you have many resource intensive applications starting up or running, you should expect the disk utilization to jump. It must however return to normal, and not doing so is just not cricket.

Speeding up your PC

According to a support article by Microsoft, the issue might be related to a firmware bug with some Advanced Host Controller Interface PCI-Express(AHCI PCIe) models that makes disk utilization operate at 100% on Windows 10. This is despite light or little actual workload on the PC. Firstly you need to identify if you are running the inbox AHCI driver StorAHCI.sys.

Device Manager

Open the Run command (Windows key + R) and type in devmgmt.msc and hit OK. This will open up the Device Manager. Look for the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers group and expand this. Then right-click on the AHCI Controller node (called Standard SATA AHCI Controller above) and click on Properties. In the properties window, click on the Driver tab and click on the Driver Details button.

StorAHCI Driver File Details

In the Driver files window, if you see storahci.sys then you are running the inbox driver. You are on the right track so far. You now need to disable MSI for the controller in the registry. Before you do that though, you need to make a note of the device instance path. Staying inside the properties window, click on the Details tab and select the Device instance path from the Property drop-down.

Device Instance Path

Copy the path to a text file and open the registry editor. Once again, you can open up the Run command and type regedit and hit OK. You need to navigate to the registry node for the path selected earlier.

Registry Editor

The registry key will be at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\ <AHCI Controller>\Device Parameters\Interrupt Management\MessageSignaledInterruptProperties, with <AHCI Controller> being the device instance path you made a note of earlier.

MSI Supported Key

Double-click the MSISupported REG_DWORD key, and change the value from "1" to "0". Then exit the registry editor and have a look at your task manager windows again.

Windows Task Manager

You should now see the Disk Utilization return to normal. As you can see from my Windows task manager above, mine dropped from 100% to 8%. You might need to reboot your PC after this process.

The full list of run commands

Here are some of the Windows Run Commands (in bold) available in Windows 7, 8.1 and 10. The full list can be found here in this great article on PC Steps’ website.

  • Calculator calc
  • Command Prompt cmd
  • Control Panel control
  • Date and Time timedate.cpl
  • Device Manager hdwwiz.cpl
  • Disk Cleanup cleanmgr
  • Internet Explorer iexplore
  • Open Documents Folder documents
  • Open Downloads Folder downloads
  • To Open the Favorites Folder favorites
  • Open Pictures Folder pictures
  • To Open the Recent Folder recent
  • Open Videos folder videos
Dirk Strauss
Dirk is a Software Developer and Microsoft MVP from South Africa. He loves all things Technology and is slightly addicted to Twitter and Jimi Hendrix. Apart from writing code, he also enjoys writing human readable articles. "I love sharing knowledge and connecting with people from around the world. It's the diversity that makes life so beautiful." Dirk feels very strongly that pizza is simply not complete without Tabasco, that you can never have too much garlic, and that cooking the perfect steak is an art he has yet to master.

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  • Alberto

    Excellent! Thank you so much, it definitely solved my problem!

    • That’s fantastic Alberto. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Jo Hansen

    Hello Dirk, I try to fix my comp with your ways but why my windows 10 don’t have IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers? My disk is always at 100% eventhough I just using for browsing. Any idea? Thank you from Indonesia.

    • I have seen many other threads suggest that this could also be caused by malware. I suggest that you scan your machine and see.

  • This is from one of the forums on the subject – https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-performance/cpu-usage-problem/3c8bd94a-1a41-48e6-9b13-8d130c77c7c2?auth=1

    “While device resets can be caused by a varying number of factors, we are aware of issues with some Advanced Host Controller Interface PCI-Express(AHCI PCIe) models that causes these symptoms in Windows 10 when running with the inbox StorAHCI.sys driver. Due to a firmware bug, the Solid-state drive (SSD) does not properly complete input/output when Message Signaled Interrupt (MSI) mode is enabled. As a result, the Windows storage stack attempts to reset the device after waiting on unresponsive reads or writes for a period of time.

    Task Manager might show 100% disk utilization on Windows 10 devices with Message Signaled Interrupt (MSI) mode enabled; Task Manager might show the disk to be at 100% utilization despite a light or no workload, and the system may experience lag or become unresponsive. In addition, the system event log contains numerous events with Event ID 129, which represent resets of the disk controller.”

    Basically you are just switching this feature off. Even though the thread mentions SSDs, I found this solution to work for HDDs too.

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