Drive-ing Me Crazy!

Sometimes the strangest problems have simple solutions…

My computer recently slowed to a crawl for no apparent reason. A full malware scan revealed nothing, but I noticed something – The hard drive activity light was on constantly, even when I was not using the computer. Hmm. Time for a look under the hood.

One of the best improvements in modern versions of Windows is in the Task Manager. Windows has always had this tool, but it has gotten a lot better at showing resource usage and performance data.

How do we launch this very valuable tool? Well, as with many other Windows features, there are several ways. I usually launch it with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-Esc (That means hold the Ctrl and Shift keys and press the Esc key). Two other ways are right-clicking on the Taskbar, which gets you the following menu:

Right-click on the taskbar gets you this. Your menu will look slightly different.

Right-click on the taskbar gets you this. Your menu will look slightly different.

Another way is to click the Start button and type “task manager,” which gets you this:

Screenshot 2016-06-03 12.02.10

Any way you do it, you’ll get the Task Manager window, which will open at the “Processes” tab. This is the tab for finding and killing unwanted or unresponsive programs, or finding out what’s hogging resources.

The tab we need right now, however, is the next one over, the “Performance” tab.


As you can see, this gives the usage level, in percent, of CPU, memory, and drives, and network performance in Mbps or Kbps. As you can also see, I actually have three hard drives in my system. Well, my “E” drive was showing 100% usage – Even though I wasn’t doing anything to access it (It should have looked more like the above picture).

So, I naturally thought I had a drive going bad. I quickly backed up everything not already backed up, and ran a battery of tests on the drive, which all came back saying the drive was disgustingly healthy. Hmmm. There were three things that could be wrong; The motherboard drive controller, the drive itself, or the drive cable. A new drive would’ve cost me around $100, and I’m not about to replace a motherboard if I can help it, because it’s not only a lot of money, but a lot of work. I did, however, have plenty of spare drive cables lying around, so I replaced the cable, and What Do You Know? Problem solved! First time I ever had a drive cable go bad, but it does happen!

Moral of the story? Always try the simplest, cheapest solution first before you start throwing money at a project.

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