Here’s all you need to know about ‘High Disk Usage’, along with the most effective fixes to resolve the issue.
If your Windows starts lagging, programs take a few seconds to respond, and games hang out of the blue, it could all be due to high disk usage on Windows 11. This is quite frustrating and hampers your Windows 11 experience. As intricate as the term or problem may sound, fixing it is quite straightforward.
But, before we move to the fixes, you must understand what exactly is ‘Disk Usage’ and what leads to ‘High Disk Usage’.
What is Disk Usage?
Disk Usage is not to be confused with ‘Disk Storage’, a mistake often made by users. Disk usage is the percentage of the disk in use by the system to perform functions such as running an app or carry out disk read/write tasks. In contrast, Disk Storage is the amount of data that can be stored on the hard disk.
The disk storage is related to the performance of the system. It should generally be less than 15%, although a momentary increase shouldn’t be a cause of concern. However, if the disk usage on your system remains high for prolonged periods, it will likely impact the system’s performance and affect your work.
But, how do you identify high disk usage? You could simply check the Disk Usage in the Task Manager. However, high disk usage is quite evident in the system’s performance itself. When the disk usage is high, apps will begin to lag, and videos will start to buffer, launching a program will take more than usual, just a few signs.
To check Disk Usage, launch ‘Task Manager’ by searching for it in the ‘Start Menu’ or using the CTRL + SHIFT + ESC keyboard shortcut. In the ‘Processes’ tab of the Task Manager, you can find the Disk Usage as a separate column.
You will notice that the Disk Usage in the above screenshot is 6%, which usually lies around, as mentioned earlier.
Now that you know how to check the Disk Usage, it’s time to understand what leads to high Disk Usage.
What Leads to High Disk Usage?
The cause of high Disk Usage is different for each system, and you can’t really pinpoint an issue. However, in most cases, it’s the following that leads to high disk usage.
- Too many programs launch at startup
- System infected with virus or malware
- Outdated drivers
- Running too many apps at the same time
- Certain services have been found hogging the disk
We believe you are now well acquainted with the concept of ‘High Disk Usage’, what leads to it, and how it affects the system’s performance. It’s time we walk you through the various methods to bring down the disk usage.
1. Restart the Computer
Whenever you encounter an error on Windows 11, a simple is restart is likely to fix it. This is because when you restart the computer, it forces the OS to reload, thus fixing any minor bug or glitch responsible for the error.
In the case of high disk usage, restarting the computer should bring down the disk usage to normal levels. However, this doesn’t fix the underlying cause that’s leading to the issue. But, it will surely give you some time to complete your work and start the troubleshooting process.
It’s recommended that you ‘Restart’ the computer and not opt for ‘Shut down’. To restart the system, launch the ‘Start Menu’ either by clicking on the ‘Start’ icon in the Taskbar or pressing the WINDOWS key. Next, click on the ‘Power’ button and select ‘Restart’ from the menu.
After the system restarts, check if the Disk Usage has lowered through the Task Manager, as discussed earlier.
2. Run Scan
It could be malware or a virus that’s leading to high disk usage on your system. Running a full system scan will help fix the issue. If you use a third-party antivirus, you can use it to run a scan. Otherwise, you can also use the built-in Windows Security, which is equally effective for securing your computer.
To run a scan, search for ‘Windows Security’ in the Start Menu, and then click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
In ‘Windows Security’, select ‘Virus & threat protection’.
Next, click on ‘Scan options’ to view the other scans that can be performed on the system.
Now, select the checkbox for ‘Full scan’ from the list and then click on ‘Scan now’ at the bottom.
The scan will start instantly and take some time to complete. You can continue working on the system while the scan runs in the background. Once it’s complete, you will be informed if any malware or virus was detected and the action taken or required from your end.
3. Update Hard Drive Firmware
The firmware is software hard-coded to the hard drive. It contains storage programming and facilitates communication between the computer and the hard drive. Updating the firmware may fix issues that are leading to high disk usage. Although you are not required to update the firmware regularly, it’s worth a shot in case of high disk usage.
You can download the latest firmware update from the manufacturer’s official website. All you got to do is identify the hard drive manufacturer and its type.
To find out the hard drive on your system, search for ‘Device Manager’ in the Start Menu and then launch the app from the search results.
In ‘Device Manager’, locate the ‘Disk drives’ option and double-click on it. Now, note the drive name listed under it. In case you connect external drives as well, identify the main drive from the list.
Now, search the web for the latest firmware. It’s recommended that you download the update from the manufacturer’s official website.
4. Disable SysMain Service
SysMain, previously called Superfetch, is a service that helps pre-load apps that you frequently use to enhance system performance. Also, it keeps track of the apps used on a specific day of the week or any other systematic pattern and loads them accordingly. Although it considerably enhances the performance, it’s known to cause high disk usage, and disabling it might work.
Note: SysMain a core Windows service, and we recommend not disabling it unless necessary.
Also, after you disable the SysMain service, check if there’s any considerable lowering in disk usage. If you don’t spot any, re-enable the service.
To disable the SysMain service, search for ‘Services’ in the ‘Start Menu’ and click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
Now, scroll down and locate the ‘SysMain’ service. The services are listed in alphabetical order, so locating them shouldn’t be much of a trouble.
Once you have located the service, double-click on it to launch its properties.
In the ‘General’ tab of the Properties window, click on the drop-down menu next to ‘Startup type’ and select ‘Disabled’ from the list of options.
After setting the Startup Type to ‘Disabled’, click on ‘Stop’ under ‘Service Status’ and finally click on ‘OK’ at the bottom to save the changes.
Now, reboot the system and monitor the disk usage. If it hasn’t come down, restart the service and move to the next fix.
5. Disable Windows Search Service
The ‘Windows Search’ service indexes data stored on your computer to fetch results quicker when you perform a search. It is known to hog up the disk, thus leading to the high disk usage issue.
Note: Windows Search is a core Windows service and disabling it might affect some features, and the time to execute a search will increase. Again, you should only opt for it as a last resort.
To disable the Windows Search service, launch the ‘Services’ app, scroll down and locate the ‘Windows Search’ service, and double-click on it to launch its properties.
In the properties window, click on the ‘Startup type’ drop-down menu and select ‘Disabled’ from the list of options.
Next, click on ‘Stop’ under ‘Service status’ and then click on ‘OK’ at the bottom to save the changes.
Now, reboot your computer and check if the disk usage has lowered. It’s advised that you monitor the disk usage for a while since restarting the system will itself reduce the disk usage. If there’s no considerable lowering, re-enable the ‘Windows Search’ service.
6. Disable Telemetry
The telemetry feature runs in the background and collects data about how you use your system and diagnostic information, and shares it with Microsoft. It has always raised privacy concerns amongst users, but another aspect of it that’s often ignored is the high disk usage. Disabling the telemetry feature will help save a lower disk usage.
To disable the telemetry feature, launch the ‘Services’ app as discussed earlier, locate the ‘Connected User Experiences and Telemetry’ feature from the list, and double-click on it to launch the properties.
Now, click on the drop-down menu for ‘Startup type’ and select ‘Disabled’ from the list.
Next, click on ‘Stop’ under ‘Service Status’ to stop the service from running, and finally click on ‘OK’ to save the changes and close the window.
Now, reboot the system and check if the disk usage has lowered. It should, but if you still face the high disk usage issue, try the other methods mentioned here as well.
7. Disable Background Apps
Background apps can also lead to an increase in disk usage. Disabling background apps may stop a few functions and features, but you can always manually launch the app for that. Also, this has proven highly effective in lowering disk usage.
To disable the background app, right-click on the ‘Start’ icon in the Taskbar or press WINDOWS + X to launch the ‘Quick Access’ menu, and select ‘Settings’ from the list.
Next, select ‘Apps’ from the tabs listed on the left, and then click on ‘Apps & features’ on the right.
While in the earlier version of Windows, you could easily disable all the background apps at once, you have to disable them individually in Windows 11.
In the ‘Apps & features’ screen, you will find a list of apps on the screen. Identify the app that you don’t want to run in the background, click on the ellipsis next to it and select ‘Advanced options’.
Next, locate the ‘Background apps permissions’ heading and click on the drop-down menu under it.
Now, select ‘Never’ from the list of options in the menu.
The selected app will not run in the background anymore. You can similarly disable other apps from running in the background.
8. Disable Tips and Suggestions
Disabling tips and suggestions have worked as a fix for some users. Therefore, we consider it worth a shot.
To disable tips and suggestions, launch the ‘Settings’, as discussed earlier, and select ‘Notifications’ under the ‘System’ tab.
In the ‘Notification’ settings, scroll down to the bottom and untick the checkbox for ‘Get tips and suggestions when I use Windows’.
Now, check if it lowers the disk usage. If not, try the other methods here.
9. Disable Antivirus
Your antivirus could also be responsible for high disk usage on Windows 11. For example, if the antivirus runs a scan in the background, it might hog up the disk. Also, if it malfunctions during a scan or another process, the disk usage might shoot.
Your primary approach should be to check if there’s a scan going on. If there’s, wait for it to complete and check if the disk usage lowers to normal levels. If there’s no scan running and the disk usage is still high, disable the antivirus and check if it impacts the disk usage.
Note: We do not recommend disabling the antivirus for long, as it exposes your computer to potential threats. It should only be a short-term solution until you come up with a concrete fix.
Many users prefer the built-in Windows Security app. However, it might also lead to high disk usage, and disabling ‘Real-time Protection’ might work as a fix.
To disable ‘Real-time protection’ in Windows Security, search for it in the ‘Start Menu’ and click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
Next, select ‘Virus & threat protection’ in Windows Security.
Now, scroll down and click on ‘Manage settings’ under ‘Virus & threat protection settings’.
Finally, click on the toggle under ‘Real-time protection’ to disable it, in case it’s enabled. Then, click ‘Yes’ in the confirmation box that pops up.
After disabling ‘Real-time Protection’ in Windows security, check if the disk usage has reduced. If you don’t find any considerable change, re-enable it.
10. Change Power Plan
If you are on a ‘Balanced’ power plan, switching to ‘High performance’ will lower the disk usage. However, it will consume more power and will discharge your laptop sooner.
To change the power plan, search for ‘Choose a power plan’ in the Start Menu and click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
Now, select the ‘High performance’ power plan from the list.
11. Perform a Clean Boot
A clean boot basically starts the computer with just the required programs and drivers and helps you identify the cause behind high disk usage. In the clean boot, you can identify the problematic applications or services and fix them. This is a time-consuming process. Hence it is mentioned as the last fix.
To perform a clean boot, search for ‘System Configuration’ in the ‘Start Menu’ and launch the app from the search results.
Next, navigate to the ‘Services’ tab, select the checkbox for ‘Hide all Microsoft service’, and then click on ‘Disable all’. All the additional services that are not required for the basic functioning of the system will be disabled.
Now, navigate to the ‘Startup’ tab from the top and select ‘Open Task Manager’ to launch the Task Manager.
The ‘Startup’ tab of Task Manager will open. Now select the programs you believe may be leading to the high disk issue and click on ‘Disable’ at the bottom. Once done, close the Task Manager window.
Now, click on ‘OK’ at the bottom of the ‘System Configuration’ window to save the changes.
Finally, click on ‘Restart’ in the box that appears to restart the system.
The system will now restart with minimum apps, drivers, and services. But, first, check if the high disk usage error persists. In case it does, it’s not the programs or drivers that are causing the issue but something else.
However, if the disk usage remains under normal levels most of the time, it’s one of the services or programs you earlier disabled behind the issue. In that case, you can enable them one at a time and identify the problematic one. Restarting one at a time would take way too long and to speed up the troubleshooting process, enable the top-half, reboot the system, and check the disk usage. If the disk usage remains normal, it’s either the second half or the programs that are causing the error.
To enable the services, launch the ‘System Configuration’ app in clean boot mode, select the ones that you want to enable, and click on ‘Apply’ at the bottom.
You can similarly continue to narrow down until you find the problematic item. Once found, either disable it or go with uninstall, whatever sounds suitable.
After you are done troubleshooting and taking the necessary action, launch the ‘System Configuration’ app, navigate to the ‘Services’ tab, and click on ‘Enable all’.
Also, re-enable the programs that you want to load at startup from the ‘Task Manager’. To re-enable, all you have to do is select the program and click on ‘Enable’.
Now restart the computer to boot it in normal mode.
12. Upgrade RAM
If none of the above fixes seemed to have worked and you couldn’t identify any problematic item during clean boot, it’s time you upgrade the RAM. When you perform a task that requires a memory higher than the available RAM, Windows will offload the task to the disk. This is called ‘Paging’, and the virtual memory on the disk that acts as a RAM is called a ‘Pagefile’.
However, there’s a certain as to how much the RAM on a computer can be increased. Since this differs from one computer to the other, we recommend you take expert advice for the same.
Here’s how you find the currently installed RAM on your system.
Launch the Task Manager either by searching for it in the ‘Start Menu’ or using the CTRL + SHIFT + ESC keyboard shortcut. Now, navigate to the ‘Performance’ tab from the top, select ‘Memory’ from the left, and the installed RAM will be mentioned near the top-right corner.
Once you are done executing the fixes mentioned above, the disk usage should come down. Now, you can work on your computer without apps lagging or freezing.