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HDD light solid and activity at 100 constantly for no apparent reason, computer locking up. HELP

Earlier today, my Windows 7 Professional HP Pavilion DM1Z 3200 automatically installed some updates. I postponed the reboot since I was using the computer occasionally to write some notes for a book I am reading. When i woke it from sleeping (after having already used it for a while a couple hours prior), the HDD activity light on the side was solid, the computer was locked up, and the hard drive was making a rhythmic vibrating/clacking sound quietly. I tried to reboot the computer, but that was nearly impossible because the whole thing was just unresponsive. I did a force shutdown, boot back into windows (the booting took a while because the HDD was doing the exact same thing), and started running a Malwarebytes full scan to make sure it wasn't a virus. During this time, the HDD was still misbehaving, so this process of getting the scan started took a while. Once it started, I let it run for a bit and checked out Resource Monitor, which showed the HDD "Highest activity time" constantly at 100%, and I'm not seeing any obvious signs of why it might be doing that. At random times, the activity will suddenly drop from 100% to normal (I think), which is like 40%-70% while that scan was running. Then, it bumps back up to 100. Note that although it is random for the activity to decrease, it is very rare and only lasts for a few minutes.

I let the scan run for nearly 5 hours, but it simply was not making much progress with the HDD using all its resources on whatever else is screwing with me. It had almost finished and had found nothing, so I was confident that it was not a virus.

No idea what to do. Can anyone help? This happened like once before about 3 weeks ago (got the computer about 4 weeks ago used), and I think it always seems to be around the time that Windows asks me to reboot because it needs to install updates. Last time, it just sort of went away by itself. Now that i know it is reoccurring, I'd like some advice. The computer has worked fine whenever it wasn't doing this.

The HDD is a 160GB Hitachi drive.

Last thing. I tried running a disk check when this happened the last time. When I did, it got to stage 4 (where it, I think, goes through all the files on the disk) and got hung up on one file and just sat there for hours, never making any more progress. During this time, I'm pretty sure the activity light was solid, and I AM sure that it was making that same rhythmic noise that it always makes when it gets stuck at 100% and locks up. I forced shutdown and rebooted to Windows. I guess I can try it again. I might try running it over night tonight.

ANY HELP IS APPRECIATED! I need this computer for school so I really hope I can get it fixed!
18 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. Open Resource Monitor (you can find this through search on the Start Menu or in Accessories>System Tools) and go to the Disk tab. There, you can see the process which is using your disk heavily. See if it's a legitimate process.

    Sometimes, high disk usage may be caused by faulty registry entries or poorly coded programs.
  2. Entomber said:
    Open Resource Monitor (you can find this through search on the Start Menu or in Accessories>System Tools) and go to the Disk tab. There, you can see the process which is using your disk heavily. See if it's a legitimate process.

    Sometimes, high disk usage may be caused by faulty registry entries or poorly coded programs.


    I will check again, however, from what I could tell before, there was no difference in the processes when it was stuck at 100% and when it was in the 40%-70% range. In fact, when it was lower, more processes seemed to appear on the list.

    To clarify, I should be looking to see if any process has an unreasonably high number under Total (B/sec), correct?
  3. Best answer
    yes, an unreasonably high and consistent number under read/write that doesn't seem to make sense compared to what the process is supposed to be doing.

    Disk active time doesn't mean the amount that it's being occupied like CPU, it just means the amount of time that it's spinning and being read. If you only have one HDD then it's normal for the active time to be very high.

    Also try running a SMART disk check to check the health of the drive.
  4. My guess is the drive is going bad. Best to backup your data before running any more diagnostics - if you can. If the drive is failing the more you run it the lower your chance of getting the data backed up.

    If you have any SMART utilities for checking the drive look there to see if you are getting failures. I had something very similar with a failing WD drive. The machine would appear to lock up while it was trying to reread and/or relocate bad sectors.

    Drive Longevity
    SMART drive diagnostics
  5. Entomber said:
    yes, an unreasonably high and consistent number under read/write that doesn't seem to make sense compared to what the process is supposed to be doing.

    Disk active time doesn't mean the amount that it's being occupied like CPU, it just means the amount of time that it's spinning and being read. If you only have one HDD then it's normal for the active time to be very high.

    Also try running a SMART disk check to check the health of the drive.


    thx1138v2 said:
    My guess is the drive is going bad. Best to backup your data before running any more diagnostics - if you can. If the drive is failing the more you run it the lower your chance of getting the data backed up.

    If you have any SMART utilities for checking the drive look there to see if you are getting failures. I had something very similar with a failing WD drive. The machine would appear to lock up while it was trying to reread and/or relocate bad sectors.

    Drive Longevity
    SMART drive diagnostics


    Thanks a ton guys. I will check again on resource monitor when it finally comes up and also will run a SMART check on the drive. What do you think about trying again to run a disk check, even though it didn't appear to work last time?

    Also, don't know if this is worth mentioning, but my main AV is Avast, and once I first rebooted after this problem started happening, Avast seems to be completely shut off by default on startup. That's what made me worried about a virus, but again, Malwarebytes scanned almost my whole computer and found nothing.
  6. does your computer still lock up in safe mode?

    If not, it may be some service or program that is faulty, not the hdd.
  7. thx1138v2 said:
    My guess is the drive is going bad. Best to backup your data before running any more diagnostics - if you can. If the drive is failing the more you run it the lower your chance of getting the data backed up.

    If you have any SMART utilities for checking the drive look there to see if you are getting failures. I had something very similar with a failing WD drive. The machine would appear to lock up while it was trying to reread and/or relocate bad sectors.

    Drive Longevity
    SMART drive diagnostics


    Entomber said:
    does your computer still lock up in safe mode?

    If not, it may be some service or program that is faulty, not the hdd.


    Checked the resource monitor, and I see nothing looking out of the ordinary except the little thing saying it's running at 100%. No processes seem to be hogging resources at all.

    I installed DiskCheckup. According to that article you linked me to, some things should not have a number above zero. Well, several do. However, I'm not sure if I'm looking at "value" or "raw value" here. Below are two links to two images showing all the SMART values that it is giving me. Have a look and let me know what you guys think. Again, keep in mind that this disk works fine other than this odd thing it does every now and then.

    Also, I should bring this to attention. Avast is currently turned off (I still don't know why it just seems to have turned itself off, and that still worries me). I cannot turn it back on because when I try, the HDD goes nuts again. I clicked "turn on avast service" in the program earlier, and then the HDD did its thing and the computer was hanging. I just left the room for a bit and thought I'd come back after giving it some time to process. I came back and the computer was asleep, so I woke it back up and Avast was still off, but the HDD was not hanging. I've had Avast off for several hours now and the computer does not appear to have freaked out at all. Could it be Avast? I've been using Avast for quite a while though. Even though I've had this computer for only a month, I've had Avast on it since day 1, and it has worked fine all except these 2 days that it goes crazy. Also, the HDD went nuts when I did a diskcheck, and I'm pretty sure Avast could not have had anything to do with that.

    As for the computer locking up in safe mode, I'm honestly not sure but I can test that soon if you think it would be useful info. Last time this happened like 3 weeks ago, safemode worked fine. Like I said, it seems extremely random, sort of just going away whenever the heck it wants and sometimes staying away for long periods. I haven't found one consistent way to trigger it or stop it. Also, just did a reboot to see if the HDD would stay stable. Looks like it went crazy during the "welcome" screen and proceeded to very slowly boot to the desktop. However, once it got there, it stabled out. I had switched off Avast beforehand. (I'm just throwing out info at you guys because I really don't know what to do here lol :P )

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/mqt6k8bvghhmbdu/IMG_20141114_212323.jpg

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/mfmlv8zfvwtpuar/IMG_20141114_212337.jpg

    Ideas? Advice?
  8. Gonna bump this here. Pretty desperate for some help and final answers. See my above post for two links to pictures of SMART data, which I'm not real sure how to properly interpret or how to know when something is beyond toleration.
  9. Bump...Just booted up for the first time in about 2 days the HDD still is being weird, especially at the start up "welcome screen"

    SMART data is above. Help me interpret it if you can.
  10. it's possible that you have malware.

    I would recommend you download malwarebytes and run a full scan while you're in safe mode, and let it complete the scan before you can be 100% confident that it is not malware.

    You could also try uninstalling Avast, because sometimes antivirus programs can go crazy with scanning. I can't think of a legitimate reason that it would turn itself off, though, outside of some sort of malware.
  11. Entomber said:
    it's possible that you have malware.

    I would recommend you download malwarebytes and run a full scan while you're in safe mode, and let it complete the scan before you can be 100% confident that it is not malware.

    You could also try uninstalling Avast, because sometimes antivirus programs can go crazy with scanning. I can't think of a legitimate reason that it would turn itself off, though, outside of some sort of malware.


    Okay, I'll try. The only problem is that the HDD going slow and being weird causes the scan to move almost nowhere. The scan goes through everything but scanning the individual files and folders on the disk, and it finds nothing up to there. Once it gets to that point, it basically makes no progress unless the HDD takes one of its little breaks. I've been letting it run for about 5 hours now and am continuing. I'll probably let it run over night. Hopefully it will eventually finish. And yeah, it still acts screwy in safe mode. However, like I said before, I already ran a scan most of the way through (cancelled it for this same reason) and it had not found anything.

    I guess if this fails, I'll uninstall avast, but I don't think that is going to fix anything. Starting to think something just must be wrong with the HDD, because I'm running out of options. :\

    I'll take anymore advice you've got.

    Thanks for your help so far.
  12. Entomber said:
    it's possible that you have malware.

    I would recommend you download malwarebytes and run a full scan while you're in safe mode, and let it complete the scan before you can be 100% confident that it is not malware.

    You could also try uninstalling Avast, because sometimes antivirus programs can go crazy with scanning. I can't think of a legitimate reason that it would turn itself off, though, outside of some sort of malware.


    So Malwarebytes (fully updated) completed a full scan in safe mode. Found nothing. I don't even know what else to do now. Any suggestions? Did the SMART data look okay or what?
  13. have you defragmented the drive?

    how full is it?
  14. Entomber said:
    have you defragmented the drive?

    how full is it?


    No, because I've heard that that can screw things up when you are having troubles like this.

    It's not even half full. It's a 160 gb drive and I've got about 110 gb free. Most of that is the OS. The other big consumer is Counter Strike, but other than that it's just AV, web browsers, and school files.
  15. Entomber said:
    have you defragmented the drive?

    how full is it?


    Uninstalled avast and still no good. Seemed to be working well after a reboot, but I started a diskcheck for bad sectors and about halfway through it started up again. now, the scan isn't even moving because of it :(

    I'm considering just trying a clean install of Windows. If that doesn't fix it, would I be able to definitely conclude that it is indeed a mechanical issue and not a software one?

    BTW, the drive is only 7% fragmented so that's not causing the problem.

    I'm getting so sick of that stupid sound the HDD is making lol. It just makes me want to punch this stupid disk. :P
  16. I hope you've found an answer by now, but...

    This isn't a virus... a virus wouldn't be able to mess with the check disk on boot up, so you can quit worrying about that. Even just plugging a separate bad hard drive into a working computer can really confuse everything, I am trying to recover files off a hard drive that is just barely limping along for someone, and it freaked windows out and killed windows explorer temporarily and make antivirus freak out and say it was disabled (microsoft security essentials) I would say buy a new hard drive now, and definitely get all your stuff off if you can. You can get a 160gb HDD on amazon for $20 or a used one for even cheaper (I wouldn't buy a used HDD because the more its used the more likely it is to fail)

    If you have all your stuff backed up somewhere reinstalling windows might have a slight possibility of working, but I doubt it, the check disk program that runs at boot up should work whether windows is freaking out or not.

    I would really recommend getting a SSD, because they don't do this, and won't die if you drop you laptop like a regular disk, It also makes your computer boot in like 30 seconds... it's pretty awesome, and you can get a 64gb pretty cheap, and that's enough if you don't keep much on your laptop... I have a 64gb in my windows 8 laptop and I have 20gb free after like 3 years, windows takes about 20gb and I have about 20gb of my stuff on here, office and a few other programs installed, never had a problem with space. The performance difference is worth the price, even if you had a working hard drive already!
  17. kenny reeves said:
    I hope you've found an answer by now, but...

    This isn't a virus... a virus wouldn't be able to mess with the check disk on boot up, so you can quit worrying about that. Even just plugging a separate bad hard drive into a working computer can really confuse everything, I am trying to recover files off a hard drive that is just barely limping along for someone, and it freaked windows out and killed windows explorer temporarily and make antivirus freak out and say it was disabled (microsoft security essentials) I would say buy a new hard drive now, and definitely get all your stuff off if you can. You can get a 160gb HDD on amazon for $20 or a used one for even cheaper (I wouldn't buy a used HDD because the more its used the more likely it is to fail)

    If you have all your stuff backed up somewhere reinstalling windows might have a slight possibility of working, but I doubt it, the check disk program that runs at boot up should work whether windows is freaking out or not.

    I would really recommend getting a SSD, because they don't do this, and won't die if you drop you laptop like a regular disk, It also makes your computer boot in like 30 seconds... it's pretty awesome, and you can get a 64gb pretty cheap, and that's enough if you don't keep much on your laptop... I have a 64gb in my windows 8 laptop and I have 20gb free after like 3 years, windows takes about 20gb and I have about 20gb of my stuff on here, office and a few other programs installed, never had a problem with space. The performance difference is worth the price, even if you had a working hard drive already!


    Thanks for your good and thorough reply. After I let a disk check scan just for bad sectors overnight (and get virtually nowhere because the HDD just got into its rhythmic noise freeze up thing), a smart attribute started showing signs of failure. I couldn't find any laptop HDDs for any cheaper than about 35 bucks, so I bought a 320gb Hitachi HDD for that price. I had looked into used ones, but used ones don't give me any warranty, and I wanted to ensure that I am going to have a working hard drive for the next few years (especially for the last few months of high school), so I got a 3 year warranty on the one I have now.

    As for SSDs, I'll probably get one of those after my 3 years warranty goes up (that is, if I am still using this laptop, which I probably will be unless it fails or breaks), because I personally want to let the SSD technology mature a little bit more before getting into that, and I just wanted to spend as little money as possible in order to get a working laptop again. Plus, I'm pretty satisfied with the speed of my current HDD. What I don't like is how loud it is lol. The read write sound in this HD is pretty darn loud, but no biggie. I'm quite tolerant of computer part imperfections as long as they function :)
  18. glad you got it figured out! I have had 2 SSDs for a couple years now (and made sure to get warranites on both because I was weary about the new tech also) but I am really liking them so far! they are still extremely fast, it even makes my 9 year old laptop seem brand new! They have a predictable life span that is way longer than a mechanical hard drive, and the random failure rate is much lower also.
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