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Summary:

If you’ve installed Vista on your PC you know what I’m talking about.  At unpredictable moments Vista has a tendency to start thrashing the hard drive like crazy, sometimes making the whole system sit there essentially catatonic until it finishes.  I haven’t been able to predict […]

If you’ve installed Vista on your PC you know what I’m talking about.  At unpredictable moments Vista has a tendency to start thrashing the hard drive like crazy, sometimes making the whole system sit there essentially catatonic until it finishes.  I haven’t been able to predict when it’s going to happen, either.  Sometimes it does it when resuming from Standby, sometimes it does it when simply changing the display orientation from landscape to portrait (or vice versa).  I have seen this thrashing go on for as long as five full minutes, forcing me to sit and stare at the unresponsive system until Vista is done doing whatever it’s doing.

At first I thought it was the result of indexing the files on the hard drive, but I don’t think that is the cause.  When I can get into the task manager I don’t see the search processes taking up a lot of resources so I think it’s something else.  I also thought it was because I only have 1 GB of memory in the Fujitsu P1610 and Vista was perhaps paging like crazy, but I have now seen this thrashing on multiple systems with more memory.  I even see it doing this on the MacBook Pro when Vista is running in Parallels, and Vista has 1.5 GB of memory allocated to it.  Even when not much is running Vista will decide to do something intensive with the hard drive and the thrashing begins.  Does anybody have any idea what this is?  I believe this issue is separate from the one that’s made the news recently where file copy, move, or delete operations can take a very long time.  I see that issue too but this thrashing seems to have no visible cause.

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  1. I have experienced the same thing. I’m glad to hear it’s not just me. I was wondering if it is my Windows Live One Care executing Tune-Up activity in the background.

    - Kevin

  2. Brett Barrett Thursday, March 29, 2007

    I havnt exeperienced this yet. But it could be the new defragmentor. If you look its set to run automatically with no scheduling options.

  3. I observed the same thing in my desktop. I have suspected it’s related to indexing, but I’m not sure now. By the way, any solution for slow file copy/move/delete?

  4. James Kendrick Thursday, March 29, 2007

    ignar, I read there is a Hotfix coming for the slow file operations.

  5. I believe its the new virtual memory sub-system that tries to make sure you have the right things in memory instead of them being on disk. Vista will unload memory into the swap and drag things out of the swap into memory based on what it thinks you will be wanting to do.

    Microsoft has a couple articles about how it works and how wonderful it is, but nothing I’ve seen on how to tame it when it isn’t so wonderful.

    Not giving Vista as much memory to play with helps. I keep my Parallels chopped back to 512MB and get thrashes of less than 45 seconds. On my LE1600 putting in a 4GB SD card for Ready Boost helps alot (so far I can’t Ready Boost my MBP.)

  6. I’ve experienced the same thing. On my Mac Pro at work and my Dell 410 at home with a goodly amount of RAM, the machine will thrash now and again. I defrag my drives regularly and I know One Care isn’t doing anything so I know that’s not it.

    I assumed it had something to do with the OS indexing for the search features but moving around what’s being paged is always possible too.

  7. I saw a lot of such “absence seizures” after an upgrade install of Vista, but such behavior disappeared when I did a clean install.

    I see a lot of 100% CPU use on a Motion LS800 with 1 GB RAM. Process Explorer shows that it is due to a svchost.exe thread, the one with Task Scheduler Engine and Input Personalization Server, but all the activity is shown in the svchost.exe line, and I don’t know what that means.

    Someone more knowledgeable about Vista processes could probably make more progress with such monitoring. Process Explorer is free at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/utilities/ProcessExplorer.mspx
    It is updated for Vista but it gets flagged by User Access Control when run from an administrator account so it is a bit of a bother to use.

  8. I had this problem, then upgraded to 2 GB of memory. No more problems.

  9. I’ve just installed Vista Business on an Acer TM8204, with Core Duo 2Ghz processor and 2Gb RAM.

    Many times during the installation and configuration I’ve been sat staring at a non-changing screen while the hard drive thrashes it’s heart out, even shutting the machine down takes a couple of minutes due to this hard drive activity.

    TBH, I’m getting fed up with Vista. It’s performance compared to XP is feeble at best, I’ve tried it on three machines now of varying specifications and on each one I’ve stumbled into show-stoppers.

    I was hoping to see a few reviews of the Oqo2 and if they were favourable, order one. However, if my only order option is a unit with Vista… I think I’ll end up passing. :(

  10. hmmm… no such problems on my ubuntu box… :)

    seriously, maybe there is a http://www.sysinternals.com tool that would tell what disk access is going on, and provide some clues for resolution?

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