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Old 11-25-2008, 12:16 AM   #1
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Constant disk i/o accesses in Mint and WinXP

I became concerned when I noticed that WinXP was accessing the hard disk every 1-2 seconds, all day long. I checked the Task Monitor and was amazed to find that the Avast security software had performed i/o access over 20 million times in one day. I uninstalled Avast, but after about 8 hours, explorer.exe and crss.exe combine for 750,000 i/o accesses. These programs are literally wearing out my hard disk. So I looked forward to booting into Linux Mint and reassuring myself that once I leave Windows my hard disk will be quiet again. Not so. In Mint, the hard disk also does a read/write (the HD light goes on and off) every 1-2 seconds. About six months ago, I read some posts about Linux distros wearing out laptop hard drives prematurely. The problem descriptions were vague, and the conclusion was, equally vaguely, that it would surely be resolved in an upcoming version of the kernel, or etc. (As you can see, I'm not tech-savvy.) At any rate, I can't live with an OS that runs my HD 30 million times a day. This is a huge concern - I make my living on my desktop and laptop PCs and don't want my hard disks to fail prematurely because the OS is doing this. Is there a solution under Linux? I found several threads on Win forums where the discussion led through "verdurous gloooms and winding, mossy ways" before petering out with no solution. There wasn't even a credible explanation, just vague talk about explorer.exe threads to other programs being at fault. ????? Thanks!
Old 11-25-2008, 01:45 AM   #2
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How much RAM does your system have? Low RAM can cause constant reading adn writing to the swap space. Mint may be too heavy to run in the amount of RAM you have, causing more swap usage.

I have a Vaio with Vista, 2GB of ram, and the HDD light is constantly flashing. I installed a clean version of Vista Ultimate, adn it greatly reduced disk access, so maybe a clean install of XP would help. I also tried installing a pre-beta of Windows 7, and not only is it less resource intensive than Vista, the HD access stopped entirely while the system was idle.

Also, I think the wearing out of drives is more oriented toward SSDs (Solid State Drives), as these are included in many 'netbooks' and those often have Linux as the OS. I've never had a normal magnetic disk drive wear out because of excessive usage.

Last edited by claudius753; 11-25-2008 at 01:46 AM. Reason: fixed formatting tag
Old 11-25-2008, 08:22 AM   #3
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With Linux, in addition to having enough RAM, you can tune the Swappiness of the system, and gain a bit more control over how and when the system swaps out programs from memory to disk.
Old 11-25-2008, 10:17 AM   #4
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I have an old Dell Dimension 2400 with 1 GB of RAM. The disk accessing happens when I have no problems running, aside from antivirus in WinXP. Will check the link - thanks.
Old 11-25-2008, 06:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by runbei View Post
I have an old Dell Dimension 2400 with 1 GB of RAM. The disk accessing happens when I have no problems running, aside from antivirus in WinXP. Will check the link - thanks.
If you would like to cut your drive access down to ZERO check out Puppy.

Puppy is only ~95MB so it would load completely to RAM on your system. The hard drive would spin up to boot and not be needed again till shutdown (unless of course you are purposely saving something to the HD).

Puppy has a great package manager that will allow you to easily add programs that don't normally come with Puppy.

Check it out:
Old 11-26-2008, 01:38 AM   #6
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Maybe you have a scheduled job running in the background like an anti-virus scan?
Or maybe your machine has been hijacked!

As for running Linux, 1GB should be plenty of ram for Linux (assuming you are not running everything under the sun)!
On my current system I am running Mepis 7, KDE, Firefox, Konqueror, and KPDF, and I am barely using 500MB of ram!

Try running top or another resource monitoring program (eg KDE System Guard) and check how much ram is being used,
or what program is chewing up cpu/ram!
You might have a runaway program, eg I recall hearing about Firefox v2 having some memory management problems!

Also have you checked your drive for errors, not just filesystem errors but physical bad block errors?
Old 12-17-2008, 04:14 PM   #7
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I may be on the track to a solution. I discovered that the constant disk accesses occur not only with WinXP but with three separate Linux distros - AND when the computer starts and before I make a selection in Grub. This, of course, means that it is a hardware problem. So I visited the support section at Western Digital's site, where I found some interesting suggestions. Here's the link to the WD knowledge base search page: If you enter "noise," you'll find the following two pages: "I have an EIDE, Serial ATA, or SCSCI drive. The drive is making a repeated clicking sound." "How can I tell if the noise or sound my drive is making is normal?" These pages suggest test sequences to determine if the drive or cable is faulty, or if the drive/cable are configured in error (wrong drive, of two drives, installed at the end of the data cable, jumper set wrong, etc.). I'm posting this in case it might help others.
Old 12-17-2008, 04:21 PM   #8
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One common cause of this type of problem is that something (or even several things) are indexing your disk.

Under Linux, this may go on for an hour or two, but should quieten down after that; is that what you system does?


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