From time to time, a lot of people wonder why their computer is running “so slowly.” The usual reasons for this are as follows: (1) using virtual memory resulting from a lack of physical RAM (Random Access Memory); (2) too many programs utilizing a lot of CPU threads; and/or (3) bottlenecks that can be in the form of a CPU bottleneck, a slow spinning hard drive (5,200 RPM and less, for example), or even a full hard drive. For instance, a 500GB hard drive with a fresh installation of Windows Vista will be more responsive than a similar fresh install on a 50GB hard drive of the same speed. The reason for this is because larger hard drives generally have: (1) more platters; (2) smaller magnetic flux reversals; and (3) greater aerial density. The smaller flux reversals are what allows the head of the hard drive actuator/arm to move shorter distances, and thus providing a noticeable speed difference.
My hard disk activity LED is going crazy, the actuator arm is thrashing back and forth crunching away for hours at a time. What is my computer doing? How can I find out what exact data is being retrieved and what program(s) are responsible? We need to identify just what, exactly, is running. For this purpose, look no further than Microsoft Sysinternals’ Process Monitor (procmon).