Why does my hard disk light keep flashing when I start Vista up?

I’ve had Vista on my laptop for a few months now and sometimes when I start up there’s a lot of hard disk activity for around 5 minutes Is this normal?


Camille asked me this question a few weeks ago. This is perfectly normal with Vista, for a number of different reasons.

First of all, previous versions of Windows would not be very responsive while loading up programs which are intended to run on startup. Vista give you control earlier in the boot cycle, but this means that things are still loading while you are using your computer. This shows up with increased hard disk activity after your computer has booted.

The next reason is that when Vista starts up, it checks if there are any updates. Once a week Microsoft releases updates for Windows which are automatically downloaded and installed. This manifests itself as activity on your hard disk also. Most of the time this happens without your being aware of it, though sometimes Windows might need to wait for you to reboot before it can continue.

Finally, a number of anti-virus programs will check for new updates when you start them up. This again can result in increased disk activity.

As you can see, there’s lots happening when you start up. You can’t actually press the turbo to speed up the process, but most of the time your computer will be responsive enough for you to keep working without bothering too much about it. Just keep an eye on your hard disk to see when it’s busy and when it’s available for you.

3 thoughts on “Why does my hard disk light keep flashing when I start Vista up?

  1. Wow, a turbo button on PCs – thats a real blast from the past. Though ‘make my PC incredibly slow’ button would have been more accurate. In case anyone is interested, I believe the slowing down button was introduced back when Windows still has DOS flavours as a competitor, and some programs were written assuming you had a 25MHz 386 running it – anything higher and the game became unplayable business application you were using occasionally had unusual behaviour.

  2. Hey
    Disable superfetch using regedit
    Disable non-essential startups using msconfig
    Run a file system integrity check.
    Defragment your hard disks.
    Make sure UDMA and write caching is enabled for the disk.

    Superfetch isn’t good. I want control of my computer’s memory. I don’t want a stupid operating system to ‘guess’ what I’ll do next. I don’t do repeated tasks at the same time every day. And filling up RAM with ms word, ms powerpoint, and ms outlook isn’t very helpful when I want to run apache tomcat. The converse is true as well. Superfetch is a promising technology, but the way it populates ram and the way vista analizes user behaviour, is pretty basic.

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