It turns out one of the best features of the Microsoft Vista OS is its intense checking on itself. Performance is carefully monitored. Of course, this results in lower performance…
Anyway, here is a summary of things I have learned trying to calm down my mysteriously busy laptop.
The case: My sony vaio was never too fast, but a week ago it really started to get busy. The HD light was on constantly, and the CPU was clearly high. Even it wasn’t doing much, according to the list of processes.
Some solutions: First, the process list (like “top” in linux) can be brought up with the right button on the task bar (no need for the silly blue screen that appears with ctrl+alt+supr). The CPU numbers are meaningless, afaik. The “performance” tab is a bit better, but still no information of HD activity. What is really helpful is the program that shows when the “advanced” button (or something) is clicked (admin privileges are required from now on).
The main performance information window is quite cool, with graphs of the main system activities, and expandable sections for each. In my case, the HD section lists tasks that are using the drive, and what file they are using (either writing or reading). That’s very helpful, and not so easily available in linux, afaik (on the other hand, I can only remember one case in which I would have needed this under linux, that’s when the updatedb program indexes the disks and the systems gets quite busy).
Now, sorting the “read” or “write” columns reveals the main offenders. In my case: the SuperFetch and Search_whatyoucallit indexing services, as many people have pointed out. And also, “windows error reporting”, WER, a program that collects performance info and sends it to Redmond (it seems). This nice piece of sofware may cause CPU usage to go up and down in a chaotic-like fashion, and HD to collapse.
Once identifyed, these services can be stopped for good. The easiest way is to use Control Panel (classic view) -> admin tools -> services. Those services should be stopped, and prevented from ever showing up by turning their status to “manual”.