How Much Disk Usage Is Normal?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 01/28/19 •  10 min read

Sometimes, when using a computer, (especially when first turning it on), you may find that the disk usage (CPU usage), is very high and your computer seems to “bog down”.  Why does it happen and how much disk usage is normal?

A computer that has several programs or processes running in the background may feel “sluggish” or even “hang” until all of those processes complete their assigned task. The reason this happens is because these programs are all fighting for computer resources at the same time.

In this article, we will look at what Disk Usage (DU) is, and how it can get so high (the higher it gets, the slower your computer will run).  We will also check to see how to determine what the Disk Usage is in Windows, and what you can do to reduce Disk Usage.  As an added bonus, I’m going to who you several steps you can take to improve CPU performance.

What Does Disk Usage Mean?

When we speak of “Disk usage” (DU), we are talking about the percentage of your computer storage that is in use at a given moment, meaning that your computer disk is occupied by some or the other task.  Note that we are not talking about disc capacity, (what your computer hard drive is capable of storing).

If I may, let me clarify.  Every hard-drive has a maximum speed at which it can read and write data to and from your disk. The closer that number reaches 100%, the slower your computer will run. If it hits 100% (or higher), your computer will “freeze”, and stay that way until all of the processes have had an opportunity to carry our their assigned task.

So, when we speak of Disk Usage, we are talking about the number of running processes running at any given moment on your hard drive.

Why Would CPU Usage Be High?

What would cause CPU usage to be so high that it would affect the performance of your computer?  There are several reasons, but let’s hone in on the biggest cause and why it seems to get worse, the longer you own your computer.

The biggest culprit are startup programs.  Before we move on, admittedly, this is a HUGE pet-peeve of mine.  Those pesky programs that run in the background that almost always serve very little purpose, other than to cause the main application to launch faster.

For example, below are just some of the hundreds of programs that can run in the background on your computer.  Below each, I will comment as to their purpose.

Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat serves two purposes:

  1. To help Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat launch 1-3 seconds faster than they otherwise would.
  2. To notify you when there is an update (Are you kidding me!?)

Apple Push

The sole purpose of this startup program is to send push notifications.  How about just sending us an email?

iTunes Helper

This literally just “helps” iTunes launch faster, that’s it! (Again, are you kidding me!?)


This only serves a purpose IF you want to be interrupted.  If you want to use Skype, simply launch the application, but when you are finished close the application.  The problem with this application is that you must first sign out of it, and then quit it in order for it not to hog your system resources and run in the background.


For the record: NONE of these programs have to run in the background.  The performance hit far exceeds any benefits they offer

In a minute, I’m going to use GoToAssist as a prime example of how a single program can be a complete a waste of system resources, but suffice it to say, that the ONLY purpose this particular application has, is to help the “launcher” launch 1-3 seconds faster.

One final note:  NONE of these programs have to run in the background.  Their sole purpose is to make the real program launch faster IF and when that time ever comes.  If the time never comes, (you never launch the application), you have allowed your system resources to be wasted on something you’ll rarely use, if ever.

For example, you could have GoToAssist running in the background on your computer today because you needed to install it 6 months ago for tech-support to remote into your computer to fix it.  The only problem with that is that it’s been running in the background EVERY time you have booted up your computer!  You have not needed it for 6 months, but its been running all this time slowing down your computer!

Allowing all these startup programs run in the background on your computer without restraint is like hitching up a huge camper to the back of your Ford Fiesta so that you can go camping for the weekend . . . and then leaving it there ALL YEAR LONG, because you just MIGHT go camping next year . . . or the year after that.  How much gas would you have wasted hauling that around all over the place?  How much wear and tear would that do the engine of your little Ford Fiesta?

Are you beginning to see how allowing any startup program to run in the background on your computer affects the disk usage on your computer?

Now, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  There are programs that are supposed to run in the background, but they are functional.  The following are a few examples of programs that do run in the background but they really do serve a purpose.  These programs synchronize files from your local hard drive to the cloud.

I have no problem with these programs, but again, because they serve a real purpose, and they are not running simply to help a bloated piece of software launch faster.

How to Check Disk Usage in Windows

To check to see what your Disk Usage is on Windows 7 or Windows 10, simply do any one of the following:

Now that Task Manager displays, ensure that the PROCESSES tab is selected (the first tab), and just below the APPS section (on the left), you will find the BACKGROUND PROCESSES section.

From here you can see the Disk Usage in the third column from the left labeled, “DISK“.  If the number at the top of the column header is very high, you will wan to end some processes.

How Do I Reduce Disk (CPU) Usage?

In order to reduce disk usage on your computer, you will need to stop processes from running in the background.  Just above, I’ve described How to Check Disk Usage in Windows 10 and in Windows 7.

Once you have the Windows Task Manager on your screen, simply click on the PROCESSES tab and scroll down to the BACKGROUND PROCESSES section on the left hand side. Now within that section, you will find all of the processes that are running in the background. Simply highlight the offending startup program by clicking on it once. At the bottom of this dialog box, you can then click the END TASK button. That’s all there is to it. The offending process is now terminated.

A word of caution: If you do not recognize the process that is running, leave it alone. If, however, you find multiple instances of a process, (such as is the case with GoToAssist), end all of them one at a time.

You can easily prevent startup programs from running in the background when your computer boots up. There is no need to purchase any fancy software, or even install any software.  We are simply going to pick up where we left off above, in Task Manager. Let’s see what we can do ensure that you only launch the applications that you want to launch in the background when you boot up your computer.

Now, let’s click on the STARTUP tab. Here, your will find all of the applications that run every time you start your computer. Again, if you do not recognize a program listed, it might be better to leave it alone, but for the most part, you should probably recognize the names of the programs listed.

Before you start disabling any of these programs, note that they have an impact rating column showing you if they have a high impact on your system resources or not.

Simply highlight the application that you do not want to launch when you boot up your computer. Then click on the DISABLE button at the bottom right of the Task Manager dialog box. After you have disabled all of the applications you like, you will need to reboot your computer.

After having rebooted your computer, launch the Task Manager again, click on the PROCESSES tab, and you will note that the applications you disabled, are no longer running in the background.  Now your computer Disk Usage will be way down, well within the ability of your computer’s ability, which will increase performance.

How Can I Improve CPU Performance?

There are primarily two things that you can do to increase CPU Performance, to the point that Disk Usage would not even be a problem.

You Can Add More RAM to Your Computer

RAM does help your computer run processes faster.  However, there comes a point where there are diminishing returns.

There are 11 versions of the Windows 7 operating system and 8 versions of Windows 10.  Below you will find some helpful information that will show you the maximum amount of RAM that each version of Windows 7 will allow for.

Windows 10 Home 32-Bit4GB
Windows 10 Home 64-Bit128GB
Windows 10 Pro 32-Bit4GB
Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit512GB
Windows 10 Enterprise 32-Bit4GB
Windows 10 Enterprise 64-Bit512GB
Windows 10 Education 32-Bit4GB
Windows 10 Education 64-Bit512GB
Windows 7 Starter 32-Bit2GB
Windows 7 Home Basic 32-Bit4GB
Windows 7 Home Basic 64-Bit8GB
Windows 7 Home Premium 32-Bit4GB
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit16GB
Windows 7 Professional 32-Bit4GB
Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit192GB
Windows 7 Enterprise 32-Bit4GB
Windows 7 Enterprise 64-Bit192GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 32-Bit4GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit192GB

You Can Replace Your Hard Drive With an SSD Drive

Replacing your mechanical hard drive with an SSD drive (it has no moving parts), is by far the best thing that you could do to speed your computer up.  It allows information to read and write ridiculously faster than a traditional hard drive allows for.

If I have to choose between installing more RAM or replacing my hard drive with an SSD drive, hands down, I would replace the hard drive with an SSD drive.  You just get so much more bang for your buck.

What Does 100% CPU Usage Mean?
When one refers to their computer running at 100% CPU Usage, they mean that their computer hard drive is running so many processes at a given time that it is capable of running.  When it runs a “full speed”, it can’t do anything else until those processes have completed their assigned task.

Why Is High CPU Usage Bad?
High CPU Usage is bad because it slows your computer down, causing it to feel “sluggish” and non-responsive.  It does not necessarily hurt your computer, but it does prevent you from doing anything else until those processes have completed their assigned task.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.