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#1 2019-06-11 13:20:28

catnap
Member
Registered: 2016-10-03
Posts: 118

Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

Some years before---30 July 2016 to be exact---I encountered a kernel problem where my hard disk was written to perpetually in short intervals of about five seconds. The culprit then turned out to be a program called JDB2, as I then found out using iotop to profile IO streams. The solution:

/etc/fstab:

# /dev/sda2
UUID=[myuuid]       /               ext3            rw,relatime,data=ordered,commit=60,noatime      0 1

solved the problem in that situation. However, the problem has now recurred. And the old remedy does not seem to work. The difference to the situation in 2016 is that now a program called kworker is using the disk every second---which is really annoying---and the old culprit JDB2 is less problematic with about 90 second intervals.

The issue has been documented before in   kworker, jbd2 constantly writing to disk but without a definite workaround or solution. I wonder if the problem recurs because a specific kernel update. The kernel I'm using is 5.1.8-arch1-1-ARCH. Have others noted a similar problem?

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#2 2019-06-11 13:37:48

sabroad
Member
Registered: 2015-05-24
Posts: 24

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

The kworker and jbd2 processes are just kernel workers servicing work for user-space (calls). Use powertop to determine the root of what's causing disk wakeups.


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#3 2019-06-11 14:53:52

catnap
Member
Registered: 2016-10-03
Posts: 118

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

The program powertop reports the following kWork activities. I wonder if this would help to resolve the issue.

Usage       Events/s    Category       Description
15,4 µs/s       6,7        kWork          intel_atomic_helper_free_state_
81,0 µs/s       6,6        kWork          intel_atomic_cleanup_work
0,0 µs/s        6,4        kWork          intel_atomic_commit_work
14,8 µs/s       2,2        kWork          psi_update_work
0,0 µs/s        0,8        kWork          disk_events_workfn
15,0 µs/s       4,0        kWork          console_callback
6,1 µs/s        0,5        kWork          i915_gem_retire_work_handler
53,2 µs/s       0,4        kWork          i915_gem_idle_work_handler

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#4 2019-06-11 19:31:09

catnap
Member
Registered: 2016-10-03
Posts: 118

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

The systemctl program reports the following problem with Kernel modules:

systemd-modules-load.service                                                                          loaded failed failed    Load Kernel Modules   

I wonder if this might be causing the problem of disk wakeups.

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#5 2019-06-11 20:43:37

Ropid
Member
Registered: 2015-03-09
Posts: 593

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

Check out a program named "fatrace". There is an AUR package for it. Start it with "sudo fatrace" and then wait to see what it prints. It will print a line the following whenever any program accesses files:

steam(7798): RCO /home/user/.Xauthority

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#6 2019-06-12 09:31:05

sabroad
Member
Registered: 2015-05-24
Posts: 24

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

As per the disk wakeups link, try

Looking at the powertop.log you will see a section titled "Disc accesses:" and this will list processes that were writing to disk and the name of the file and device it was writing to.

Last edited by sabroad (2019-06-12 09:32:07)


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#7 2019-06-12 12:39:57

catnap
Member
Registered: 2016-10-03
Posts: 118

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

I'm using PowerTOP version v2.10 which does not seem to list "Disc access". I called the program with

# powertop --time=60 --debug -r powertop-2.html 

However, with fatrace I was able to produce a list of write events. Somewhat peculiarly, kWork seems to perpetually jump to the top of the iotop list even when nothing new shows in the fatrace list. There seem to be ghost writes that do not leave a trace to any specific file.

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#8 2019-06-12 13:12:05

seth
Member
Registered: 2012-09-03
Posts: 11,950

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

Are you sure the worker is actually touching the HDD? "I/O" does not necessarily mean "Disk I/O".

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#9 2019-06-12 13:37:25

catnap
Member
Registered: 2016-10-03
Posts: 118

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

seth wrote:

Are you sure the worker is actually touching the HDD? "I/O" does not necessarily mean "Disk I/O".

It sounds like the hard drive is continuously quite active. It is not exactly the same kind of thunder as a hard drive makes when it is swapping although there seems to be some overlap. The noise is less pronounced but almost as continuous. It makes me wonder how long the poor thing can take this sort of a beating.

When I booted to the bootable Arch Linux image CD, the disk did not seem to be equally active anymore, suggesting that the problem might not lie in the disk itself. I worry there might be some sort of a virus in action. But I wonder if there are viruses that would act so conspicuously, given that most viruses attempt to conceal their presence on the disk.

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#10 2019-06-12 13:56:54

seth
Member
Registered: 2012-09-03
Posts: 11,950

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

Eleminate as many variables as possible. Boot into the rescue.target. If the behavior isn't present there, change to the multi-user.target
If the behavior isnt't present there, try a different graphical.target. KDE and gnome come w/ file indexers which will keep the disk busy. The disks response to this depends on its type. Server disks are designed to run (full I/O) 24/7.

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#11 2019-06-12 20:27:29

catnap
Member
Registered: 2016-10-03
Posts: 118

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

Because it seems to be difficult to find a scenario that would eliminate the swapping-like sound, I'm starting to suspect that it's origin is not in the HDD but elsewhere in the hardware. If it gets worse, I'll just take my computer to a repair service.

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#12 2019-06-12 20:30:38

seth
Member
Registered: 2012-09-03
Posts: 11,950

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

The disk might do some internal stuff for the SMART features.
If you can deactivate the HDD in the BIOS and boot from cd/usb you could maybe figure whether the sound stems from it. If you can't, you can still pull the power supply from the HDD…)

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#13 2019-06-12 20:56:35

euromatlox
Member
Registered: 2017-02-10
Posts: 14

Re: Recurring problem with excessive hard disk activity

You can check if it's interrupt-related, and if yes, possibly disable the interrupt causing problems.

See this article at Unix & Linux Stack Exchange.

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