How to Measure Actual Hard Drive Usage on Windows

This is an interesting (and useful) trick for folks who run PCs with solid state drives.

If you are using a computer with a Solid State Drive you may have wondered how long it will last. Solid State Drives, unlike regular platter-based hard drives, have limited write capabilities. While most modern drives are good for 600 TB of writes or more, it still does not provide you with information about how much that is in terms of time. One year, ten years, more?

Depending on how the computer is used, those 600 TB may never be reached in the device’s lifetime or reached in a matter of years.

One of the things that you can do is to measure the actual hard drive usage while you are using your computer. The idea is to run the performance tool for a set amount of time while you are using the computer as you would on any other day.

It is recommended to run the tool for at least an hour but I’d recommend to run it the whole day instead as it improves the accuracy of the projection.

Performance Monitor Setup

Performance Monitor is a native Windows tool. You can run the program in the following way:

  1. Tap on the Windows-key.
  2. Type Performance Monitor.
  3. Select the result to load it.

The first thing you need to do is create a new user defined collector set.

1. Click on Performance > Data Collector Sets > User Defined. Right-click User Defined and select New > Data Collector Set.

new data collector set

2. Enter a name, select Create manually (Advanced) and click next.

performance monitor name

3. Select Performance counter and click next

type of set

4. Select PhysicalDisk, then the hard drive or drives you want to monitor by selecting them and clicking on add. Click ok afterwards and then finish.

select performance counters

This creates the new performance tracker but it is not running yet. You find the new tracker under User Defined. Right-click on the name that you have given it and select start.

The Performance Monitor tracks the hard drive usage from that moment on until you either stop it with a right-click and selecting stop from the menu or shut down the computer.

Reports are accessed under Reports > User Defined in the interface. It is recommended to stop the monitoring first before you visit the reports section.

hard drive performance

You may find multiple reports listed there if you have run the tool several times before. Select the one you are interested in to display all collected information.

A graph and legend are displayed on the screen. What you may be interested most is the average value, and maybe also the maximum value.

All values are displayed in bytes per second so divide the value by 1000 to get a rough conversion to Kilobyte (to be precise, divide it by 1024) to get Kilobytes, by 1,048576 to get Megabytes and by 1073741824 to get Gigabytes). The average usage above is about 20 Kilobyte per second which is 1728000 Kilobyte per day if the computer is running 24 hours per day. Divide that by 1000 and you get roughly 1700 Megabyte per day of usage.

If you assume that the Solid State Drive is capable of 600 TB of writes, you come up with 600,000 / 1.7  = 352941 days of usage. It is usually less than that because wear is usually not perfectly distributed on drives.

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