It has been some weeks now that my laptop had gone wild. The CPU fan kept working really loud for no apparent reason, then going silent again and repeating the same pattern over and over again. There was no apparent problem in the horizon: CPU usage was low, memory was ok, no suspicious processes running. Everything was fine. Just before going to buy a new laptop, I remembered having downloaded a bunch of Windows tools for system tasks (actually I have been using the Process Explorer for quite some time now).
I run the file monitor tool (FileMon) and found out quickly what was going on. A process named ServiceLayer.exe kept polling the disk every 2-3 seconds, exactly the rate at which the fan was being loud and silent. I shut it down and everything came back to normal, my nerves included.
Actually there is a number of applications that behave badly to our disks. In the top of the list is Skype.exe, the popular messaging tool that literally is flooding the disk with I/O operations. Its networking behavior is not appropriate either (why should it open the http port anyway?) Skype community is used to such problems. Anyway, the cause of my problem was from Nokia and its Nokia Connectivity Suite. If you have a Nokia phone and you have installed the software to connect your PC with your device, you may as well have it at your tasks list. The ServiceLayer.exe is an application(a service since it runs on background-no windows) that, if of course it is legal (could be malware for example), it may make the life hard for your PC.
But Windows Sysinternals can come to the rescue! You can find in the official Microsoft site a real treasure of tools that will reveal, anything you need to know about what your Windows machine is doing: Disk Utilities, Networking Tools,Process Utilities, you name it is there.
Their functions are limitless and it does not fit here to describe them fully.
So, the next time you will encounter a problem make sure you launch the appropriate Sysinternals tool. It is easy (the executables are small-some kBs), it is useful (really useful) and it is free. The best cure for everybody diagnosed with Redmonditis!