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"update" process & hard drive ticking -- Calling *nix gurus!


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"update" process & hard drive ticking -- Calling *nix gurus!
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Brad
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2004-11-07, 17:45

Okay, I leave this one to the geniuses here to try to help figure out.

When I'm sitting and working on my PowerBook, it should be relatively quiet except for the fan occasionally popping on during heavy usage or the hard drive clicking when it is accessing files. Right? Well, even when the computer is sitting idle and should be doing absolutely nothing, the hard drive spins up, ticks once, and spins back down regularly every 30 seconds.

Aside from really annoying me with the ticking sound, this also must be decreasing my battery life as well as shortening the life span on my hard drive since it shouldn't have to do that so frequently. Am I right?

I quit every single user process that I could, even the Finder. There were no extra processes running in the background that would have begun from startup. All of the servers for filesharing, Apache, etc. have been turned off. Yet, SOMETHING kept accessing my hard drive.

So, I opened up the terminal and piped fs_usage out to a file. I grepped out the lines containing WindowServer, CACHE_HIT, and cupsd and was left with this curious "update" process writing something exactly every 30 seconds

Quote:
14:11:35 WrData[async] 0.004469 W update
I did a little research and I found that this "update" executable is located at /usr/sbin/update. It even has a man page entry! So, I fired up "man update" to find:

Quote:
NAME
update - flush internal filesystem caches to disk frequently

SYNOPSIS
update

DESCRIPTION
The update command helps protect the integrity of disk volumes by flush-
ing volatile cached filesystem data to disk at thirty second intervals.
Update uses the sync(2) function call to do the task.

Update is commonly invoked at startup time by rc(8) when the system goes
multi-user.
Yeah, that sure helps a lot. At least it confirms that it is writing to the drive every 30 seconds, but WHY? Call me crazy, but doesn't this seem a little overzealous for the system to think it needs to write to the drive that often?

I just checked my girlfriend's iBook and it does exactly the same thing. Every 30 seconds, the hard drives gives this annoying grind-tick as the update process comes to life.

I'm tempted to just sudo killall update.

My questions for the experts here are as follows. Is it really normal to have the update process constantly writing to the drive every 30 seconds? I've rebooted and I have lots of RAM (1.25 GB). What is the point of Apple's "Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible" option when they will NEVER go idle because of this process? What are the consequences of killing it?

Many thanks to any who can extend some advice. I've been wracking my brain over this one.

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murbot
Mammogram Tech
 
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2004-11-07, 21:47

Wipe your hard drive of any Haxies. They really can wreak havoc with your system. I really recommend not using them.

Very odd though. I don't see this on my 15" PowerBook. Maybe this is just something Apple does to fuck with the cheap bastards who buy iBooks and 12" PowerBooks?
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Brad
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2004-11-07, 22:07

Nice reply, Mur.

I don't know. I'm seriously close to saying, "screw it," and just reformatting and reinstalling.

*sigh*
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alcimedes
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2004-11-07, 22:17

Interesting read on rc

Some BSD rc(8) info

Free BSD info

read up and good luck. maybe someone else will know off hand.
  quote
Axl
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2004-11-07, 23:05

That used to happen to my pBook (667 MHz) sporadically, but it stopped a few months ago. crazy

Just let things slide.:smokey: If it stops, it stops. If your hard drive breaks down, your hard drive breaks down.

enough stupidity... my HD really did just *stop* clicking, but I'm clueless as to why.
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Brad
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2004-11-07, 23:47

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes
Interesting read on rc

Some BSD rc(8) info

Free BSD info

read up and good luck. maybe someone else will know off hand.
I'm alread familiar with the rc command from some limited experience with Linux. Basically, rc starts items at boot time. It's like our StartupItems folder but on the *nix site of things.

It makes sense that update would start at boot time. I just wonder why it thinks it needs to keep flushing the filesystem cache (I assume that's what it's doing by the description) constantly even when the filesystem isn't in use.

I'll report back any of my own research findings...

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Brad
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2004-11-08, 00:50

Well, it looks like my tower is doing it too, but I just never hear it over the roar of the fans. However, it's doing it with significantly less frequency. It seems to revive update a few times after left idling, but then it appears to stop.

I found one person with the same issue in this thread over at MacOSXHints.com.



I'm going to post to Apple's own support area to see if I can find some answers.

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MCQ
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2004-11-08, 00:51

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
I'm alread familiar with the rc command from some limited experience with Linux. Basically, rc starts items at boot time. It's like out StartupItems folder but on the *nix site of things.

It makes sense that update would start at boot time. I just wonder why it thinks it needs to keep flushing the filesystem cache (I assume that's what it's doing by the description) constantly even when the filesystem isn't in use.

I'll report back any of my own research findings...
This is all I've seen so far, following the sync command that update calls.

From the man pages for sync:
Quote:
SYNC(2) BSD System Calls Manual SYNC(2)

NAME
sync - synchronize disk block in-core status with that on disk

SYNOPSIS
#include <unistd.h>

void
sync(void);

DESCRIPTION
The sync() function forces a write of dirty (modified) buffers in the
block buffer cache out to disk. The kernel keeps this information in core
to reduce the number of disk I/O transfers required by the system. As
information in the cache is lost after a system crash a sync() call is
issued frequently by the user process update(8) (about every 30 seconds).

The function fsync(2) may be used to synchronize individual file descrip-
tor attributes.

SEE ALSO
fsync(2), sync(8), update(8)
From linux, the sync command in section 8:
http://linux.about.com/library/cmd/blcmdl8_sync.htm

Quote:
sync writes any data buffered in memory out to disk. This can include (but is not limited to) modified superblocks, modified inodes, and delayed reads and writes. This must be implemented by the kernel; The sync program does nothing but exercise the sync(2) system call.

The kernel keeps data in memory to avoid doing (relatively slow) disk reads and writes. This improves performance, but if the computer crashes, data may be lost or the filesystem corrupted as a result. sync ensures that everything in memory is written to disk.
Seems like both sync and update call the same system call, so I'm not quite sure why both are there. Note: There's a sync in section 8 of the man pages for OS X, but the one above for Linux seemed a little more clear.

I'm not quite sure that it's necessary to be done so often. It seems like a filesystem integrity command of sorts.
  quote
Paul
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2004-11-08, 01:15

would this have anything to do with journaling?
  quote
Brad
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2004-11-08, 01:20

Excellent idea! I'll turn it off, fire up fs_usage, and report the results.

However, it should be noted that my tower's drives are all journaled and update hasn't written once to the drive in the past 10 minutes.

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alcimedes
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2004-11-08, 01:32

could it be 10.3's automatic defrag running in the background defragging crap?

otherwise, do a quick search for sterMachine. run all the updates possible and see if it stops doing annoying searches.

Google is your frenemy.
Caveat Emptor - Latin for tough titty
I tend to interpret things in the way that's most hilarious to me
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Brad
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2004-11-09, 00:13

FWIW, I had already done all the updates, crons, repairs, etc. Toggling journaling had no effect.

I have for the past several hours, however, been running without the update process! I ran "sudo killall update" some time earlier this evening and my PowerBook has been gloriously quiet ever since. Hallelujah!

Now, I just need to be sure I don't end up hosing the filesystem by accident. Everything of dire importance has been backed up. Tomorrow I'm going to reboot and run fsck to see if there has been any damage.

I still have not gotten around to querying Apple directly about this. I'm going to collect some more data over the next few days before doing so. Hopefully if I present it all nicely, I'll actually get a response.

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thuh Freak
Finally broke the seal
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2004-11-09, 10:40

stevegong had the same issue. i remember trying to figure it out with him, but i don't know if it was ever resolved. it sounds like killing the update process works for you. you might consider making a cron-job to start the process periodically though {obviously, the OS felt it was necessary to keep the process running}. or run it manually once in a while to see if it spits any error messages out that you could possibly make sense of.
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ast3r3x
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2004-11-11, 00:47

No problems yet Brad? I just killed mine, I'm interested to see if it increases my battery life.
  quote
Brad
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2004-11-11, 01:04

Nope! I've been running with my PowerBook blissfully quiet and the update process dead for the past two days. I just rebooted into single-user mode and ran fsck. No problems were found!

The process is only resurrected upon reboot; so, you should only have to kill it once for now.



Thanks for pointing me to steve's thread. I knew I'd seen this problem somewhere else before. I'll PM him about this thread in case he hasn't seen it.

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ast3r3x
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2004-11-11, 06:22

I don't suppose you'd want to whip up cron job for me so I don't have to do it manually every time woud ya?

I would, but I don't know how

My HD has stopped spinning, but still sounds like a fan or something is going on in my system, I hear something faintly still. Also I don't think battery life will improve too much because Adium is constantly writing the log to the HD and iTunes keeps grabbing music. Least when I'm doing nothing, it is SILENT.

Last edited by ast3r3x : 2004-11-11 at 06:27.
  quote
stevegong
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2004-11-11, 09:24

First, thank you Brad for your efforts, this has been a continuing problem for me and I was thrilled to see someone else had the same problem (since I was convinced everyone had it but no one said they did and I thought I was going insane)

I did a sudo killall update, and it seems like my computer spins down more than usual...

BUT

...I woke up this morning, felt the hdd and it was still indeed warm.


So I think there must be a process other than update which is accessing the hard disk. Now, it seems like it comes on every 10-20 minutes, so I don't think I could sit there and watch what processs.


Brad and others, do you think you could try this: turn off all apps that access hdd constantly and leave the computer on for a night, and in the morning feel the hdd. warm or not? compare it to the right side which is always cool


seriously, about a year ago, the hdd would be COMPLETELY to room temperature.


Hope it'll work out
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ast3r3x
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2004-11-11, 10:14

Sure it's not the processor? My HD on my 15" is beneith the trackpad and then the processor is keeping the corner of my computer warm.
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stevegong
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2004-11-11, 11:08

Quote:
Originally Posted by ast3r3x
Sure it's not the processor? My HD on my 15" is beneith the trackpad and then the processor is keeping the corner of my computer warm.

Yeah, I'm sure, there are many dissection photos and indeed the hard disk on the 12 inches are on the left palm rest.

besides, to further support my idea, it used to be perfectly cool.
  quote
tobias
 
 
2004-11-11, 12:50

funny enough. i just joined this board because of me having the annoying 'ticking' problem as well

fs_usage reveals: WrData[async] W update ...

I'm going crazy!

it started just like this and I remember that once (more than a year ago) I already had it and it disappeared again (for unknown reason).

PB G4 677MHz.
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Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2004-11-11, 15:47

Well, here's another one. The "distnoted" process also seems to periodically be writing to the disk, making the ticking noise. Unfortunately, whenever I try to kill this sucker, another one shortly respawns in its place.

Anyone know anything about the distnoted process? The man pages, as usual, are useless.

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stevegong
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2004-11-12, 02:34

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
Well, here's another one. The "distnoted" process also seems to periodically be writing to the disk, making the ticking noise. Unfortunately, whenever I try to kill this sucker, another one shortly respawns in its place.

Anyone know anything about the distnoted process? The man pages, as usual, are useless.
I wonder what this thing is, the man file says it shouldn't be run by the user manually, so I deduce there is no harm if it is not run at all.

so I proceeded to rename the process distnoted.disabled. this way, the system can no longer respawn it.

I'm going to sleep now, fingers crossed the hdd will be cool when I wake up tomorrow.
  quote
Brad
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2004-11-12, 02:48

Good idea! I've done the same for both update and distnoted. If anything bad does happen, we can simply toggle them back on in single-user mode.

For what it's worth, I've found some information from Apple. It's basically just a brief, human-readable version of what the man page says.

From Developer Connection: The Boot Process:
Quote:
update: Periodically flushes the file-system cache to help prevent data loss in the event of a crash.
I've found practically nothing useful from anywhere online about distnoted.

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Messiahtosh
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2004-11-12, 10:19

Brad, how have things gone with your attempt to solve the problem?
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stevegong
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2004-11-12, 10:32



there's something else accessing it other than update and distnoted.

  quote
Brad
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2004-11-12, 12:07

Well, I've also found that distnoted is indeed a little important for day-to-day use. Without it, a few small things break, mostly things that deal (not surprisingly) with inter-process communication, but nothing critical.

*sigh* This is so dissapointing of Apple.

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thuh Freak
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2004-11-12, 12:57

hmmm. i just thought of an idea. you could write a little script which sends the suspend signal to all open processes (with the exception of pid 0: the kernel, who'd probably ignore it anyway). on wakeup, you could un-suspend them with a run of another script. that would leave almost no possibility of programs accessing your hd. a bit more manual than preferable, but you could rule out hdwr problems if it persists. note: this may cause new, unforeseen issues.
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stevegong
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2004-11-12, 16:35

Quote:
Originally Posted by thuh Freak
hmmm. i just thought of an idea. you could write a little script which sends the suspend signal to all open processes (with the exception of pid 0: the kernel, who'd probably ignore it anyway). on wakeup, you could un-suspend them with a run of another script. that would leave almost no possibility of programs accessing your hd. a bit more manual than preferable, but you could rule out hdwr problems if it persists. note: this may cause new, unforeseen issues.


do you think you could help me out on this? Basically I just want my computer on at night because I use my computer as an alarm clock using mp3 alarm clock.

I just have no idea how to do this.
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stevegong
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2004-11-15, 01:17

hmm... anyone come up with anything yet? no genii here?
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Brad
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2004-11-15, 02:24

I'm having no more luck here so far, but I haven't really had the opportunity this weekend to tinker around with these processes.

I will definitely be bumping this thread and keeping you posted, though, if I do figure out anything else.

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