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I've run into an issue lately where my home directory somehow gets read-locked. Any processes trying to read from it, whether it's Nautilus or the terminal become unresponsive for 1-2 minutes, then suddenly resume. This happens every 10-15 minutes and I'm at a loss on how to find the culprit.

Is there any way to watch processes or something similar so that I can find what is causing this?

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There is no file locking in Linux (as in "one application preventing anther from reading from a file"). My first guess would be some trouble with the hard drive causing it to retry failed reads, which sometimes may produce similar effect. –  Sergey Nov 19 '12 at 3:28
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Maybe iotop can help finding the process which is doing excessive disk I/O at that time...

Other possibility maybe a failing harddisk or a problem with the harddisk controller...

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