What is CPU Usage and How to Resolve High CPU Usage

If you’re unhappy with your PC or laptop’s performance, it’s time to troubleshoot, and one of the crucial components to check is the central processing unit (CPU). High CPU usage often leads to poor performance, resulting in long loading times, crashes, or freezes.

Understanding CPU Usage

The CPU, also known as the processor, is the brain of any computer. It sends instructions to other hardware components and executes tasks. Each CPU has a maximum capacity at which it can handle commands and run programs. The more powerful the CPU, the more tasks it can handle simultaneously without issues. However, every chip has a limit, and as CPU usage increases, response times might slow down, especially when running CPU-intensive software.

Fluctuations in CPU usage are normal, as long as your PC runs smoothly. If you’re dissatisfied with its performance, the first step is to check the CPU usage.

Checking CPU Usage

To check CPU usage on Windows, access the Task Manager. There are several ways to open it quickly:

  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Escape simultaneously.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Delete and select Task Manager.
  • Right-click the taskbar or Windows icon, then choose Task Manager.

In the Task Manager, go to the Performance tab and select CPU from the menu on the left. You’ll see a real-time curve diagram showing your CPU’s performance. For more detailed information, click on Open Resource Monitor at the bottom.

Determining High CPU Usage

Before attempting to fix the issue, it’s essential to identify whether your CPU usage is actually abnormally high. Keep in mind that high-end CPUs handle multitasking better than budget processors. To determine if your CPU usage is too high:

  • When not running any applications, CPU usage should be low, typically between 1% and 10% due to Windows processes alone.
  • If CPU usage exceeds 20% when idle, it indicates a problem.
  • Unusually high CPU usage during light tasks like word processing or browsing social media is a concern.
  • High CPU usage accompanied by freezes, crashes, and slow performance needs attention.
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Certain programs commonly consume more processing power, so if unsure, consult our suggestions below.

Resolving High CPU Usage

Monitoring and addressing CPU usage promptly is crucial. If the number of software you’re running doesn’t justify high CPU usage, follow these steps to resolve the issue.

Restart Your Computer

Sometimes a quick restart can solve the problem. It clears temporary files, shuts down unnecessary programs, and gives your computer a fresh start. If it has been a while since your last restart, save your work and reboot. Launch your previously opened programs and monitor CPU usage again.

Check Open Processes

If the problem persists after restarting, identify the culprit program. Open Task Manager and navigate to the Processes tab. Be careful not to close any programs without knowing what they do. To navigate the list more easily, click on Name to sort by software type. Programs under Apps are usually safe to close if necessary. Check their CPU usage. If a program typically consumes a lot of CPU power, high CPU usage might be normal. Close unnecessary programs and see if CPU usage improves. If unsure about a program or background process, write down its name and search it online to ensure it’s safe.

Scan for Viruses and Malware

Malware and viruses are often responsible for high CPU usage. While some may be visible in Task Manager, others remain concealed. To address this issue:

  • Download reputable antivirus software and perform a scan.
  • Use malware and spyware-specific programs like Malwarebytes and SpyBot S&D after the antivirus scan.

If the software detects harmful programs, it will help remove them and potentially lower CPU usage.

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Update Your Drivers

Outdated or unoptimized drivers and software can strain your CPU. Updating drivers can often resolve high CPU usage. Ensure you update all drivers, including those for your motherboard, GPU, and audio. Avoid using third-party software for driver updates, as it can pose risks. Learn how to update drivers yourself and rely on secure methods.

Update Your Software

If you’re using outdated software, it may contribute to abnormally high CPU usage. Update the most CPU-intensive software to the latest version and observe any improvements.

Update Your BIOS

Updating your BIOS can sometimes help rectify high CPU usage. This is an advanced option that requires knowledge of your motherboard’s exact model. If unsure, find your motherboard’s model and search for its BIOS update on the manufacturer’s website. Download the latest BIOS from the official source and follow the provided instructions to update it.

Check Your Power Settings

Windows power settings can impact CPU performance, affecting both laptops and desktops. Ensure you’re using an appropriate power setting. Follow these steps to change your power plan:

  • Click the Windows logo in the bottom-left corner and search for “Power Settings.”
  • Navigate to Additional Power Settings on the right side of the Power & Sleep section.
  • Click Show Additional Plans and select the High Performance plan. If already using the High Performance plan and experiencing CPU problems, try the Balanced plan instead.

Additional Steps

If none of the recommended solutions yield improvement, further troubleshooting may be necessary. Search the internet for more specific advice based on your CPU model or the process/program causing high CPU usage. Be cautious of third-party programs and avoid downloading them. They may put your PC at risk instead of resolving the issue.

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Understanding CPU usage and addressing high CPU usage is crucial for optimal computer performance. By following the steps outlined above, you can effectively troubleshoot and resolve any issues related to CPU usage. Remember to keep your system clean, update drivers and software, scan for malware, and consult reliable sources for further troubleshooting.

For more information about CPUs and other computer topics, visit OnSpec Electronic, Inc..

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