What causes high CPU usage? Let’s find out
Updated: March 17, 2023 2:20 p.m.
Abnormally high CPU usage in task manager? You expect high usage while gaming, but if your CPU resources are being used while you’re not doing anything particularly intensive on your system, you may have a problem. In this article, we find out the causes of high CPU usage and review the fixes.
Now read: How to Stress CPU and RAM
What is high CPU utilization?
CPU utilization is a percentage measure of how much of your CPU is being used at any given time. It’s a fairly simple concept at first glance, but we dive into the more technical aspects of this metric in our dedicated article on CPU usage.
What constitutes “high” CPU usage is rather subjective, but generally speaking a CPU running at 10-20% usage can be considered idle. A CPU-intensive environment could be gaming, where you can expect more than 50% of your CPU resources to be used if you’re playing demanding triple-A titles.
High CPU usage is only really a problem when it happens when you’re not doing anything particularly resource-intensive.
For example, while gaming, handling professional workloads such as editing or rendering video, running a virus scan, or compressing and decompressing files, high CPU usage is completely normal. . These activities are computationally demanding and your processor must work hard to complete them in time.
However, if you are experiencing high CPU usage while looking at your home screen without any apps running, there might be something sapping your CPU resources in the background without you noticing.
How to Fix High CPU Usage
In most cases, if you experience high CPU usage while no resource-intensive application is running, it is caused by background processes. You need to open Task Manager, either through the Windows search bar or by using the Ctrl+Shift+Esc shortcut.
The task manager is quite a handy tool. It gives you an overview of the processes currently active on your system along with their real-time resource usage.
For this article, you’ll want to click on the “CPU” block at the top of its respective column to sort processes by CPU usage. This way you can easily identify what is using your CPU resources.
You can kill active processes by right-clicking them and selecting “End Task”, but don’t kill random processes on a whim – some of them may be important. You should only end a process if you know you can.
Search the internet for the particular process that is using your CPU to find out what it is doing and whether it is important or not.
High CPU usage process
We will now name some processes that are frequently responsible for high CPU usage.
Windows Update: Windows downloads and installs updates by default whenever it can without asking your permission. It is recommended to install the latest updates, but you can temporarily disable automatic downloads by accessing the “Windows Update Settings” menu.
Windows Defender: Defender occasionally runs scans, especially when you’ve just downloaded something new. Of course, leave this active. Most scans only take a few minutes and help keep your system safe.
Superfetch or SySMain: One of the most common culprits of high CPU usage, this process preloads applications you frequently use into your system’s memory. It improves launch times but drains your CPU resources, especially after your computer boots. This process is not essential for proper operation and can be disabled.
Suspicious activity and malware
Sometimes malware disguises itself as legitimate processes and runs in the background, using your system resources to achieve its own goals, a popular example being crypto mining.
If you suspect this is the case, run a full scan of your system to identify potential security issues. Windows Defender is generally quite reliable, but you may need to use a premium tool or reinstall Windows to completely get rid of the problem.
In conclusion, reducing CPU usage is crucial for optimal system performance. When CPU usage is high, it can cause the system to slow down, which leads to lower performance and reduced productivity. Additionally, high CPU usage can also lead to overheating and potential hardware damage.
By minimizing CPU usage, you can improve system stability, increase responsiveness, and extend the life of your hardware. Therefore, regularly monitoring and managing CPU usage is essential to keep your system running smoothly and efficiently.