What Causes High CPU Usage?

What Causes High CPU Usage? Let’s find out

Updated: March 17, 2023 2:20 PM

CPU usage abnormally high in task manager? You’d expect high usage when gaming, but if your CPU’s 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 what causes high CPU usage and discuss solutions.

Now reading: How to stress test CPU and RAM

What is High CPU Usage?

CPU usage is a percentage measure of how much of your processor is being used at any given time. On the surface, it’s a fairly simple concept, but we dive into the more technical aspects of this metric in our dedicated article on CPU usage.

What constitutes “high” CPU usage is quite subjective, but in general a CPU with 10 to 20% usage can be considered idle. A high CPU usage environment could be gaming, where you can expect more than 50% of your processor’s resources to be used when playing demanding triple-A titles.

High CPU usage is really only a problem if it happens when you’re not actively doing something particularly resource-intensive.

For example, while gaming, tackling professional workloads such as video editing or rendering, running an antivirus scan, or packing and unpacking files, high CPU usage is completely normal. These activities are computationally demanding and your processor has to work hard to complete them on time.

However, if you are experiencing high CPU usage while staring at your home screen with no applications running, there may be something draining your CPU resources in the background without you noticing.

How to Fix High CPU Usage

In most cases, if you are experiencing high CPU usage while no resource intensive applications are running, then in most cases it is due to background processes. You must open the Task Manager through the Windows search bar or with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Esc.

Task Manager is a fairly handy tool. It provides you with an overview of the processes currently running on your system along with their real-time resource usage.

For this article, you’ll want to click the “CPU” block at the top of the appropriate column to sort processes by CPU usage. This way you can easily identify what is consuming your CPU’s resources.

You can close running processes by right-clicking on them and selecting “End Task”, but don’t just go and close random processes – some of these can be important. You may only end a process if you know you are allowed to do so.

Look up the specific process your CPU is using on the internet to find out what it does and whether or not it matters.

Processes with high CPU usage

We will now mention some processes that are often the cause of high CPU usage.

Windows Update: By default, Windows will download and install updates whenever it can without asking your permission. It is recommended to install the latest updates, but you can temporarily disable the automatic downloads by going to the “Windows Update Settings” menu.

Windows Defender: Defender occasionally runs scans, especially when you’ve just downloaded something new. Leave it active of course. Most scans only take a few minutes and help ensure the security of your system.

Superfetch or SySMAin: One of the most common culprits of high CPU usage, this process preloads applications you frequently use into your system memory. It improves boot times, but consumes your CPU resources, especially after you boot your computer. This process is not essential for proper operation and can be disabled.

Suspicious activity and malware

Sometimes malware disguises itself as a legitimate process and runs in the background, using system resources to achieve its own goals, with a popular example being crypto mining.

If you suspect this is the case, run a full scan of your system to identify potential security vulnerabilities. Windows Defender is generally quite reliable, but you may need to use a Premium tool or reinstall Windows to fully resolve the issue.

Last word

In short, reducing CPU usage is crucial for optimal system performance. When CPU usage is high, the system can slow down, resulting in sluggish performance and reduced productivity. In addition, high CPU usage can also lead to overheating and possible hardware damage.

By minimizing CPU usage, you can improve system stability, increase responsiveness, and extend the life of your hardware. Therefore, it is essential to regularly monitor and manage CPU usage to ensure that your system runs smoothly and efficiently.

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