How to Fix High CPU Usage on Windows

By | April 26, 2022

If your computer enthusiast often reaches top speed, it’s a sign that your CPU usage is at 100%. Simultaneously, your computer may slow down. That’s annoying, especially if you’re not actually doing anything.

The CPU (central processing unit), also known as the processor, is the brain of your computer. Like your own little trophy, it can become overwhelming if you’re bombarded with too many processes, or if a single task consumes unnecessary attention. Just as you may find work difficult when overwhelmed, your processor can slow to a crawl if too many are requested at once.

Usually, you can avoid this situation by avoiding application requests. However, CPU usage can sometimes get out of control due to a bug in a process, such as the infamous WmiPrvSE.exe. Fortunately, in most cases, you can easily fix the underlying problem and bring down the high CPU usage.

WMI Provider Host (WmiPrvSE.EXE) Causes High CPU Usage

The WMI Provider Host process, also known as Windows Management Instrumentation or WmiPrvSE.exe, is part of Windows and helps organizations monitor and troubleshoot a large number of systems on a network. However, it is not uncommon for the process to become out of control.

You can tell if this is your problem by opening Task Manager (press Control + Shift + ESC) and looking for the WmiPrvSE.exe process. If its CPU usage is higher than a few percent, and you’re not running any programs that would have an impact, it’s not working properly.

Restart WMI Provider Host to Fix High CPU Usage

Microsoft recently pulled its official fix. The only option you have now is to restart the service manually. Perform a Windows Search for “Services” and, in the window that opens, search for Windows Management Instrumentation. Right-click and select Restart. You can also stop the service completely, if you wish, or simply restart your computer.

Identify Fixed WMI Host Issues Using Event Viewer

If the problem with WmiPrvSE.exe keeps coming back, use Windows Event Viewer to identify the cause. This could be another system process keeping the WMI provider host busy, causing high CPU usage.

  • In Windows 10 and 8, right-click the Start button and select Event Viewer.
  • In Windows 7, use the Start menu to find and launch Eventvwr.msc.

Inside the Event Viewer app, go to Applications and Service Logs > Microsoft > Windows > WMI-Activity > Operational.

Now scroll through the list of operational events and find the most recent Error entry.

For each Error, identify the ClientProcessId. Note that every time you restart a process, its ID will change, so there’s no point in checking for older errors.

If you suspect that one of these processes is causing high CPU usage, you can use its ID to find it in Task Manager and identify the faulty process.

Open Task Manager (press Control + Shift + ESC), switch to the Services tab, and sort all running services by PID, i.e. their process ID. If the guilt process is still ongoing, you will be able to identify it and investigate further.

Right-click the process and select Open File Location to review its proprietary software. Updating or removing the program in question can correct the high CPU usage of the WMI Host.

Finally, it is possible that the service could be a worm or virus. You will only see one version of the process at any given time, and the process must stop if you terminate it via the Services window. If you see two versions, or the process won’t stop, run a virus scan immediately.
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System Idle Processes Show High CPU Usage

Windows users sometimes run a process called System Idle Process which causes high CPU usage. This obscure process seems to be saving all possible CPU power – terrible, isn’t it?

Actually, the System Idle Process is just a thread consuming CPU cycles, which is not normally used. This process is used because of some very mysterious quirks in coding, which make it sometimes preferable, and even more efficient, for the processor to run something rather than nothing.

It’s not just a Windows thing, but Windows displays processes in the Task Manager, so users see them and assume something is wrong.

This isn’t to say you can’t experience performance issues when idle System Processes exhibit a high CPU usage load, but the problem lies elsewhere.

In fact, you’ll see reports of idle System Processes consuming 95% (or more) of your CPU when Windows is idle. Otherwise, something else is eating processor cycles without your knowledge.

Svchost.exe (netscvs) will be Blamed for High CPU Usage

If you checked the Task Manager, you may have noticed that the svchost.exe (netscvs) process is causing high memory or CPU usage. While this process is sometimes associated with malware, it is primarily a legitimate and system critical Windows process. If you’re not sure, use this Search Tool to see which service the process refers to.

If it’s not malware, svchost.exe may be busy scanning plug-and-play devices.

To exclude this cause, go to Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center and click Change advanced sharing settings. Here, select Turn off network discovery.

Svchost.exe (netsvcs) also shows high CPU usage when Windows downloads updates. You will usually see it using 25% or more of the CPU capacity after you install Windows. In that case, let Windows Update finish it.

Since Windows 10, you can’t easily delay or pause Windows Updates. While you can schedule when to install new updates, Windows downloads updates as needed. This can randomly cause svchost.exe to increase its CPU usage. However, what you can change is whether your computer shares downloaded updates with peers. Turn this off to save bandwidth and processing power.

Go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, click Advanced options, then click Delivery Optimization, and click Advanced options again.

Here you can limit the bandwidth used to download updates in the background or to upload updates to other PCs on the Internet. You should set the latter to a minimum of 5% and also set a very low monthly upload limit.

The only solution to tame the high CPU usage associated with downloading updates is to temporarily disable Windows Update. This will prevent Windows from downloading updates. However, we do not recommend this solution!

Too Many Background Processes Hogging Your CPU

Background processes are programs that run on your PC, even if they don’t open in a window. A typical computer will have many background processes running at once, because Windows itself requires several processes to run. But when you install the program, over the years you can accumulate more and more, and eventually overwhelm your PC.

You can check it by opening Task Manager via Windows Search for the same or by running taskmgr.exe. The Processes tab will appear by default, showing not only overall CPU usage, but individual app usage as well.

You should do this while no other program is open to prevent confusion. Watch for processes that seem to be using at least 10% of your processor’s capabilities on a regular basis.

In Windows 10, go to the Startup tab within the Task Manager.

In Windows 7, exit Task Manager and open msconfig.exe via Windows Search or Run dialog (Windows + R). In the System Configuration window, go to the Startup tab.

Now find the startup item correlated with the item you noted down. Uncheck them, click OK, and then restart your PC. This will stop those programs from launching on boot.

Could Be An Annoying Antivirus

Have you noticed that your computer becomes slow at seemingly random times, and those times often correlate with high disk activity? Your problem could be your antivirus.

Anti-virus programs, while actively searching your disk for threats, can consume a staggering amount of processors. This isn’t usually enough to slow down modern desktops or high-end laptops, but older or slower systems may feel sluggish under stress.

Fixing this is easy. Almost all anti-virus applications come with a scheduling function that allows you to adjust when to automatically scan. Turn your schedule into a time when you’re not using your laptop, and you’re no longer distracted.

Or it could be a virus

On the other hand, malware can cause high CPU usage. An infected system may run processes in the background and may try to spread by sending malware to others via your email, your network, or other sources. All of this requires processing power, which can result in poor performance.

Manually confirming the infection is not easy, and for the layman is more of a guess than anything else. If you don’t have an anti-virus, download a free malware app and run it. In fact, you may want to try some anti-malware tools, as pre-installed malware has its advantages; may be able to hide from a single anti-virus application.

Once you find the problem, you can remove it with the anti-virus application you used to scan. If that fails, read our malware removal guide; the tips there can help you get rid of whatever has your PC.

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