If you’ve noticed that your computer is running slow, or things aren’t working as they should, you might have an issue with high CPU usage. Whether you’re trying to squeeze out a few extra FPS in your favorite games, or you’ve noticed your CPU usage is high under nominal workloads, we’ll help you figure out how to lower your CPU usage.
Figure Out When Your CPU Usage Spikes
The first thing you should do to lower your CPU usage is to figure out when it starts spiking. For example, if your CPU usage is high when you’re running certain games or programs, that will give you a starting point to properly diagnose the issue. Sometimes programs are naturally demanding on your CPU, while other times, it could be background processes taxing your processor.
Whatever the case is, getting a clear idea of when your CPU usage is high can go a long way in actually remedying the issue.
Restart Your PC
If you leave your computer running all the time, and you’re noticing that things are slowing down or CPU usage is climbing for seemingly no reason, you should try to restart your computer. This will clear the current state of software and allow your computer to start fresh, possibly closing problematic processes and bringing things back to baseline operation.
It’s no secret that Windows can be buggy sometimes (ahem, Fall Creators Update 1709). Whether it’s from code hastily pushed through previous updates, or unforeseen consequences of new features, sometimes updating Windows can help fix high CPU usage.
First, open the Settings app (Windows key + I). Then click on Update & Security.
Now click the Check for updates button. If Windows finds any updates, then be sure to download and install them.
Eliminate Unnecessary Background Programs
Sometimes background programs can hog up precious CPU time and cause excessive CPU usage. Some programs may also even still stay open in the background, even when you close the main window of the program. And when there is an excessive amount of these background programs running, it can lead to slowdowns and high CPU usage.
To find and close unnecessary background tasks, open up the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc).
In the detailed view, click CPU in the top column. This will sort the processes from highest to lowest CPU usage, allowing you to see which processes are using the most CPU resources.
To end a process, simply highlight the process you want to stop and click on the End task button in the bottom-right corner. Repeat as necessary for any processes you want to close.
Turn Off Unnecessary Startup Items
Ending unnecessary tasks is easy enough, but if these unnecessary tasks are set to run at Windows startup, then you’ll have to manually stop them each time you boot your computer. Or, you can disable them from startup, so you don’t have to manually stop them on each boot.
To do this, open up the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), and navigate to the Startup tab at the top.
For each startup item you want to disable, simply click the item to highlight it, and then click the Disable button in the bottom-right corner.
Check for Malware
If you’ve noticed that your CPU usage is high when you don’t have any CPU-intensive programs running, there’s a chance that your system could be infected with malware. And even if you don’t suspect your system is infected, it’s still a good idea to check for malware.
The built-in Windows Defender is a good first line of defense, but it still lets a lot of nasty programs slip by. So you’ll want to consider checking your system with a good anti-malware tool, such as Malwarebytes. Once you download and install it, run a full scan to check your computer.
Switch to Higher Settings in Your Games
This might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes setting a game’s settings too low can actually have a detrimental impact on your CPU usage. This is because at low settings, some games may offload graphically-intensive tasks from the GPU to the CPU, which can cause massive CPU usage spikes.
Of course, if you’re using integrated graphics or have an old graphics card, this may be the only way to get the game to run at a playable frame rate. But if you’ve got a capable card, try bumping the graphics settings up a bit to see if it helps with the excess CPU usage. It won’t work for all games, but it also won’t hurt to experiment a little (after all, if this doesn’t work for you, you can always drop your settings back down).
If everything you’ve tried so far hasn’t worked, you can try to debloat Windows. You see, Windows comes with a lot of unnecessary junk and telemetry that might seem innocuous and negligible to PC performance. But you’d be surprised how much of a performance boost you can get by disabling some of these extra features and telemetry tasks.
Using tools like Windows10Debloater or O&O ShutUp10++ are an easy way to debloat your system. However, just keep in mind that using these tools can break the functionality of certain Windows features. Use them at your own risk, pay close attention to which settings you’re tweaking, and above all, remember to create a system restore point before making any changes.
If you’ve tried everything, but you just can’t seem to get a grip on what’s causing your CPU usage to be so high, then sometimes it’s best to start fresh. Starting over with a fresh install of Windows can help you regain PC performance and wipe out any problematic settings or malware that might be causing issues.
And if a fresh install of Windows still doesn’t help, then it’s a good indicator that maybe your computer is getting too old.