You can expect high CPU utilization when playing some games, running a video-editing or streaming application, performing an antivirus scan, or juggling many browser tabs. If you’re dealing with this kind of everyday high-CPU usage situation, you should close all background programs and tabs you aren’t using, then return to Task Manager and see if the situation has changed.
It’s important to remember that high CPU usage while multitasking can be normal. Modern CPUs handle multitasking situations by splitting processes between multiple processor cores, which work through different sets of instructions simultaneously. Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology (Intel® HT Technology) takes it a step further, creating multiple “threads” of execution in each core, each of which handles different processes. If the CPU usage of a heavy-duty program like Adobe Premiere is high, it may just be efficiently using the CPU cores available to it.
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology can also help processing of heavy workloads by dynamically increasing the frequency of your CPU. Intel® Core™ X-series processor family have another tool to help avoid slowdowns, as their Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 automatically assigns the biggest tasks to your fastest processor cores, as well as boosting the frequency of those cores.
These processor technologies can greatly increase the speed of multitasking and using demanding programs, but abnormal CPU usage situations can still arise. If you see a background process with a name like Runtime Broker, Windows Session Manager, or Cortana at the top of the CPU column when you hit 100% CPU usage, then you have an issue.
These Windows processes are designed to use very little of your processing power or memory under ordinary circumstances — you’ll often see them using 0% or 1% in Task Manager. When your PC is idle, all of these processes together will usually use less than 10% of your CPU capacity. However, buggy or unexpected behavior — for example, one Windows process trying and retrying to perform a search action that has been disabled elsewhere — can sometimes cause a process to eat up nearly all of your system’s resources.
After you’ve opened Task Manager and found the process unexpectedly using up a chunk of your CPU, search online to identify it. You don’t want to stop a process like explorer.exe (which manages many graphical elements like the desktop and Start menu) or winlogon.exe (startup tasks and the CTRL+ALT+DEL screen), unless you have a good reason.
Once you’ve identified the process as non-critical (and, again, checked that you’ve saved whatever you were working on), click on the process to select it, then click End Process at the bottom right of Task Manager. End Process will cause the program to terminate without saving.
You can update the BIOS automatically with a utility provided by the motherboard manufacturer, or manually, by navigating to the manufacturer’s web page. First look up your motherboard model and BIOS version number, then head to the manufacturer’s website, click on “Support”, then click “BIOS” to find relevant updates.
Not sure what motherboard you have? Click the Start button, then type “System Information” and click on this program when it appears.
Look at the “System Manufacturer”, “System Model”, and “BIOS Version/Date” fields in the System Information window to find your motherboard. (For example, a Z170X board from GIGABYTE).
Double-check the version number to ensure you’re not already up to date. If you’re not, download and install the new BIOS version, reboot, and check Task Manager again to see if the issue persists.
You may find online recommendations to disable services using the Windows Registry database. This is often more of a temporary workaround, but it can be worth trying in situations where a permanent fix isn’t available. Read on if you’re considering this route.
Before making any changes to the registry, it’s vital to create a restore point. This will save your computer’s current systems settings and allow you to restore them if your Registry edits unintentionally impact system stability. To create a restore point, click Start, then type “Create a restore point”. You’ll then need to select your hard drive and click “Configure”.
Select “Turn on system protection” within the System Protection screen and choose how much disk space you’d like to allocate. System Restore must use at least 1GB, but can be set to use as little as 1% of larger drives. However, allocating more disk space lets Windows create more restore points before deleting old ones.
After you click Apply, return to the previous screen and press the “Create” button to set a restore point.
The following steps will vary depending on the affected process, but just remember that if you’re making any major changes to Windows based on online advice, you should create a restore point as a fallback option.