Why does my CPU usage spike up and down?

Written by james porter
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Why does my CPU usage spike up and down?
When your CPU is tied up and slow, there may be no end to your frustration. (Mensch und Computer 4 image by Sven Rausch from Fotolia.com)

Nothing is more annoying than trying to do a simple thing on your computer, only to have it take forever to obey your commands. There are many reasons the CPU could be tied up, and it is helpful to be able to diagnose these spikes in usage.


One disturbing possibility is that there is a virus or a spyware program on your computer calling for CPU time to copy itself or send your data over the Internet. It is important to have antivirus software installed to prevent this.

Running Tasks

On the other hand, the problem may be your antivirus software running its CPU-consuming scan in the background, or another program doing a similar automatic background task. Many programs by default start up when you start your computer and run silently in the background.

Finding the Culprit

Before taking any action, you should take a look at your task manager. Push "Ctrl" + "Alt" + "Delete" and select "Task Manager" to bring it up. Under the "Processes" tab, you can see exactly which program is using all of your CPU time.

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