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High CPU Usage — What Is it and How do I Fix it?

Bobby from Maryland writes:

My computer keeps telling me I have high CPU usage. What is it and how can I fix it?

Like Bobby from Maryland, many people receive warnings regarding high CPU usage and haven’t a clue what it means or what they can do about the problem. The CPU, which stands for central processing unit, is like the brain of your computer. It is involved in opening and closing programs as well as every keystroke and mouse click you make. Your CPU is only capable of handling a set amount of commands or processes at one time. When your CPU tries to do too much at once, you’ll receive an error about your CPU usage being high.

You may be asking yourself why you should care if your computer is experiencing high CPU usage. The answer to this question is because it will make your computer run significantly slower and may even cause your computer to crash. The good news is that there are ways you can reduce your CPU usage and, hopefully, prevent this error from occurring in the future.

Virus Scan

The first thing you should do if your computer experiences high CPU usage more than once or twice is run your virus software. If you do not have virus software installed on your computer, you need to get some. There are several free programs along with a variety of paid programs that will help keep your computer bug free; and since these nasty little programs slow your computer down, delete data and cause a host of other problems, it is important to update your virus software regularly and run scans frequently.

Before starting your scan, ensure your virus program’s files are current so it will scan for all the latest viruses. You should also make sure your program scans and removes malware and adware as these programs are typically responsible for higher-than-normal CPU usage.

Repair Your Registry

You may not realize it, but your computer requires a bit of maintenance from time to time. Along with scanning for viruses, malware and adware, you should install a registry repair program and run it. Your computer’s registry stores a wealth of important information, including software installation information, Internet information and drivers for the hardware attached to your computer. This information is essential for your computer to operate, but it’s normal to have a large amount of unnecessary information or broken registry entries. Bad registry entries increase your CPU usage and slow your computer down, so for faster boot times and optimal CPU usage, repair your registry at least once a year.

Because this information is so critical, you can’t just go in and delete things randomly. While Windows does include a registry-editing program, it’s better to install a third-party program to edit your registry. These programs eliminate a lot of the manual work and will guide you through the registry cleaning process. Some registry repair programs are free, while others will run you around $20 or so. Read the reviews and features on a few different programs before deciding which one to purchase. You should also make a backup of your registry file before you begin cleaning, just in case you encounter any errors.


While running virus scan and cleaning up your registry should have your computer running much more quickly, it’s possible your processor just can’t handle the operating system or the programs you’re expecting it to run. This is especially true if your computer is older and you’re trying to run a newer operating system or newer programs, which typically require greater processor speed.

If your computer is free of viruses and your registry is clean and you’re still experiencing problems, consider running fewer programs at one time and see if that helps. If it does, it may be time to upgrade to a faster CPU.

~Chad Stetson