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High CPU Usage: What it is, and What to do About it

Norma from Texas writes:

“When playing solitaire of some form or other, I keep getting “high CPU usage” warnings. Anything I should be careful of? I don’t want to damage my computer.”

The good news is that you will not damage your computer by continuing to use it after receiving a high CPU usage warning. The not so good news is that the high CPU usage could be slowing down your computer. If you’re only using the computer to play solitaire and you aren’t experiencing any appreciable delays, you can continue to do so despite the warnings. Even though you can use your computer after receiving high CPU usage warnings, there are several simple things you can do to prevent these usage issues from happening.

Upgrade Your Hardware and/or Software

If your computer is more than five years old, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer computer. This is especially true if you use your computer for more than just some Web browsing and solitaire. Do a little investigative work and see what your computer’s processor speed is and how much RAM (random access memory) you have. Next, check out the computers on the market today to see how yours measures up.

Another factor to consider is what version of your operating system you are running. While it’s true that the newer operating systems are faster and better, running a newer operating system on an older computer can slow the computer down because it does not have enough memory and processing power to handle the newer operating system. Rather than trying to spruce up your old machine with new software, you may just want to purchase a brand new computer

Find Out Where the Message Is Coming From

If you are continually getting a high CPU usage warning, take a moment to figure out if it is the Windows operating system that is issuing the warning or if another program, like Norton Antivirus, is behind the notification. Norton’s warnings can usually be ignored, and can actually be disabled by unchecking a box in the settings. The warnings you need to worry about are the Windows warnings, so if these are the ones you’re getting, read on to find out how to eliminate the problem.

Scan for Viruses and Other Malware

Viruses, spyware and other types of malicious software (malware) are often to blame for these high CPU usage warnings. There are plenty of free virus and spyware programs, so find out which ones are compatible with your software and download them. Make sure you update your virus scanner’s definitions regularly or the scans will be ineffective. There’s usually an option on virus scanning software to update definitions on the opening page. Allow the spyware and virus software to remove any infected files, then restart your computer and see if the problem is solved. You may also want to restart your computer once everything is cleaned up.

Have a Computer Professional Take a Look

If you’re still experiencing problems after scanning your computer for malware and ensuring your hardware and software isn’t outdated, you may want to have a computer expert take a look. You’ll find companies that come to your home or you can drop it off to a computer repair shop, depending on your preference. Make sure you explain the problem to the technician so the problem can be accurately diagnosed. If you’re tech savvy, search the Internet for ways to resolve this problem on your own.

~Chad Stetson