Finding the cause of a sudden constant increase in CPU usage

Especially if you install and uninstall applications all the time, conflicts may happen that lead to weird behavior, such as an increase of CPU usage even up to 100% for no obvious reason whatever. How would you find the cause and decide what to do? You’d better start from what is simpler. Start Windows in safe mode. If CPU works normally now (1% to 5% with some spikes, is considered normal, but you can just recall what prosessing power your PC used to need before the problem appeared), then you have just eliminated the possibility of hardware and basic driver problems. Now you know that the cause of your CPU madness is not hidden in your motherboard or anywhere else in your hardware and its drivers, but in some conflicts in your software.

Enter again Windows not in safe mode, but just disabling your startup programs. You can do that by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc and going to the Startup tab. If your CPU is still crazy, you know that the problem is not caused by any of your startup programs. Now things become more difficult. Of course the problem will be solved, but you need to do some work uninstalling and installing applications.

First, install the free Aomei Backupper, a program that makes an image of your system disk. You need this to bring your PC to the current state after all those uninstallations you will perform. You need also this as a browsable backup of your system, to use some configuration files belonging to your current system, if you reset Windows and reinstall all your programs.

Now that you have an image of your system disk you can start changing things the tough way. Usually the problem comes from processes that are not identifiable in the Task Manager. You may see, for example, your browser to consume a lot of CPU power, only to find out that uninstalling your browser won’t change anything at all! It’s time to change a lot and be prepared even to reset Windows, losing all your programs and settings except for your personal files.

First stop services you think they are problematic, and try disabling tasks in the Task Scheduler. If this won’t help (usually it won’t), start uninstalling your programs one by one until you see that CPU returns to normal levels. In the happy case that this happens, use Aomei Backupper to restore your system image, bringing your PC back to its initial state, and when the image is restored, just uninstall the offending application, and enjoy.

If you uninstall all of your programs, and CPU is still working like mad, you know that you need to reset Windows. Bringing Windows to its default settings should solve the problem immediately, leaving you only with the task of reinstalling and reconfiguring your programs. But in the extreme case that even a new Windows installation won’t solve your problem, you have nothing to fear! Just restore again your system image and return to where you started from, that is, keep your problem along with all your programs and customizations, waiting for a future Windows Update to magically save you from this trouble…

To follow this short and simple guide I’m offering here, just be careful and make sure you understand three basic tasks, how to make, restore and browse a system image. If you are familiar with this, go on and you have nothing to fear. Otherwise you may like to read a post on how to make and use PC system images.