If you’ve recently updated your own business computers, or a whole slew of client machines, and realised that they have started to run a whole lot slower – you are far from alone. Think of the CPU (Central Processing Unit) of your computer as the brain, and all your applications and processes like thoughts running through it at 100mph. It’s performance depends on how well it’s running, and when it’s over-fried, you’ll quickly see that applications lag or even shut down, the cursor speed slows down, and everything just seems to take a whole lot longer. Let’s look at how we measure CPU, as well as some ideas for lowering CPU and therefore improving performance.

How is CPU measured?

The most common way to measure CPU is via the clock speed, which you can check out from the task manager on Windows 10, under performance. It will be measured in MHz or GHz. You’ll either see something like 3.2 GHz, or you’ll see it written as 3,200 MHz, but these mean the same thing. Either way, the higher the numbers – the more the CPU can achieve each second. MIPS is another metric which is commonly used, which stands for millions of instructions per second. You’ll also want to look at elements like how many cores your computer’s CPU has. 2-4 cores is usually enough, but if you’re looking for a lot of power – for example if you’re a data analyst, you might want to look for a processor with 6.

However you measure it – we all know the feeling when a computer is running slowly, or the performance isn’t up to speed, so what’s causing the problem?

What’s impacting my CPU?

There are so many reasons why your CPU might be running high, but it can actually be dangerous for your computer, as it can easily overheat and start causing damage to its own parts. Generally speaking, applications that take up a lot of power such as video games will be more likely to be the cause for low CPU availability, but it can also happen as a result of any unnecessary third-party applications running in the background (many of which auto-start when you turn on your computer), or even issues with the hardware, such as problematic graphics drivers. Other common reasons for high CPU usage could be malware, or plug-ins and add-ons that come with your web browser. Here’s a handy checklist that you can use to lower CPU and get your machines, or your client’s machines, running a whole lot smoother.

1. A Good old reboot

Sounds simple, but you’ll be amazed how many clients will say they haven’t tried just rebooting their machines, or they can’t remember the last time they powered off and on again. When you reboot a machine, the memory is flushed, temporary files will be deleted, and long-running processes will be able to restart, which can definitely help if a machine is running slow.

2. Use CTRL ALT DELETE

Task manager offers a whole host of information about your CPU, including explaining which applications might be slowing you down or causing problems. You might not even realize that processes are running in the background that are stealing CPU, and from here you can identify which ones they are, and then make changes such as ensuring they don’t auto-start when you turn on your computer, even deleting applications that you don’t need.

Check your processes by clicking on the Processes tab from Task Manager, and then clicking more details, followed by the CPU column so you see all the apps in order of high CPU. See which processes are causing the problem, and if they aren’t critical, simply choose End Task.

3. Consider your update schedule

Sometimes, the issue with high CPU comes down to drivers. There could be compatibility problems, or they could just need an update! Head to your Start menu and look under Updates and Security in the settings bar. When you check for any available updates, drivers will be included and automatically updated.
Other updates that might impact your CPU are your BIOS version, which is a firmware update, as well as ensuring you have a process for regular updates and patches. If you’ve just installed a new version of your OS, keep an eye out for Microsoft patches, which may fix a common user issue.

4. Run a regular antivirus

We hate to say it, but have your machines got a virus? It’s common for cyberattacks to use up all of your CPI for tasks such as mining cryptocurrency in the background. They might even be invisible and running under the names of common applications that you wouldn’t see as malicious. Make sure that you run regular scans, especially if the CPU usage seems abnormally high considering the age of the machine, the applications it is using, or the steps you have already taken to reduce the problem.

5. Temporarily change your Power options

If you have a temporary need for more power, you can manually change your power options on Windows, by heading to Power Options, under Hardware in your control panel. Here you can change the number under “minimum processor state” to 100%, both under “on battery” and also under “plugged in.” Remember – this is not a long term fix, and may cause your computer to overheat, so it’s important to change it back once you’ve finished your power-hungry task!

6. Use a restore point or a reinstall

As a worst-case scenario, consider reinstalling Windows, or winding it back to a restore point that was saved before your CPU issues came to your attention. You can use Reset this PC, which will remove all the programs on the device, and you’ll need to organize the settings the way you want them again, too. Make sure to back up all of your files on the cloud or on an external drive.

Looking to get a regular patching schedule up and running, and wondering about automation? Read more about patch management to keep your devices running cleanly, here.

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