How to troubleshoot high CPU usage when there’s nothing in Task Manager?

By ivan.diskin | January 11, 2019 |

greater than 5 minutes

High CPU usage can make your computer unbearably slow, which can be very annoying. Usually, this happens when you overwhelm your PC with too many processes running simultaneously. In most cases, it’s quite simple to identify the services behind this issue and the solution would be to limit the usage of the demanding applications.

However, there are occasions when there’s nothing in the Task Manager yet the CPU usage is behaving abnormally, with the processor indicating a high percentage. To resolve this problem, we have prepared a list showing you how to free up CPU usage if the task manager is empty.

How to fix high CPU usage while there is nothing in the Task Manager?

Solution 1: Disable background programs

When dealing with computer issues, it’s always advisable to try out simple solutions first. In this case, disabling the background programs that you no longer use can help reduce the CPU activity.
Background processes run on your PC even though they are not open in any window. While Windows requires some of these processes to operate, the more programs you install, the more processes will run in the background. This could lead to high CPU usage.

There are two methods to disable background processes. To avoid confusion when disabling these processes, make sure there’s no program running. Here are the steps to follow:

Method 1: Using the Task Manager

  1. Right-click the Taskbar, and select “Task Manager”. Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut keys Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
  2. Click on the “Startup” tab. Here, you’ll see a list of all the programs that run in the background and their impact on startup.
  3. Select the enabled programs one by one, and click the “Disable” button at the bottom right corner of the window.
  4. When you’re finished, close the “Task Manager” and restart your computer.

Method 2: Using System Configuration

  1. Press the Windows Key, and then type system configuration.
  2. Choose the first result titled “System Configuration”.
  3. Select the “Services” tab.
  4. Check the box next to “Hide all Microsoft services”, located at the bottom left corner. This ensures that you don’t disable processes that your operating system requires to run smoothly.
  5. Uncheck all the unnecessary services listed, except the essential ones.
  6. Click “Apply”, and then click “OK”.
  7. Restart your computer and check if CPU usage is still high.

Solution 2: Scan your PC for malware infections

Malicious applications can render your computer unusable. If your system is infected, processes running in the background can spread the virus to your data, files, and even the whole network. This could cause a spike in CPU activity, which could affect the performance of your system.
Additionally, a malware infection can send false readings of CPU percentage in the Task Manager. The only solution here is to scan the entire system to find the culprit and remove it. You can use a third-party antivirus tool like Auslogics Anti-Malware, which scans your computer comprehensively to remove the malware infection. You can also use Windows Defender.

To use Windows Defender, follow these simple steps:

  1. Press the Windows Key+I to open “Settings”.
  2. Select Update & Security > Windows Security > Virus & threat protection.
  3. Click “Run a new advanced scan”. In earlier versions, click “Advanced scan”.
  4. Select “Windows Defender Offline scan”.
  5. Click the “Scan now” button. This restarts your PC and the scanning process begins. (It’s important to save and close all your work before proceeding).

If this doesn’t resolve the high CPU usage on your computer, try the next solution.

Solution 3: Check if the WMI is hogging your CPU

The WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation), also known as the WMI Provider Host process or WmiPrvSE.exe, is a Windows service that helps to monitor various systems on a network. Since it handles a large number of systems, it’s not uncommon for the WMI to run out of control and cause abnormal CPU usage.

To check if the WMI is to blame for the high CPU usage:

  1. Open the Task Manager by pressing the shortcut keys Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
  2. Look for the WmiPrvSE.exe process and check its CPU usage. If the percentage is higher and there are no active programs, it means the service is problematic.

If that’s the case, then you’ll need to restart the WMI to fix the high CPU usage. Since Microsoft removed the resources for tackling this issue, you’ll have to do it manually. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Press the Windows Key+Q to open Cortana, or simply press the Windows Key and type services.
  2. Select Services from the results to open the “Services” window.
  3. Locate the “Windows Management Instrumentation” service.
  4. Right-click it and select “Restart”.

If this fails, move on to Solution 4 below.

Solution 4: Scan your PC for performance issues

Like mentioned earlier, the more you use your computer, the more programs you install. This could jam your system with junk files and corrupt keys in your Windows registry. If left unchecked, this issue could lead to a sluggish and unstable system.

To restore your computer’s fast performance, you need the Auslogics BoostSpeed tool. Trusted by thousands of users worldwide, the tool is designed to get rid of unnecessary files clogging your system, including web browser cache, redundant Windows Update files, and unwanted temporary files among other PC junk.

That’s not all. The tool also checks issues affecting your PC’s speed and detects the root cause of computer crashes. Auslogics BoostSpeed then tweaks your system settings and allocates maximum resources to active applications only.

On top of that, the tool has a built-in Service Manager which allows you to stop all the unwanted services that are using up your computer’s memory. You can even schedule regular maintenance to ensure your computer’s performance is always optimized. You can trust this tool to prevent system services from throttling down your CPU.

Solution 5: Check if the System Idle Process is affecting CPU usage

In other instances, the System Idle Process can cause high CPU usage. If you open the Task Manager and see the System Idle Process hitting the 95-99 percentage mark, there’s no reason to be alarmed.

This might confuse users into thinking that the high percentage means that the CPU is overworking, even when there’s no program running. Actually, the System Idle Process shows the idle capacity of your computer at that particular time. In fact, a high percentage indicates that the processor power being used is very minimal.

If your PC is behaving abnormally, for instance, freezing despite the System Idle Process registering a high percentage, the problem usually lies elsewhere.

Solution 6: Reset your system

This should be the last resort after trying out the various solutions without success. A system reset doesn’t affect your files, and it might help to remove the application causing this complication.

Windows 10 allows you to refresh your system using the “Reset this PC” option in the “Settings” app, and in most cases, it solves PC problems.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Press the Windows Key+Q to open Cortana. Type recovery and click on “Recovery options” from the results. Alternatively, press the Windows key+I to open the “Settings” app. Then go to Update & Security > Recovery. Next, on the right-hand side, you’ll see “Reset this PC”.
  2. Click the “Get started” button. This opens a window with two options:
    • Keep my files. When you choose this option, your personal files won’t be affected.
    • Remove everything. This option wipes your computer clean, including your personal files. You’ll need to back up your files externally to avoid losing them.
  3. Choose one option, and then follow the on-screen instructions.

This should restore your computer’s default settings and resolve the high CPU usage problem.

We would love to hear which solution helped you to free up CPU usage if the Task Manager is empty. Leave comments about your thoughts and experiences.

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