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CPU usage jumping between 10 - 100%

By psyjrobe · 9 replies
Jan 29, 2011
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  1. I'm using a Dell laptop with Windows XP which is unbelievably slow.

    The CPU usage is fluctuating every second between 10% - 100%. This starts as soon as I boot the computer up. Under task manager there is nothing suspicious. The process that seems to be responsible is 'System' which I believe encompasses a lot of things? I've ran a virus check which found nothing.

    Any suggestions as to other things I could try to solve this would be very welcome. I basically can't use the thing at the moment.
  2. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,880

    This might be a virus. But, first try starting the PC in safe mode ands see if there is any improvement in performance and report back.

    What anti virus did you use?

    What Service Pack level are you on?
  3. Lokalaskurar

    Lokalaskurar TS Enthusiast Posts: 514

    There might be other reasons as well. When did you first notice these problems?

    How long have you been using this laptop? (or how old is it?)

    Some Dell laptops have trouble with overheated components - basically it might just be full of dust. Which laptop are we talking about? (model)

    Which CPU model is the laptop using? For some (many, actually) AMD models, fluctuations are actually quite common, yet tends not to cause too much damage or sincere slow-downs.
  4. psyjrobe

    psyjrobe TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the replies.

    It's a Dell Inspiron 1501 with an AMD turion processor, level pack 3. I brought it from new and it's now 4 years old.

    The antivirus I use is the free version of AVG 2011. I noticed that my computer was starting to slow down yesterday so I ran a virus check then but nothing came up. By the evening it was too slow to actually use.

    I've taken the back off this morning and hoovered up any dust but there wasn't actually that much in there. I don't know if this is relevant but I haven't used the battery with this laptop for over a year now. It died so I threw it away and just use mains electricity.

    When I run things in safe mode there is a massive improvement in performance. CPU usage stays around 1% and I can open folder, programs etc promtly. As soon as I come out of safe mode though, everything slows down dramatically and CPU usage again is varying but is often up to 90% ish.
  5. CAMusing

    CAMusing TS Enthusiast Posts: 179

  6. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,880

    AVG 2011 has been known to cause problems, try disabling it in Normal mode and see if things speed up.

    If there is an improvement without AVG get there uninstall tool and completely remove it then download and install Microsft Security Essentials from the link below and see if your PC returns to normal speed.

  7. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    Try all the above. It's great advice!

    fyi.. an additional great tool for monitoring/tracking down CPU usage, Process Explorer
    > It's basically Task Manager on steroids ;)
    > Click the Process column to see a hierarchical view of processes or by an alpha sort

    It's a very lightweight process. When minimized it runs as a small notification icon in the lower right of your screen. It makes it easy to keep an eye on CPU usage in real-time as you;re working on your computer. The icon has red and green waves showing CPU usage and hover the mouse over the icon to see the name of the process using the most CPU at any time

    I find it so useful to have run all the time so i can spot CPU usage anomalies ASAP that i added it to my Windows startup (use its command line option /t to start it minimized)
  8. psyjrobe

    psyjrobe TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Tried disabling AVG but it made no difference.

    I've downloaded 'Process Explorer' but as with normal task manager, it's showing that the only thing that seems to be draining my resources is 'system'.
  9. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,430   +185

    If that's the case, it might one of your drivers. fyi.. you can skim through HERE (just to give you an idea: don't get bogged down in any of the techie stuff/detail at this point)

    You might first go to the Dell website and check for any driver updates
  10. Mark56

    Mark56 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,880

    You could also use Driver Verifier to isolate any problem driver, instruction below.


    Quick guide: http://www.techrepublic.com/article...th-xps-hidden-driver-verifier-manager/5714091

    If that doesn't work then follow this guide:


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