How to Fix High CPU Usage (Or Doesn’t It Need Fixing?)

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   /  Published 

High CPU usage is a condition that anyone working with computers runs into at some point.

Your PC starts feeling laggy, and when you fire up the Windows Task Manager to see what’s wrong, you’re met with a 100% or close to 100% CPU usage notice.

High CPU utilization

Is this a cause for concern? Or is it, conversely, a non-issue that doesn’t even need solving?

Let’s first answer the opening question: high CPU usage is almost always caused by the usual suspects and is – more often than not – easy to fix.

What Does CPU Usage Mean?

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the most important part of your computer.

It is the “brain” that brings all other components together and does the “thinking” – or in tech terms: processing. The higher its IPC (instructions per clock) and clock-speed, the faster it’ll do its job.

IPC and Clock Cycles

To find out how powerful a CPU you need, check out the following guide.

No matter the brand or model, all processors have a certain performance capability. This capability is determined by its core count, clock speeds, and IPC.

This holds true regardless if it’s an entry-level CPU or a spec’d-out behemoth that’ll set you back an arm and a leg. And, naturally, there’s always a way to max out its processing capacity.

This is typically represented by CPU usage; how much of the CPU’s processing capability is being used by workloads on your computer.

In general, your CPU usage should be very low when it’s idle (ideally under 5%) or running light workloads such as text editing or web browsing (5%-30%).

If, however, you launch a hardware-intensive application – one used for, say, 3D rendering, video editing, or gaming – you’ll notice that your CPU usage will immediately shoot up; in this scenario, it can easily exceed 50% utilization, and will even reach 100% in specific workloads (like rendering).

Well, is this cause for concern?

Not necessarily. After all, CPUs are meant to be utilized.

You wouldn’t buy an expensive tractor just to have it sit in the barn 365 days of the year, would you? That tractor is meant to be used for heavy work!

Long story short: it’s entirely normal for your CPU utilization to fluctuate and even reach very high “numbers” – at times.

Note the “at times.” Well, at what times exactly?

At times when you expect it to fluctuate and when it’s supposed to be high: when you’re running demanding workloads, in other words.

Is it okay for your CPU usage to be high when you’re not running demanding workloads when your PC is just idling, or you’re just typing out a word document?

No, it’s not okay. In this case, you most likely have an issue that needs fixing.

How to Identify High CPU Usage

As mentioned, your CPU usage should be very low when idling or running light tasks – usually between 1-10% for a relatively modern CPU with four or more cores.

Idle CPU Usage

If your CPU usage is very high when it’s not really doing anything intensive, then you might have a problem.

You can check your CPU usage on Windows by opening up Task Manager (CTRL + Shift + ESC) and heading over to the Performance tab.

There you’ll be able to see your CPU utilization and heaps of other helpful information regarding your entire system.

When Is High CPU Utilization a Cause for Concern?

Just because your CPU usage hits 100% whenever you run a CPU-heavy program doesn’t mean something is wrong.

If you have a budget or mid-range processor, it’s very easy for hardware-intensive programs to max out its utilization and make your PC feel slow.

In this case, the only option for you is to upgrade to a more powerful CPU that can easily handle the workloads you throw at it.

What Can You Do?

If your CPU is showing unusually high usage paired with random stutters and freezes, there are a few steps you can take to get to the root of the problem.

Restart Your PC

Sometimes the simplest solution is the answer. Restarting your computer will clear any temporary files but also end all processes that might be running in the background.

Stop Processes With Heavy CPU Usage

In the processes tab in Task Manager, you can see what percentage of the CPU each active program is taking up.

Blender CPU Utilization

If you see something out of the ordinary, you can shut it down by selecting that program/process and clicking on “End Task” in the lower right-hand corner.

Background tasks are usually meant to utilize only a fraction of your CPU’s power, so just keep that in mind.

Update All Drivers and Software

Always make sure that all your drivers are up-to-date. This includes your GPU, motherboard, audio drivers, and so on.

You can easily update your drivers by visiting the manufacturer’s website and heading to the downloads/support page.

Remember, you should never update your drivers using third-party software. It’s very easy to install junk or straight-up malware on your PC.

If you want to learn more about installing and uninstalling GPU drivers, check out our article.

Clean Your PC

Physically cleaning your computer from time to time and getting rid of any potential dust that might have accumulated is incredibly important.

PC Case - Common areas for dust accumulation

When a CPU is too hot, it cannot turbo as well as it should.

This, in turn, lowers its single- and multi-core performance, which is what we call thermal throttling. As a result, your computer will feel slow and sluggish.

Cleaning your PC, therefore, is an absolute must – and it’s quite easy, too!

All you really need is a can of compressed air. Shut down your computer, turn the power supply off, and open up your case.

Once you’ve cleaned its internals and gotten rid of all dust and debris, your system’s thermals will immediately improve (sometimes drastically, other times less so).

We also have an in-depth guide on this whole procedure, so make sure to check it out!

Update Your BIOS

Updating your BIOS – while not necessarily the most user-friendly thing in the world – might fix your CPU’s high usage.

An outdated BIOS can, at times, cause compatibility issues with newer operating systems and even hardware. This can create additional strain on your CPU and cause its usage to spike up unnaturally.

To update your BIOS, you’ll need an internet connection and a USB thumb drive.

Once you have that covered, find out the exact model of your motherboard and go to its manufacturer’s website. There you’ll be able to find the latest version of its BIOS.

You can follow this guide (courtesy of How-To Geek) in case you need step-by-step assistance.

Restore or Reinstall Windows

If you’ve encountered high CPU usage only recently, going for a complete system restore might help you out – it can restore your OS back to a point when this wasn’t an issue.

On Windows 11, you can find system restore under Control Panel > Recovery > Open System Restore. From here, click Next in the Restore System Files and Settings tab.

Windows System Restore

Windows will then ask you to select a point in time to go back to. You should pick a point when your CPU ran without an issue.

This, unfortunately, isn’t available to everyone as these restore points aren’t created automatically. This means that, if you didn’t create one yourself prior to having high CPU usage issues, you’re fresh out of luck.

If all else fails, you’ll have to reinstall Windows.

Remember that a fresh install of Windows will wipe all your data and essentially take your PC to a brand-new state software-wise.

So, back up any important files you may want to preserve before going down this route.

You can find the system reset option under Windows settings; alternatively, you can search “reset this PC” using the start menu. At this point, you’ll get multiple options. We recommend you wipe everything to make sure your OS reverts back to “square one.”

Windows Reset Reinstall

Once Windows resets your PC, you can reinstall all your drivers and programs and check whether your CPU-related issue has been resolved or not.


One of these fixes will almost surely solve your problem.

If not, we recommend you take your PC to a local computer repair shop and have an expert look at it.

As a last resort, you could also try searching for your specific issue online by entering the exact model of your CPU and seeing whether it’s a more widespread problem.


How Do I Fix High CPU Usage While Gaming?

Some games can be very CPU intensive, especially if you’re running at a lower resolution.

You can potentially reduce high CPU usage by updating your GPU drivers and ensuring there aren’t any hardware-intensive programs running in the background.

Playing at a higher resolution (if your GPU can handle it) is another good way to take the load off your CPU.

Can High CPU Usage Damage Your Computer?

Yes and no. Pushing your CPU to its limits isn’t going to damage it instantly.

It’ll take several years for it to “wear out” although there are never any guarantees.

In any case, having an adequate aftermarket cooler is an absolute must.

Over to You

That about sums it up! Let us know if you have any other niche fixes for high CPU usage; as always, comment down below and, if you feel like it, join our forum to discuss all things PC!

CGDirector is Reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Alex Glawion

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I’ll do my best to help out!


Also check out our Forum for feedback from our Expert Community.

Leave a Reply