Subscriber Don Newsham wrote this week to ask about a problem that he was having with his computer — he was getting unusual high spikes in his CPU usage:
I have Norton on my computer. A couple of times a day I get an alert message that says high CPU usage by iexplore.exe and it gives a % ,anywhere from 50 -70 .
Is this a concern ?
I am just an average guy who uses the computer for e-mail and info. No TV,movies ,music, work.
I wrote back to Don to ask a few questions, since whether his high CPU usage was a function of his hardware or other problems would be affected by his PC’s capabilities.
WHICH Norton product? They’ve got a lot of different ones – which cause different load levels.
Your description could be normal – or it could indicate problems of some sort.
Tell me about the computer:
Manufacturer and model
— e.g. Dell Inspiron 1501
Which CPU & speed? (is it a fast Intel Core i7-970, or an Intel Celeron xx or a Pentium?)
— If you’ve got Windows 7 (or probably Vista), Start > Control Panel > System and Security > System – and read the answers
How much memory? (RAM – not hard drive space). — same place as above
Which operating system and version? (not just “Windows” – “Windows 7 Home Premium”)
— same place as above
Now, how big is your hard drive (in GB, not “it’s a 3.5 inch model”)
— you can find this by opening My Computer and selecting the drive.
Don wrote back with the full data dump to describe his PC:
Here we go . Norton Internet Security 2010, e-machine W3619 ,Vista ,Intel Celeron(R) CPU 3.46GHz,3.46GHz , 1.99GB ,32 bit operating system , Local disk 38.9GB free of 103GB Recovery 246MB free of 8.36GB .
That recovery looked scary ,as it looked almost full.
I also got an alert today that said 70% of at least one CPU , process ID 3512, iexplore.exe
Thanks,Don Newsham ,Happy Jack,AZ.
Now, the situation became a little more clear. Don could still have a problem that was either hardware or malware-based, but I suspect the problem is the hardware.
His recovery partition is strictly that — it’s there to enable you to recover your computer back to factory settings, if everything gets fouled up. It should be virtually full, and you should never access it directly with any program other than the eMachine “recovery” program (which you probably have to access via special keys during the early part of the computer’s boot process).
Of course, if your computer gives you the option to create Recovery DVD’s, you should also do that. Recovery partitions have been known to be damaged by malware or other problems. Of course, my recommendation is to use the tool I use — Acronis True Image Home 2010 to make backup images to an external hard drive — images that not only have the operating system, but also your current installed programs, program configurations, and data!
Part of his problem is he’s got one of eMachine’s computers that are aimed at the price-sensitive market – that is, trying to provide a mix of reasonable power while aiming at a low price point (this one shows $499 on eMachine’s web site, although I doubt that a Windows Vista Basic model is still available).
When you try to compete in that market, you use Intel’s cheaper line of less-powerful processors, the Celeron processors, instead of Intel’s mainstream Pentium CPU’s, dual-core processors and the new Core i7/i5/i3 CPU’s, or you use AMD Sempron’s instead of their faster Athlon II and Phenom II processors.
With the eMachine W3619, Don’s has an Intel Celeron processor that has a fast CPU speed, but a single core, a little bit of cache and a slow (by today’s standards) frontside bus speed pf 533GHz.
His computer’s RAM can be expanded, but only to 2GB, using two 1GB DDR2 memory modules. Since he’s showing 1.99GB of RAM, he’s apparently topped out the computer’s memory capacity. Many computers today cap at 4GB, 8GB or more, not 2GB. Additional memory is one of the easiest ways to improve the computer’s responsiveness, so that’s a bit of a problem.
Why do I mention memory when the problem is CPU usage?
The memory capacity limit of 2GB, use of the DDR2 memory, the 120GB size hard drive and the Celeron, as well as the Windows Vista Basic that came on that computer, make me think that his computer is 3-5 years old. I could be wrong on that point, because I really don’t pay any attention to eMachine’s computers. However, I think that age is approaching end of the computer’s useful life, when you start with the less powerful models.
I suspect that Norton Internet Security 2010’s demands have outgrown Don’s computer’s capabilities.
In addition, Don may not realize it, but even if he’s within his year’s license for Norton Internet Security 2010, it is actually last year’s program version now. The current version of that Norton product is Norton Internet Security 2011.
I think that’s the basic problem.
However, Don could have an infection of some sort. I’d address that by trying another antivirus program.
For a replacement for that Norton product that puts a fairly light demand on your computer, try downloading VIPRE Antivirus Premium, which handles antivirus, antispyware and firewall functions.
It’s my choice for my computers and my family’s computers. Not only is VIPRE small and fast, it’s got a free trial. Here’s my affiliate link http://terryscomputertips.com/VIPREpremium if you want to give it a try.
He could download it, uninstall NIS2010, reboot, and then install VIPRE Antivirus Premium. Assuming he have his NIS2010 CDROM and Product Key, he could reinstall it if he didn’t like VIPRE.
Another tool he could try without installing NIS2010 is the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. It’s a run-on-demand scanner. The “full” version includes functions that monitor your computer all the time it’s running, not just the run-on-demand function.
The free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware is also a good complement to VIPRE Antivirus Premium. You do not want to run two “always running” antivirus/antimalware programs at the same time. Run one, and run something else that only does scan-on-demand.
Finally, Don can take a look at the programs that are running all the time. Most manufacturers (and some programs) load a bunch of demo/trial programs, but they also load a number of “helper” applications that run all the time, taking memory and CPU capacity.
Why in the world do we need an Adobe Reader Speed Launcher – they make you trade a slower boot process and some of your computer’s memory all the time so that Adobe Reader will launch a little faster if you have a need to run it.
My favorite program for controlling these unneeded programs is WinPatrol, which is available with a free license and with a paid license.