Recently, I received a question from jnc, who wrote:
When you go to the WINDOWS TASK MANAGER, it has at the bottom of the window, "CPU USAGE" and a % sign.
What does that mean and what should it be?
I searched your web site of COMPUTER TIPS, and wasn’t smart enough to locate the answer.
CPU usage indicates how hard the CPU is running. The percentage refers to how much of the individual CPU’s capacity is in use.
Normally, if we have some programs open but are not actively doing anything, the CPU Usage will be in the 2-5% range.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some programs lock up at 100% (see my article Adobe Reader 8 Problems – And a Change to Foxit Reader caused by Adobe Reader 8′s Updater).
When you run antivirus scans or antispyware scans, this can be 40-60% usage, with spikes even higher. The amount of RAM you have will also affect the percentage, as the CPU will be involved in any swapping of memory with virtual memory.
Virtual memory is actually hard drive space that Windows (or another operating system that uses virtual memory) is using as fake RAM. This keeps programs from crashing when they need more memory. Unfortunately, virtual memory is thousands of times slower than real RAM.
WinPatrol is a great way to take back control of your computer. Many programs install components that start automatically when your computer starts and continue to run and take up memory. This slows you computer and also forces Windows to do much more swapping of RAM to virtual memory on the hard drive.
Of course, if low available memory is the problem, another very cost-effective fix is to add additional memory. Crucial Technologies’ web wizard will identify the types of memory needed for desktop computers, notebooks and common motherboards, as well as show you the options they have available.