How to Lower CPU Usage for Windows XP

By Ryan Bauer

If everything is functioning properly, your idle CPU usage in Windows XP should be between 0 and 1 percent. When it climbs above that level, your computer slows down, runs hotter than it should, and uses more electricity than normal.We will start by identifying the application or individual process that is taking up your available CPU usage. Once we know what the specific problem is, we can remedy it relatively easily. No specific programs or tools are usually needed for this job, other than the utilities already included with Windows.

Step 1

Bring up the Windows Task Manager by right-clicking on an empty space on the task bar, then clicking on "Task Manager." Alternatively, you can access it by holding down the "Ctrl" and "Alt" keys and pressing the "Delete" key. This Windows utility helps you to monitor your system performance and identify which tasks are utilizing the most system resources.

Step 2

Click on the "Performance" tab in the Task Manager. The top graph and CPU usage meter show real-time processor utilization. Keep your eye on the percentage for a few minutes. If the idle utilization remains above 1 percent, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Step 3

Click on the "Processes" tab, and scroll through the processes, looking at on the CPU usage for each one to see which process is taking up your resources. When the system is entirely idle, none of these should remain above 1 percent for an extended period of time. Note that the System Idle Process shows the CPU percentage that is not being used, so it is perfectly normal for this to read as much as 100 percent.

Step 4

Look at the Image Name next to the task that is using excessive CPU power. The name of the process will likely describe the program it corresponds to. For example, "norton.exe" is a primary process of Norton Anti-virus, while "iexplorer.exe" is a part of Internet Explorer. If you're not sure what the process references, type it into a search engine to find out what it relates to.

Step 5

Close the program that the problematic process relates to. If the program refuses to close, click on the process in the Windows Task Manager, and click "End Progress" to manually terminate it. If the problem reappears after you restart Windows or reopen the program, you will need to uninstall and then reinstall the entire program to solve the problem.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't recognize the task, it could correspond to a virus or spyware infection. Run a full scan of your computer with a security suite to make sure you don't have an infection.

References & Resources