How to fix high CPU usage in Windows 11

Vladimir Popescu
by Vladimir Popescu
Being an artist his entire life while also playing handball at a professional level, Vladimir has also developed a passion for all things computer-related. With an innate fascination for research and analysis, and realizing... Read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • High CPU usage levels on Windows 11 will completely degrade your experience with this OS and its features.
  • Even though the exact reasons for this issue occurring are varied, some of the most common are multiple background applications, and malware/adware infection.
  • The information presented will cover a wide range of solutions, starting with the least intrusive ones and ending with some more complicated options.
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Facing high rates of CPU usage while using Windows 11 can make the entire experience sluggish and annoying, and thus will impede your capability to work, browse the web, and even play games.

That being said, it can only be considered a problem if your system is constantly reaching high CPU usage scores, even when no system-heavy applications are running like antivirus scans or games.

If you find yourself included in the statement above, an important factor to consider when dealing with this issue is the Windows 11 system requirements.

Even though when compared to the latest improvements in technology the OS requirements by themselves shouldn’t pose an issue, there might be situations in which your system is so close to them that it can’t run optimally.

No matter if you’re close to the minimum system requirements or not, some amazing solutions can help optimize the overall Windows 11 experience to a great degree.

In today’s guide, we will cover every option available, including settings-related changes which will help – enabling you to get the most out of your system without requiring you to upgrade your PC.

Unfortunately, we can’t all afford to invest in a powerful PC simply to run the latest OS released by Microsoft, and opinions vary amongst users if it’s even worth it at all to consider that option.

If you find yourself in the camp which thinks that investing in a new PC is a doable option, you can explore our thorough list of the best Windows 11 desktop PCs.

If you’re more inclined to appreciate portability for your new PC, then investing in a great laptop that can run this OS is the best choice.

Added to that, we will also discuss how to make Windows 11 more responsive by ensuring that every aspect of your system is ready to confront the tasks you throw at it.

As you can see from the statements above, this guide was created to encompass a wide range of elements that can be changed, tweaked, or simply optimized to resolve this issue once and for all.

What causes high CPU usage?

Now that we understood how to find out if the PC has a CPU problem or simply has a harder time dealing with some tasks temporarily, we can cover the most common reasons for this problem occurring.

➡ Lacking system resources

There are a few ways in which you can find out if your system configuration is capable to deal with the demands of the new OS from Microsoft.

Below, you can see an image of the official system requirements for this OS.

Note that any values that are above these minimum requirements will ensure a smoother experience.

Windows 11 system requirements – Source: Microsoft

Even though this method will require that you have basic knowledge of what system components are, some of the most important elements to take into consideration are the processor speed and amount of RAM available.

It is also worth noting that the system requirements mentioned in the image above deal only with that factor, and do not include the Windows 11 feature-specific requirements, which are also worth considering.

➡ Having too many applications running simultaneously

If you forget to close applications that you’re not using, or simply run apps that take a lot of resources to keep open, your CPU usage will show the results.

Of course, this element will vary from user to user, depending on the system configuration and the burden of the previously-mentioned applications.

➡ Extra system services that affect your CPU

In the same way not all apps require the same amount of resources to run, system services are no different.

Even though it is risky to disable some services, at the same time we have chosen some of them which should not affect the stability of your system, but will improve the efficiency of your OS.

➡ Infection with adware and/or malware

This is a very common occurrence, especially if you’re using free antivirus software that either hasn’t been updated recently or has an outdated virus library and can’t identify the latest threats effectively.

➡ Antivirus processes having a high impact on the CPU usage

As in the case of any type of software, some antiviruses will have a very high demand on your CPU, and thus cause your system to run sub-optimally.

We will discuss some great options that not only affect your system minimally but also provide a great set of security and privacy features.

How can I check for high CPU usage?

Even though some third-party task managers can be used to achieve the same results, the most accessible option will be the built-in Windows 11 Task Manager feature.

  1. Press the Ctrl + Shift + Esc key combination.
  2. Click the Processes tab.
  3. Close any resource-intensive apps like games and image processing apps by selecting it-them and hitting the End task button.
  4. Check the % of CPU usage in the respective section.
  5. Monitor this value across a few hours to check if it constantly reaches high levels while using your PC normally.
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NOTE
If you find that your PC reaches values of up to 100% across longer periods, then it is safe to assume that your Windows 11 system needs some tweaking.

In case your system reaches 100% CPU usage only occasionally (depending on the apps that you’re running), then we can conclude that your system doesn’t have a real problem, but would benefit from a components upgrade and the following tricks nonetheless.

What can I do if my Windows 11 CPU usage is very high?

1. Restart your PC

Even though this step might seem obvious to some users, restarting your PC can solve this issue instantly.

This works as a restart of your system also re-initiates all the elements that make your OS run optimally, thus impacting the number of resources required and their level of optimization.

  1. Click the Start button from taskbar.
  2. Select the Power button.
  3. Choose Restart from the pop-up that appears.

2. Optimize startup applications

  1. Press the Win + R keys to open the Run dialog.
  2. Type msconfig inside the Run dialog box.
  3. Press Enter or click OK to run the command.
  4. Click the Startup tab.
  5. Click the Open task manager link.
  6. Click on the Status row title twice to group tasks based on that element.
  7. Identify any applications with an Enabled value that you don’t want starting at Windows startup, and click Disable.

3. Disable any unused apps running in the background

  1. Click the Windows icon from the taskbar.
  2. Choose the Settings cog wheel from the list.
  3. Select Apps from the left hand side menu.
  4. Click Apps & features.
  5. Identify any app that you don’t need and click the 3 dots option.
  6. Choose Advanced options.
  7. Click the drop-down menu and choose Never.
  8. Repeat the same process for all apps you want to disable.

4. Check the Windows 11 power options

If you’re using the Balanced power plan:

  1. Click on the Search icon from your taskbar.
  2. Type power plan and click on the Choose power plan option from the results.
  3. Tick the High performance option.

If you’re already using the High-performance power plan:

  1. Click the Change plan settings link next to the option.
  2. Select the Change advanced power settings link.
  3. Double click the Processor power management option from the list.
  4. Open the Minimum processor state option and choose a good value for both elements (battery and plugged in).
  5. Choose the Maximum processor state option, and make sure both values are set to 100%.
  6. Click OK or Apply.
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NOTE
The same power management customization process mentioned above can be applied to the Balanced power plan setting as well.

5. Scan your system for malware and adware

  1. Click on the Start menu button from the taskbar.
  2. Search for Windows Security, and open it.
  3. Choose the Virus & threat protection option.
  4. Click the Scan options link.
  5. Tick the bubble next to Full scan.
  6. Click Scan now and wait for the process to complete.

Even though the built-in security system can identify a large number of threats, the scan will most likely not be as efficient as other malware identification software on the market.

If you want to ensure that any malware and adware will be not only identified, but completely removed, a better option would be specialized software like Malwarebytes.

6. Update your PCs drivers

  1. Press the Win + X key combination and choose Device Manager from the pop-up menu.
  2. Identify drivers that need to be updated.
  3. Select the hardware entry you want to update.
  4. Right-click it, and choose Update Driver.
  5. Choose Search automatically for drivers.
  6. Wait for the process to complete and repeat these actions for all drivers.
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NOTE
If that specific hardware has the latest driver installed, a message confirming this will appear on the screen.

On the other hand, if the device doesn’t have the latest driver release, Windows will install it automatically.

Alternatively, if you would like for this process to be automated across time and avoid performing these actions repeatedly, you can try using a powerful driver updater software like DriverFix.

7. Temporarily turn off third-party antivirus and VPN services

Even though this action is not recommended in the long term, temporarily disabling your antivirus and VPN services will allow you to eliminate the possibility of that software interfering with your CPU too much, and thus possibly causing the issue.

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TIP
The exact steps to follow for this method will depend entirely on what software you have installed.

If you have another software installed, simply follow the guidance from the respective software’s website guide.

Antivirus

We will first discuss and exemplify the steps required to temporarily disable our antivirus software – Bitdefender Total Security:

  1. Double-click the antivirus icon from the taskbar to open it.
  2. Click Protection from the left-side menu.
  3. Select Open from the Antivirus pane.
  4. Click the Advanced tab.
  5. Use the toggle button to turn off the Bitdefender Shield.
  6. Click Yes in the User Account Control pop-up.
  7. Use the drop-down menu to choose the time in which the antivirus will be stopped, and then click OK.
  8. Try checking your CPU usage and see if there is any significant change.

➡ VPN

When it comes to the VPN service, simply disconnect from any servers and turn off the software.

In our case, these are the steps that need to be followed for Private Internet Access (PIA):

  1. Click the VPN icon from the taskbar to open it.
  2. Toggle the big power button appearing on the interface.
  3. The VPN will now be disabled until you choose to re-activate it.

8. Update your computer’s policy

Even though your PC’s policy should be updated by default when performing Windows updates, there have been cases in which the CPU over-usage was caused by this small but yet important detail.

Here are the steps required to perform this action manually:

  1. Press the Win + X keys and choose Windows Terminal (Admin).
  2. Inside the newly opened window, type the following command: gpupdate
  3. Press Enter to run it.
  4. Wait for the process to complete.
  5. Type Exit and press Enter to close the window.

9. Check for Windows updates

  1. Press the Win + X key combination, and choose Settings.
  2. Scroll down in the left side panel, and choose Windows Update.
  3. Click the Check for updates button.
  4. Wait for Windows to check, and install any available updates.
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TIP
If Windows installed updates, be sure to test out if your CPU usage is still showing high values by using the method described at the start of this guide. If it still does, follow the next steps.

10. Check the Windows 11 installation partition for bad sectors

  1. Press the Win + X keys and select Windows Terminal (Admin) from the list.
  2. Inside the command prompt window, type the following command: chkdsk c: /f
  3. Press Enter to run it.
  4. A message will appear on the screen.
  5. Type Y and press Enter to accept.
  6. A message saying that the process will take place at the next restart will appear.
  7. Type Exit and press Enter to close the window.
  8. Restart your PC.
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During the restart process, the C: partition (the location on which your Windows 11 OS is installed) will be checked for any bad sectors, and if any issues are found, they will be fixed automatically.

11. Clean your PCs components

As dust and dirt can act as an insulator, and thus cause internal temperatures to rise considerably, the insides of your PC must be cleaned regularly.

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What you will need:

– A soft brush
– Can of compressed air (optional)
– Tools to open the device (eg. screwdrivers)
– Knowledge of how to open your device without damaging it

Make sure to only attempt this step if you’re sure that you will not cause damage to your system.

If you don’t have experience, we recommend that you take your device to an authorized computer service and ask for a cleanup.

The preponderance of this issue is also closely related to the way your system is built, depending on where the heatsink or fan is placed on the CPU, and if the device is a laptop or a desktop.

  • Desktop PC

A tower design will always build up more dust or dirt over time when compared to a design in which the heatsink sits flats on the surface of the CPU.

In either of these cases, using a can of compressed air will clear up any impurities from the fan and thus considerably help you with your CPU issues.

As a bonus, after considering the information presented on the CPU’s manual, try removing the CPU from the motherboard and also clean the connector (CPU interface) using the same compressed air can.

This last step will ensure that nothing is bothering your CPU while trying to cope with tasks, and the connection to the motherboard is optimal.

  • Laptop

Even though a lot more portable than a desktop PC, the downside when owning a laptop is that the process of opening it up is a bit more complicated. This happens especially if you have a notebook, as some gaming laptops feature systems that enable you to open them easily.

That being said, make sure to check the producer’s website for any guidance in this matter, and after successfully opening the device up, use a can of compressed air to blow away any dirt or dust from the components.

12. Check the PCs power supply

If your PC is not getting enough power, or if the power fluctuates considerably, then the system will not work optimally, and thus will cause your CPU to reach high values even for everyday tasks.

  1. Check along the length of the power cable ensuring that not cuts are present.
  2. Ensure that both ends of the power cable are connected properly (both in the wall socket, and the end that connects to the PC).
  3. If you can’t find any obvious issues, and suspect that this might be causing problems, we recommend that you seek professional help in this matter (local PC repair shop).

If you’re not sure that the power supply is the issue, you can also try out the next solutions from this guide before taking it to an authorized computer repair shop.

13. Disable non-Microsoft services with MSConfig

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Perform this action at your own risk!

Even though no Microsoft services will be turned off, disabling services can cause system instability.

  1. Press the Win + R keys on your keyboard.
  2. Type MSconfig in the Run dialog box, and press Enter.
  3. Open the Services tab.
  4. Tick the box next to Hide all Microsoft services.
  5. Go through the list and un-tick the boxes next to the services that you don’t need.
  6. After disabling a service, restart your PC and check if the CPU situation has improved.
  7. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 until you find the service/services causing issues.
  8. After identifying the service/services that cause your CPU to work extra, enable all the other services one by one.

If you want to disable all the non-Microsoft services, simply click the Disable all button after ticking the box mentioned above.

After you’re done testing which services are causing your CPU to work extensively, restart your system for the update to take effect.

14. Stop/disable specific Microsoft system services (last resort)

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TIP
Perform this action at your own risk!

Even though only some selected Microsoft services will be turned off, disabling services can cause system instability.

As running system services your PC doesn’t need to operate will cause the CPU to work overtime without any useful results, deactivating some Microsoft services will prove helpful.

The services which can be disabled without risking system instability are the following:

  • SysMain – preloads RAM usage for apps
  • Windows Search – indexes data stored on your system for fast search results
  • Windows Update – service which automatically scans for Windows updates

It is recommended that you first try stopping these services and testing out the results.

If the CPU works better after disabling one or more of these services, you can consider disabling them entirely.

Stopping services:

  1. Click on the Search button from the taskbar.
  2. Type service and click on the Services option presented in the results.
  3. Search the services list for SysMain, Windows Search, and Windows Update.
  4. After selecting each of these services, click the Stop link from the side panel.
  5. Test out your CPU usage and how stopping the services has impacted your Windows 11 experience.
  6. If you find that CPU usage is better, and also don’t mind not having the services enabled, follow the next method to disable them.

Disabling services:

  1. Follow step 1, 2, and 3 to open the Services app and search for the respective entries.
  2. Right-click each of the 3 services mentioned above and choose Properties.
  3. Click the drop-down list under the Startup type section.
  4. Choose Disabled.
  5. Click Apply.

If at any point you want to re-activate these services, simply follow the same steps presented here, but choose Enabled from the drop-down menu inside the Properties window.


As you can see, there are a variety of ways in which you can resolve issues with your CPU values going overboard.

We presented you with options starting from the least intrusive to the ones which could pose a risk to your system, so make sure to try them out in the order that they were presented.

Feel free to share what solution worked for you in the comments section found below this guide.

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