FIX: Ntoskrnl.exe high CPU and disk usage on Windows 10

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
Loading Comments
Download PDF
Affiliate Disclosure

  • A CPU that is constantly strained is prone to showing off the occasional errors and PC freezes
  • A better CPU means you are less likely to suffer from high CPU usage, so why not take a look at our top selection of Intel CPUs that we've compiled just for you
  • This article is part of our special hub for Troubleshooting CPU Problems, so make sure you bookmark it for future reference as you’ll definitely get another similar error
  • Visit our dedicated CPU Section for more useful articles
Ntoskrnl.exe uses too much CPU

In order to run properly, Windows 10 uses various processes in the background, and one of these processes is ntoskrnl.exe.

Even though this is a system process, many users claim that ntoskrnl.exe is causing high CPU and memory usage on their PC, and today we’re going to show you how to fix that problem.


How do I fix Ntoskrnl.exe’s high CPU and disk usage?

1. Disable the Superfetch service

  1. Press Windows Key + R and enter services.msc.
  2. Press Enter or click OK.
  3. Once the Services window opens, you’ll see a list of all available services.
  4. Locate Superfetch service and double click it to open its properties.
  5. When the Properties window opens, set the Startup type to Disabled.
  6. Now click the Stop button to stop the service.
  7. Lastly, click Apply and OK to save changes.

Some users are suggesting to disable a few more services in order to fix the problem.

According to the Windows Search, SuperFetch, Remote Desktop Services, and Remote Desktop Services UserMode Port Redirector can be related to this problem, so you might want to disable them and check if that solves the issue.

Several users are also recommending to disable TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper and Offline Files services, so feel free to try that as well.

After doing that the Superfetch service won’t run anymore and your problem should be resolved. If any other issues occur after disabling this service, you might want to turn it back on.


You can also disable this service by using Registry Editor. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Press Windows Key + R and enter regedit.
  2. Click OK or press Enter.
  3. In the left pane navigate to this key:
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory ManagementPrefetchParameters.
  4. In the right pane, locate EnableSuperfetch DWORD and double click it.
    • If the DWORD isn’t available, right-click the empty space in the left pane and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value.
    • Now enter EnableSuperfetch as the name of the new DWORD and double click it to see its properties.
  5. Set Value data to 0 and click on OK to save changes.

After doing that Superfetch service will be disabled and the problem should be fixed entirely.


Optional: Your registry holds sensitive information, therefore it’s advised to create a backup just in case anything goes wrong. Creating a backup is simple, and to do that you need to click on File > Export.
Now select All as Export range and enter the desired file name. Choose a safe location and click on Save button.
In case anything goes wrong after modifying the registry, you can always run this file in order to restore it to the original state.

According to users, the main cause of this problem might be the Superfetch service. This service caches your data but despite its usefulness, it can cause this and other errors to appear.

If you have problems with ntoskrnl.exe and high CPU or memory usage, you might want to disable this service.


Having trouble accessing the Registry Editor? Check out our step-by-step guide.


2. Create a reg file and run it

According to users, you can fix this problem simply by creating a single registry file and running it. By doing so you’ll make multiple changes to your registry with ease. To create a reg file, do the following:

  1. Open Notepad.
  2. When Notepad starts, paste the following lines:
    • Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
    • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMControlSet001ServicesTimeBroker]
    • “Start”=dword:00000003
    • [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMControlSet001ServicesSysMain]
    • “DisplayName”=”Superfetch”
    • “Start”=dword:00000003
  3. Now click on File > Save as.
  4. Set Save as type to All Files.
  5. Set file name as script.reg, choose a save location and click the Save button.
  6. Locate script.reg file and double click it to run it.

    • A security warning will appear. Click on Yes to continue.

After running the file, your registry will be modified automatically and the problem should be completely resolved.


3. Delete or rename SoftwareDistribution directory

  1. Start Command Prompt as administrator.
  2. To do that, press Windows Key + X to open Win + X menu
  3. Choose Command Prompt (Admin) from the list.
    • If Command Prompt isn’t available, you can also use PowerShell (Admin) instead.
  4. When Command Prompt starts, enter the following commands:
    • net stop wuauserv
    • net stop bits
  5. After running those commands, minimize Command Prompt.
  6. Navigate to C:WindowsSoftwareDistribution directory and delete all files from it.
  7. After deleting the files, go back to Command Prompt and enter the following:
    • net start wuauserv
    • net start bits

After doing that, the problem should be completely resolved. If you don’t want to delete SoftwareDistribution directory, you can rename it simply by following these steps:

  1. Open Command Prompt as administrator.
  2. When Command Prompt opens, enter the following commands one by one:
    • net stop wuauserv
    • net stop bits
    • rename %windir%SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak
    • net start wuauserv
    • net start bits

According to users, the cause for this problem might be SoftwareDistribution directory. Windows Update uses this directory to temporarily store files, but sometimes problems with it can occur.

If you’re having any problems with ntoskrnl.exe on your PC, you’ll need to remove this directory. After doing that, SoftwareDistribution directory will be renamed and the problem should be resolved.

This method is a bit faster since you can do it entirely from Command Prompt. In addition to being faster, this method won’t delete any files, so feel free to try it.


4. Remove the problematic updates

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. You can do that quickly by pressing Windows Key + I.
  3. When Settings app opens, navigate to Update & security section.
  4. Click on Update history.
  5. List of recent updates will appear.
  6. Now click on Uninstall updates.
  7. You should see a list of recent updates. Double click a specific update in order to remove it.

Keeping your PC up to date is rather important, but sometimes certain updates can cause problems to appear. Several users reported that problems with high memory usage and ntoskrnl.exe appeared after installing certain Windows updates.

To fix the issue, you need to remove recently installed updates.

After you remove the problematic updates, restart your PC and check if the problem is resolved. Keep in mind that Windows 10 will automatically install the updates, so you might want to prevent the problematic updates from installing.

To do that, you just need to download Show or hide updates troubleshooter. This is a tool developed by Microsoft, and it’s perfectly safe to use if you need to block a certain update. After stopping the updates from installing the problem should be fixed.


5. Stop all BlueStacks services

  1. Open Notepad.
  2. When Notepad starts, enter the following lines:
    • “C:Program Files (x86)BlueStacksHD-Quit.exe”
    • net stop BstHdUpdaterSvc
    • net stop BstHdLogRotatorSvc
    • net stop BstHdAndroidSvc
  3. Now click on File > Save as.
  4. Set Save as type to All Files.
  5. Enter script.bat as the file name and click on Save.
  6. After doing that, locate the script.bat file and double click it to run it.

BlueStacks is a solid Android emulator, but according to users, this tool can lead to problems with ntoskrnl.exe. You can easily stop all BlueStacks services by creating a single bat file.

Once you run the file all BlueStacks services will be disabled and the problem should be completely resolved.


If Bluestacks doesn’t cut it anymore, check out our other recommended Android Emulators


6. Disable hardware acceleration in Chrome

  1. Open Chrome.
  2. Click the Menu icon in the top right corner and choose Settings.
  3. When Settings tab opens, scroll all the way down and click on Advanced.
  4. Locate Use hardware acceleration when available option in the System section and disable it.

According to users, this problem can appear while using Chrome. The problem seems to be caused by hardware acceleration, but you can solve it by disabling this feature in Chrome.

After doing that, restart Chrome and check if the problem still appears. If you don’t use Google Chrome, be sure to disable hardware acceleration in your preferred browser.


7. Clean your registry

Your registry holds all sorts of information related to all installed third-party applications. If you tend to install a lot of third-party applications, your registry can become filled with unnecessary entries that can slow down your system.

In addition, these entries can also cause problems with ntoskrnl.exe and high disk usage. To fix the issue, users are recommending to use a CCleaner to scan and clean your registry.

If you’re not familiar with CCleaner, you can use any other registry cleaner software for this task. Before you use CCleaner, we advise you to create a backup of your registry just in case.

To see how to export your registry, we advise you to check Solution 1 for detailed instructions.


8. Disable your DVD drive

  1. Press Windows Key + X and choose Device Manager from the list.
  2. When Device Manager opens, locate your DVD drive, right-click it and choose Disable Device from the menu.
  3. A warning message will appear. Click on Yes.

Several users reported this problem on Acer laptops. According to them, ntoskrnl.exe is causing high disk usage and in order to fix this issue you need to disable your DVD drive.

After doing that, your DVD drive will be disabled entirely and the problem should be fixed. This is an unusual workaround, but it works according to users, so feel free to try it on your PC.


9. Uninstall Dell System Detect software

Third-party applications can sometimes cause problems with ntoskrnl.exe to occur. Several users reported that Dell System Detect caused this problem on their PC.

To fix the issue, you need to find and remove the problematic application and check if that solves the problem.


10. Change the Minimum Processor State

 

  1. Open Control Panel.
    • To do that, press Windows Key + S, enter control panel and choose Control Panel from the list of results.
  2. When Control Panel opens, go to Power Options.
  3. Locate your currently selected plan and click on Change plan settings.
  4. Now click on Change advanced power settings.
  5. List of settings will appear.
  6. Navigate to Processor power management > Minimum Processor State.
  7. Set the value to 20-30% and click on Apply and OK to save changes.

According to users, you can solve the problems with high disk usage and ntoskrnl.exe simply by changing your power settings. To fix the issue, you just have to locate Minimum Processor State value and adjust it.

After doing that, the problems with high disk usage and ntoskrnl.exe should be completely resolved. If you can’t find Minimum Processor State setting, it means that this solution doesn’t apply to you.


11. Switch to High-performance power mode

  1. Open Power Options like we showed you in the previous solution.
  2. Select High performance profile.

Windows comes with several power modes that you can use and by switching to a different mode you can increase your performance or lower power consumption.

According to users, you can fix the problem with high disk usage simply by switching to a High performance mode.

After switching to a high-performance power mode the problem should be completely resolved. Keep in mind that this mode uses more energy, so it will drain your laptop battery a bit faster.


12. End Outlook process

  1. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to start Task Manager.
  2. When Task Manager starts look for Outlook in Processes tab.
  3. Right-click Outlook process and choose End Task from the menu.

Optional: If you can’t find Outlook task in Processes tab, go to Details tab and end Outlook process from there.

According to users, Outlook can sometimes cause this problem to appear. To fix the issue, you need to close Outlook and end its process. This is rather simple.

Users claim that this problem occurs with Outlook 2013, but if you’re using a different version feel free to try this solution as well. We have to mention that this is just a workaround, so you’ll have to repeat it every time this problem appears.


Solution 13 – Disable Background Intelligent Transfer Service

To fix this problem, few users are suggesting to stop Background Intelligent Transfer Service. To do that, you just have to go to Services window, locate Background Intelligent Transfer Service and stop it.

For more information on how to stop a certain service, be sure to check Solution 1 for details. After you disable this service, you just have to restart your PC and the problem should be resolved.

Keep in mind that this is just a workaround and not a permanent solution, so you’ll have to repeat it whenever this problem appears.


14. Check your hard drive

  1. Go to This PC, locate your hard drive, right-click it and choose Properties from the menu.
  2. Go to the Tools tab and click the Check button.
  3. You might get a message saying that your drive doesn’t need checking.
    • If that’s so, your drive probably doesn’t have any bad sectors.
    • However, you can fix it if you want by clicking the Scan drive.
  4. Wait for the process to finish. After the scan is completed, the issue should be resolved completely.

According to users, this problem can sometimes appear due to bad sectors on your hard drive. As a result, your PC will have longer read times and higher disk usage.

To fix this problem, you need to repair bad sectors on your hard drive. Keep in mind that damaged sectors can appear due to hardware problems, and if that’s the case, you won’t be able to repair them at all.

On the other hand, if the damaged sectors are caused by software issues, you might be able to fix them by using this method.

Keep in mind that you might have to repeat this process for all partitions that are available on your PC. We also have to mention that this isn’t a universal solution and it won’t fix your problem if the bad sectors are caused by hardware damage.


15. Disable automatic defragmentation

  1. Press Windows Key + S and enter defrag.
  2. Select Defragment and Optimize Drives from the list.
  3. When Optimize Drives window opens, select your partition and click on Change settings.
  4. Uncheck Run on a schedule (recommended) option and click OK.

Defragmentation can be quite useful since it will rearrange data on your hard drive so you can access it faster.

Windows 10 has automatic defragmentation enabled by default, and according to users that can cause problems with high disk usage and ntoskrnl.exe.

After doing that, automatic disk defragmentation will be disabled and any problems with high disk usage should be resolved.


You can also disable automatic defragmentation by removing its task from Task Scheduler. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and enter task scheduler.
  2. Select Task Scheduler from the list.
  3. When Task Scheduler opens, in the left pane navigate to Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Defrag.
  4. In the right pane locate ScheduledDefrag, right-click it and choose Disable.

 

Alternatively, you can delete the auto defragmentation task by using Command Prompt.

  1. Start Command Prompt as administrator.
  2. When Command Prompt opens, enter the following line and press Enter to run it:
    • schtasks /Delete /TN “MicrosoftWindowsDefragScheduledDefrag” /F 

After running this command you’ll delete defragmentation task and your PC won’t perform automatic defragmentation anymore.


16. Use MSI Afterburner

Several users reported problems with high CPU usage and ntoskrnl.exe while gaming, and in order to fix this issue, you need to change your GPU clock speed.

According to users, you just need to run MSI Afterburner and lock the clock speed to the 3D clock speed value. After doing that, you shouldn’t have any problems with high CPU usage while gaming.

We have to warn you that MSI Afterburner is an overclocking tool, so be extra cautious while using it. Overclocking can damage your hardware if you’re not careful, so if you’re not familiar with overclocking you might want to skip this solution entirely.


MSI afterburner is just one many good overclocking programs included in this article


17. Disable Show me tips about Windows option

  1. Open the Settings app and go to the System section.
  2. In the left pane, navigate to Notifications & actions.
  3. In the right pane, locate Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows option and disable it.

According to users, you might be able to fix the problem simply by disabling a single option in Windows. By default, Windows 10 will show you tips about Windows, and sometimes this option can cause high disk or CPU usage. To fix the problem, you need to disable it.

After disabling this feature, problems with high CPU and disk usage should be resolved.  This feature can be useful for first-time users, but if you’re already familiar with Windows 10, feel free to disable it.


18. Rollback to the older version of Intel Serial IO L2C driver

While it’s important to keep your drivers up to date, sometimes the latest drivers aren’t the best. In some rare cases, newer drivers can cause certain problems to appear.

Users reported that installing the latest Intel Serial IO L2C driver caused this problem to appear, and in order to fix it, you need to remove the driver and install the older version. After doing that, problems with ntoskrnl.exe should disappear.


19. Increase the paging file size

  1. Press Windows Key + S and enter advanced system.
  2. Choose View advanced system settings from the menu.
  3. When System Properties window opens, click on Settings button in the Performance section.
  4. Performance Options window will now appear.
  5. Go to Advanced tab and click on Change button.

    • Virtual Memory window will now appear.
  6. Uncheck Automatically manage paging file size for all drives option.
  7. Now select your system drive and click on Custom size.
  8. Set Initial size and Maximum size to be 1.5 times larger than the amount of your RAM in MB.
  9. Click the Set button and OK to save changes.

Several users claim that they fixed the problem with ntoskrnl.exe simply by increasing the paging file size. Your virtual memory is closely related to the paging file, and you can easily change its size by following the steps mentioned above.

After changing the size of your paging file the problem should be resolved. If the issue still persists, you might have to increase the size of the paging file.


20. Remove Zune software from your PC

According to several users, the main cause of this problem can be Zune software. It seems that Zune is indexing files in the background causing this problem to appear.

To fix the issue, you just need to remove Zune software from your PC and the problem should be resolved completely.


21. Disable P2P feature

  1. Open the Settings app and go to Update & security section.
  2. Click on Advanced options in Update settings section.
  3. Now click on Choose how updates are delivered.
  4. Turn off Updates from more than one place.

In order to deliver updates faster, Windows 10 is using a peer-to-peer feature. Using this feature you can download Windows updates from other users online.

This is a useful feature, but it seems that it can cause problems with ntoskrnl.exe. To fix the problem, you need to disable this feature by following the steps above.

After doing that, you won’t download Windows updates from other users, instead, you’ll download them directly from Microsoft. By doing that, all problems with ntoskrnl.exe and high disk usage should be resolved.


22. Install the latest updates

  1. Open the Settings app and navigate to Update & security section.
  2. Now click on Check for updates button.
    • Windows will now check for available updates.
    • If any update is available, Windows will automatically download it in the background and install it once you restart your PC.

Several users reported that installing the latest updates fixed the problem for them, so be sure to try this solution.


23. Check your PC malware

According to users, malware can often infect ntoskrnl.exe and cause this and many other problems to appear. To ensure that you don’t have any malware on your PC, you need to perform a detailed antivirus scan.

Some users are recommending to use Spybot or Malwarebytes to scan your system, so be sure to try one of those tools.


For your system’s protection, use the best antiviruses, such as the ones included in this article.


24. Perform SFC and DISM scan

  1. Start Command Prompt as an administrator.
  2. Now enter sfc / scannow and press Enter to run it.
    • It can take about 10-15 minutes for the scan to complete, so don’t interrupt it.

Sometimes this problem can be caused by file corruption, and in order to fix it, it’s recommended to perform an SFC scan.

After the SFC scan is finished, check if the problem is resolved. If the issue still persists or if you can’t run SFC scan, you might have to use DISM instead.

To do that, just start Command Prompt as an administrator, enter this command and press Enter to run it.

  • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

DISM scan can take a while, so be sure not to interrupt it.


25. Temporarily remove/uninstall your antivirus

According to users, this problem can sometimes appear due to your antivirus software. To fix this issue, we advise you to temporarily disable your antivirus software and check if that solves the problem.

If the issue still persists, you might need to remove your antivirus software entirely. If you decide to uninstall your antivirus, we strongly recommend using a dedicated removal tool that will remove any leftover files and registry entries.

Almost every antivirus company offers a dedicated removal tool for its software, so be sure to download one for your antivirus.

Once you uninstall your antivirus, check if the problem still appears. If not, be sure to install the latest version of your antivirus or switch to a different antivirus solution entirely.

Users reported that Bitdefender was the cause of this problem, but other antivirus tools can also cause this issue. Even if you don’t use Bitdefender, try to remove or disable your antivirus and check if that solves the problem.


FAQ: Learn more about high CPU usage

  • Is high CPU usage bad?

If the CPU usage is around 100%, this means that your computer is trying to do more work than it has the capacity for. This is usually OK, but it means that programs may slow down a little. If the processor is running at 100% for a long time, this could make your computer annoyingly slow.

  • Why is my CPU usage so much?

High CPU usage can be indicative of several different problems. If a program is eating up your entire processor, there’s a good chance that it’s not behaving properly. A maxed-out CPU is also a sign of a virus or adware infection, which should be addressed immediately.


By following one of these solutions, you should be able to stop Ntoskrnl.exe from using a high amount of CPU.

Admittedly, there are plenty of solutions to try in this article, but if you know of any other one that we may have missed out on, tell us about it in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been since revamped and updated in March 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Was this page helpful?
Thanks for letting us know!
Get the most from your tech with our daily tips
Tell us why!