CPU Cooling And Performance Meters

Hi Fred….My CPU is running at 100% all the time….Have uninstalled the last few programs, reinstalled ZoneAlarm….no luck. Would you have any suggestions on a diagnostic algorithm? Heck I even went to the microsoft.com site….no luck…. thanks…Jim Murata

Some OSes (like Win2K and XP) and some "CPU cooling" software for all Windows versions run "idle processes" that consume all available CPU cycles. The idle process is basically a "do nothing" loop that involves no real work, thus keeping the CPU cooler than when it’s really working hard—  in effect, the CPU is doing nothing really, really fast. 8-).

But from the outside (to a CPU-meter or performance monitor), a do-nothing loop may look the same as a do-something loop: Your CPU may be just twiddling its thumbs, but the monitor may show it running at 100% of capacity.

On the other hand, if you’re running some other OS besides Win2K or XP, and are not running any CPU-cooler apps, then you may indeed have some app or process running out of control.

Most Task Manager-type tools can show you what’s really running, and give you at least an idea of whether or not there’s real work going on; Win2K/XP even correctly identify the Idle Process by that name, so you can easily see it in action.

You also can check it out indirectly, via software that takes your CPU’s temperature: A CPU in an idle loop will run cool, but one that’s really working at 100% all the time will be quite toasty. See http://www.informationweek.com/LP/columnists/langa/2001/06.htm for lots more on temperature software.



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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.