The CPU is arguably the most important component when it comes to building a computer, it is responsible for most of the operations executed on your PC. The faster your CPU/processor is, the faster your PC will perform overall, so it makes a big impact when it comes to performance. When a CPU is at 100% usage, it can be quite frightening and you may think it can damage your CPU.
In this post, we’re going to go over the effects that come with running your CPU at 100%, and tips you can use to lower the CPU usage. Also, we’re going to assess how hot a processor can get before you encounter problems, usually, when your CPU is at 100%, it’ll run pretty hot. By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly why your processor is running at 100%.
Answer: When your CPU is running at 100%, it means you’re using all the processing power that comes with the CPU. A CPU running at 100% necessarily isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing, it could be that the application you’re running is CPU intensive such as streaming or video editing. Worst case scenario, you may have a virus that is using your CPUs resources to mine cryptocurrency, in this case, you will need antivirus software.
Is 100% CPU Usage Harmful?
If your processor is running at 100% intentionally, then that means you’re using the full power of your CPU, this will usually occur when you’re running CPU-intensive applications. If you’re streaming, video editing, or running multiple tabs at once, then your CPU usage will go up. This is a common occurrence with multithreaded applications as they’re able to utilize many cores at once.
A scenario where 100% CPU usage can be harmful is when you have malware that is using your computer’s resources for its own gain. Crypto mining software will often try to utilize the CPUs resources to mine cryptocurrency, this will only benefit the person running this harmful software, and harm you at the same time. The effects of this mean your entire system will slow down and become near unusable, the only way to fix this is to remove the harmful software via an antivirus program.
In gaming, you typically do not want the CPU usage to reach 100%, as this can become a bottleneck for the graphics card. If the graphics card is bottlenecked, then the performance in-game will diminish. You will not get the full performance of your graphics card, therefore lose FPS in-game, this is usually due to the game being CPU intensive. Lower resolutions will use more CPU resources to process the framerate. When gaming, the CPU usage should hover around 90%, this is a good number as it means you have headroom for more performance.
How Hot Can A CPU Get?
Many computer components such as the CPU and the GPU have a heat limit, and when this limit is reached, it can result in negative effects. Many CPUs should never exceed 80C, this is often the limit before the CPU can start throttling itself to lower the temperatures. Going past 80C isn’t a bad thing immediately, but it’s a sign that your processor isn’t receiving enough cooling.
Many CPUs have mechanisms that protect themselves from heat damage, Intel CPUs will usually throttle themselves as part of the first safeguard. If the CPU still increases in temperatures well past 80C, then the second and last safeguard will kick in, this is the automatic shutdown safeguard. Once the CPU exceeds past 90C then you’re in the danger zone where the processor can damage itself due to heat, at this point the system should shut down.
AMD CPUs will also thermal throttle, but with Ryzen CPUs, these temperatures are not explicitly specified. But the good news is that they do have these safeguards implemented. Ryzen CPUs will begin to thermal throttle at around 95C to protect themselves from heat-induced damage, if it fails to cool down, then it will shut down at around 100C. You should aim to maintain low thermals by implementing sufficient cooling.
Also Read: Optimal CPU Temperature
How To Fix 100% CPU Usage?
High CPU usage is a symptom of an application being too greedy with the resources, this can be an issue as the overall system can be affected. Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce CPU usage to get your computer working in an effective manner. First and foremost, the causes of high CPU usage are usually due to intensive applications, but if this isn’t the case, then follow these tips.
The first thing you should do when you suspect that your CPU is operating at 100% is to restart your PC, this will terminate all tasks currently running. The CPU usage should return to normal once the system is rebooted, to further increase the effectiveness, clear out any temporary files and reduce the number of startup applications in task manager.
To manually fix this issue, you will need to open task manager, this can be done by pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE, or right-clicking the taskbar and selecting task manager. Once in task manager, you should be in the processes tab, click the CPU usage tab to sort it from high to low usage to find out what applications are being greedy. Once you’ve done this you can optionally terminate any tasks using too many CPU resources.
If none of these methods work, then you likely have a virus that is using your CPUs resources, in this case, the only option is to install antimalware software such as Malwarebytes to scan for any harmful programs. If this still did not fix the problem, then you may have to reinstall windows as a last resort, this should clear any harmful applications.
Average Lifespan Of A CPU
If you’re maintaining good care of your system, then your CPU should last up to 20 years, CPUs have no moving components so they usually last a very long time. At an atomic level, the CPU will degrade slowly over time, you will never see this physically. Also, the CPU does not slow down over time so it can be pretty hard to see the effects of a dying CPU.
CPUs can last extremely long, this is due to it just being a chip with no moving parts. If you’re not applying crazy overclocks and overvolting it, then the CPU should last long enough for you to upgrade. The likely way your CPU will die is if you’re physically damaging it by breaking pins or failing to supply it with sufficient cooling.
Along with the RAM, the CPU is usually the last component you will see fail if you treat it with care, the motherboard will usually fail before the CPU does. After 20 years atomic failure might catch up with the CPU and it should just stop working. But 20 years is an extremely long time to keep a CPU, there is no way you will use the same CPU 20 years later as it will be extremely outdated, phone processors might be faster than it.
Also Read: CPU Lifespan
In conclusion, 100% CPU usage isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing, it just denotes that the CPU is working at its full capacity. If your CPU is working at 100%, and you’re pretty certain that there are no CPU-intensive applications running, then there is likely malware exploring the CPUs resources. In this case, you will need to install anti-malware software to tackle this issue.
When gaming, the last thing you want is your CPU to reach 100% usage, this is because it can bottleneck the GPU causing lower frame rates. When your CPU is at 100% usage when gaming, the best way you can solve this issue is by increasing the resolution. Lower resolutions are responsible for high CPU usage as the CPU will have to deal with more frames being generated.