Your central processing unit (the CPU) is the single most important component inside your computer. It does all the computational tasks and manages the I/O (input/output). You may have noticed through an in-game option or in the Task Manager that your CPU is running at 100% usage. But is 100 CPU usage bad?
While you might be worried that your CPU is going to overheat or get damaged from running at 100, it is actually not dangerous. In fact, CPUs are designed to work at its maximum, especially if you are doing demanding tasks like video editing or even gaming in some cases. If you have a high-end CPU with 8 cores or more, then it is a bit unusual to see 100 CPU usage in some tasks, such as gaming, but it is possible.
So, is 100 CPU usage bad? What causes it? How to fix it? How much should you see in games? The answers to all these questions and other details are below, so keep on reading to find out.
What Causes 100 CPU Usage?
There are quite a few things that can cause 100 CPU usage. First of all, programs that are very demanding will make the CPU usage go to 100. If you are doing video editing, rendering, photo editing, compressing, installing a new program or game, or anything else that requires a lot of computational power, do not worry about 100 CPU usage.
Video games can also cause 100 usage, especially in situations where you have a 4 core CPU or less. It can also happen if your graphics card is significantly more powerful than your CPU. For example, even if you have a 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 3600, something like a brand-new Nvidia RTX 3080 would push it to 100 in most AAA games.
Is 100 CPU usage bad in games then? Not really, especially if your situation is similar to the aforementioned. The type of games that you play also has a huge impact on CPU usage. If you are playing strategy games, you can expect even a high-end Ryzen 9 or Intel Core i9 to be in the 90-100 range, so don’t worry. But if you are seeing 100 CPU usage in an eSports title like League of Legends, then it might be problematic.
It goes without saying that benchmarks and stress test software is designed to push your hardware to its maximum. Is 100 CPU usage bad in such situations? Not at all, it would be weird if your CPU did not max out in a CPU stress test.
What else can cause 100 CPU usage? Programs that run in the background can also take a lot of processing power, especially when you have just turned on your computer. You might think that programs like Spotify, Discord, Skype, and similar don’t take too much power, but think again. Together with Windows processes that have to run in the background, it can make up quite a lot.
Is 100 CPU usage bad when it’s caused by background processes? It is again something that is expected. The CPU usage should calm down once your computer has finished loading all of them, but if they continue using a lot of power, consider turning them off, disabling them to autostart, or deleting them altogether.
If you run a browser in the background, it can also take a huge chunk of your processing power. You can think of your browser as another background process if you are not using it at the moment. Chrome is especially notorious when it comes to CPU and RAM usage. If you experience FPS drops or stutters in your games or if you see that your computer is struggling, simply turn it off.
The last major factor that can affect your CPU usage is viruses. Is 100 CPU usage bad when it is caused by a virus or an unknown program? Yes, it is. Not only is it bad for your computer performance, but it can also be a security and privacy hazard. A virus, adware, worms, spyware, rootkit, miner, or any other type of malicious software can cause 100 CPU usage. A Bitcoin miner, for example, is especially notorious because it uses your CPU power to make Bitcoin for the creator of the virus.
How Do I Fix 100 CPU Usage?
There are many steps that you can take to fix 100 CPU usage. If you are only experiencing 100 CPU usage when running demanding tasks, then you probably do not have to fix it. If you take into account how much work the CPU has to do, it is normal to see 100 CPU usage when running a demanding game and having 3-4 programs running in the background.
But if you see 100 CPU usage when idling (when you are not running anything), here are some things that you should try. First of all, you should try rebooting your computer. Just like the “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” memes suggest, this can really work. It is especially true if your computer has not loaded everything correctly.
If that didn’t help, you can check what process exactly is using your CPU the most. Do it by opening the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc and going to the Processes tab. You can click on the CPU usage column and it will automatically order all processes by CPU usage.
If you notice something unusual using a lot of CPU power, then try turning it off. It could be a type of malware, so follow the next step. Note that Windows has a process called “System Idle Process” which is actually just showing how much of the CPU is not being used at the moment, so do not worry about it. If you see it in the 80-90 range when idle, that means everything is in good order.
Now, if you have some sort of harmful software on your computer, it could be causing that issue. You do not even have to search for it in the Task Manager. You can do this step directly. The best way to delete malware is to use Windows Defender that is a part of Windows. You can find it in the Control Panel or in Windows settings. But many viruses are not detected by it, so you might want to use a third-party scanner like MalwareBytes.
Another important step that you should never skip even if your CPU usage is not 100 is to update everything. You can update Windows in Windows settings. Your chipset drivers and GPU drivers can be found on the respective manufacturers’ websites. A good idea would be to search for your CPU and GPU model and adding “drivers“. Only download from the official websites because many viruses take advantage of this to infect your computer.
Updating your BIOS is also a good idea. This can be daunting for some, but modern motherboards are not hard to update. Find the official website of your motherboard manufacturer and follow their steps to update your BIOS. Most of them have software that will do it for you automatically.
You can also try fixing high CPU usage by changing your power options. You can do this by going to the Start menu, typing “Edit Power Plan” and clicking on it. Next, go to “Power Options” (in the address bar above) and try choosing a different power plan to see if it fixed anything.
The last step that you can take if everything else failed is to reinstall Windows. You can do it through Windows 10’s built-in feature. Make sure to create a backup to an external drive or cloud before proceeding. Simply type “Reset this PC” in the Start menu and follow the instructions.
Can High CPU Usage Cause Damage?
The way high CPU usage can cause damage is through a high heat output. If your CPU is running at 85°C or higher all the time, then it can be very bad for your CPU in the long run. This is because heat slowly kills your CPU. If your CPU is running at 100 all the time, it means that the heat output is going to be high as well. New CPUs have a built-in feature that will make them shut down automatically or thermal throttle if the temps are too high, so you should not worry too much about it.
The biggest problem is when your CPU fan is not working properly or maybe you did not apply the thermal paste correctly. This, in addition to high CPU usage, can damage it. But if your high CPU usage is kept under check by a good cooler that won’t allow it to go above 75-80°C, then it is going to be fine. So is 100 CPU usage bad in the end? It is not as long as your temps are not too high.
How Long Can a Computer Run at 100 CPU?
While 100 CPU usage is inherently not dangerous by itself, the temps that come as a result of that can be. As long as your temps are in good order, you can run your CPU at 100 for as long as you wish. But if you are using a stock cooler, you are likely to experience overheating after an hour or two. If your CPU hits a dangerous temp, it will shut down to prevent any permanent damage.
How fast your CPU overheats depends on a number of factors, not only the tasks you run on it. Your room temp plays a huge factor. If you are in a cool room during winter, your CPU is less likely to overheat, even at 100 usage. But if it is summer, the CPU can overheat even when it is nowhere near 100 usage.
How Much CPU Usage Is Normal?
If you are running demanding tasks or have a lot of background processes, seeing your CPU running at 80-100 usage is normal. But you CPU should not go above 20-30 usage when it is idle. If you see CPU usage that is 50-60 or more when you have nothing open, it is likely caused by a background process, virus, or some issue with drivers or Windows.
Is 100 CPU usage bad when you are editing a video or doing other CPU-bound tasks? Not really, especially if you only have a 2-core or 4-core CPU. But if you are only browsing with Chrome on a high-end Intel Core i7 or Ryzen 7 and see 100 usage, then that is a sign that something is wrong. Note that benchmarks and stress tests will push your CPU to 100 as well because they are designed to do that. In that case, your CPU model does not play a role.
How Much CPU Usage Is Normal for Gaming?
This will depend a lot on the game you play as well as the CPU you have. If you are playing a very demanding game, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on a Ryzen 3 or Intel Core i3 CPU, then it is completely normal to see your CPU running at 100. Remember that your CPU is not only responsible for processing tons of different stuff in the game, but it also has to run the operating system and background programs as well.
If you play strategy games, like something from the Total War series, then you can see 80-100 CPU usage even on the most powerful CPUs with many cores. On the other side of the spectrum, eSports titles, especially older ones like League of Legends, should not use more than 30-40 on a modern midrange CPU like a Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5.
Your CPU usage depends a lot on what you are running at the moment as well as your specific CPU model. If you are experiencing issues with CPU idle usage or CPU temps in general, then there are some steps that you can take to fix it. Is 100 CPU usage bad? If you are running a demanding task at the moment, then it is normal to see it.
Is 100 CPU usage bad in games? This will depend a lot on the type of games you run as well as your CPU model, but in almost all cases, it is completely normal. If you are experiencing issues, then it could be because of the game itself.