Windows Vista forum

General discussion

What's with all the activity on my PC, when I'm not doing anything?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 21, 2011 9:08 AM PDT

What's with all the activity on my PC, when I'm not doing anything?

Good Day, I have a Gateway GT5428 computer, running Windows
Vista Home premium that works reasonably well for all my
needs. Recently it has started doing some intense internal
work while connected to the internet and while sitting
inactive for hours. What could be causing all of the apparent
computing when nothing is active? I have shut off every non
important program that I can find in MSCONFIG but still it
sounds overly busy. Is finally goes quiet if disconnected
from the internet for about 10 minutes or more. I have
scanned it with every conceivable software to see if there is
something odd inside but I can't find anything out of the
ordinary. I am running Avast free antivirus and it has never
suggested anything wrong.

--Submitted by: Alan P.

If you have any tips or solutions for Alan, please click on the reply link below and submit away. When describing a solution please provide as much details as possible. Thanks!
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Unexplained CPU activity
by ltoribio / October 21, 2011 11:21 AM PDT

What you're describing could be malware or security software searching for malware, or it could be something else. I recommend that you download and install Process Explorer from Microsoft. It will show you which active programs are using how much CPU time.

You can learn about Process Explorer and download it here:

Leo Toribio
Pittsburgh, PA

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by vardhan-thewarrior / October 28, 2011 5:22 PM PDT

Hey mate , I completely agree with Lee Koo (ADMIN) but as he said make use of process explorer ; instead u can use ur task manager
U can start Task manager by:-

(Right click)Taskbar-> Start Task Manager-> Processes(tab)
or by
pressing (alt+ctrl+delete) buttons simulteneously -> Start Task Manager -> Processes (Tab)


in that go to processes tab and u will see lots of stuff running and there is 1 column named cpu plz go through it and u finally got to know which process is causing the overload ... Happy



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Task Manager vs Process Manager
by lbmurray / October 28, 2011 11:10 PM PDT
In reply to: Hello

It seems that Process Manager gives more detailed info than the task manager which I had been using.
On the other hand, a quick right click takes you straight to task manager. I wonder if it is normal that my System Idle Process is still using between 75 and 80 cpu ... I have checked to see if perhaps there is a background scan going on but no...

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What's System Idle Process?
by chipw6 / October 29, 2011 8:54 AM PDT
In reply to: Hello

There's been mention of Task Manager and Process Explorer. I'll put in a plug for Anvir Task Manager. It gives oodles and oodles of information. There's a free version (which I'm using) and a not-free version. You can Google it.
I'll use it to see what's running when when my PC is running aggravatingly slow. There's a System Idle Process using 90+% of the CPU. I'd like to know what the System Idle Process is, why it uses so much CPU, and what if anything can be done about it.
Anyone? Anyone?

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by richteral / October 29, 2011 4:53 PM PDT

Idle means idle. Not dead, however. Just like a car when idling. Or a person - the heart still beats, lungs expand and contract, eyes blink. Computer is the same, sort of, ready for action. Nothing to worry about.

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But 90+%?
by chipw6 / October 30, 2011 5:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Anyone

But why does it take 90+% to just hang around? And is this slowing everything else down?

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by richteral / October 30, 2011 11:19 PM PDT
In reply to: But 90+%?

This is supposed to be the capacity reserved for use, as and when needed. Nothing ought to get adversely affected by this state.
As for running processes and the like, Windows has a built-in Resource Monitor, which is quite good. One of the CPU columns is headed Average CPU; if you click on it, it will rank the "sinners" top to bottom.

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by whobiggs / December 5, 2011 6:28 PM PST
In reply to: Resources

I can't find average CPU

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by richteral / December 6, 2011 5:05 AM PST
In reply to: Where?

Resource Monitor is in Windows 7; if you open it, you will see the CPU heading, and Average CPU is one of the data columns there on expansion.
Vista has Reliability & Performance Monitor, which also provides Average CPU percentages.
XP, if memory serves right, has just the standard Task Manager, which would only show blips of actual CPU usage, no averages.
Click the Start button and type Monitor in search to see what comes up on your system.

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same issue
by genej313 / October 31, 2011 9:00 AM PDT
In reply to: But 90+%?

only mine is typing lag, caused by brief spikes in cpu usage up to 50%, mostly it is between 1 and 5%. I've killed off PSI, which monitors everything, and that cured it for the most part, but there are still these spikes. I have to believe they are system related because I use Autoruns to control what starts with the machine and that is not much, yet, there are tons of processes running. I'll try Process Explorer, but will that tell me which are "safe" to shut down and/or give me a way to stop them from booting unless needed? :^)

Win 7 Home Premium, HP Slimline, 64 bit, 4 GB Ram.

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Process Explorer is very helpful - Thanks for the link
by lbmurray / October 28, 2011 11:02 PM PDT

Thanks Leo Toribio. I downloaded the Process Explorer and find it much better than a somewhat similar program which came with my laptop. The System Idle Process seems to be the one using between 75 and 80 cpu non-stop. I noticed 90 processes going on... everything from Explorer to Flash Util, but none of them exceding 1 or 2 cpu's. LB Murray

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Me too ....

Recently my w2k machine died and I've been forced kicking and screaming into w7 - what a pain. Anyhow one of the utilties I use is BITMETER and I noticed about 100k bps of network chatter that wasn't there before. I also noticed a lot more activity on my NAS drives. Fortunately I have a friend that is a network expert and he suggested I use a network activity logging program called WIRESHARK and see what it finds. I did and sent him the log and asked for his analysis.

Turns out it was a lot of chatter to my printer - I'm still not sure what the NAS activity was. BUT at least I now know of two utilities to use to investigate. Anyhow - it seems the newer OS adds "chatty" to its many burdensome "features".

BTW - I did NOT notice a lot of local disk access and I don't have a CPU monitor running.

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Software Updates?

It's probably some software updating. When you notice activity, open up task manager. Be sure to check the box to show processes from all users. Sort the processes by CPU and memory to see if you can identify the source. It could just be Windows Update or your Anti-Virus updating. Check the time each is set to update and see if that coincides with the time your computer is running. Your computer could also be running an automatic anti-virus scan. Or it could be an automatic Windows service running in the background such as disk defragmenter.

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by whobiggs / December 5, 2011 6:14 PM PST
In reply to: Software Updates?

How do you sort the processes?

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Click the CPU column header
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / December 5, 2011 6:28 PM PST
In reply to: CPU

I click the CPU column header twice to list CPU Usage from bottom up. It's easier to follow then.

Don't forget to "Show processes from all users".


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PC activity while unattended
by jacetor / October 21, 2011 12:01 PM PDT

It may be that the Internet connection is coincidental. Do you indexing turned on? The indexing service may be scanning your drive for you. If you have Google Desktop installed, it also will do indexing on you to make your queries searchable.

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Indexing for sure...
by carrillion / October 22, 2011 1:18 AM PDT

Indexing will cause much churning of your hard drive. You can uninstall Windows Search to cure this. Also note that while indexing your hard drive, the process periodically communicates with a couple of servers back at Microsoft in Redmond. Why Microsoft needs to be contacted while sifting through all of your files I do not know.

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Windows Search
by styan1 / October 28, 2011 12:06 PM PDT
In reply to: Indexing for sure...

Interesting comment but where is Windows Search ? Where to find it to uninstall ? Thanks for advising.

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I wouldn't try to uninstall it
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / October 28, 2011 8:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Windows Search

Windows Search is a "Service" that was called "Indexing Service" in XP.

It is set to run automatically but the service can be disabled. This doesn't affect general searches of the hard drive, but it disables the deep indexing of files and documents that not everyone needs.

I would not attempt to uninstall it. Doing that can destabilize the system.

How to disable Windows Search


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Idle System Processes & Microsoft Search
by idoubtthat / December 9, 2011 12:51 PM PST

I think it is confusing wording on the Process Explorer. You can use a watt meter and watch the graph of actual CPU usage to learn your system best. I think 85% to 90% means the percent of Idle processes that are actively running, not CPU usage.

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Forgot about the misleading search
by idoubtthat / December 9, 2011 1:08 PM PST

Every Microsoft OS has built in search and indexing, it can't be accidentally deleted. There is a recent hidden search added into updates and on W-7 and up, thankfully just turning on more of the built in security switches you find in settings kills off this hidden search in W-7. You can safely delete it out of all other MS OS. The hidden or background one is not helping you, it is helping G-men track and check out normal good guy citizens because they expect some to become upset at what is going on lately. The hidden one can briefly but completely stall a powerful PC every few seconds as it uploads gathered DATA to unknown persons, this is a weak link as it can be easily hacked by any bad guy wanting to steal your accounts, get rid of it and your PC will run like new and much more secure.

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Where is windows "Search"
by stahu / October 29, 2011 1:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Windows Search

I don't believe you want to delete "Search", because I have a feeling you wiil no longer be able to search for files on your computer. If you want to screw up your system, just start deleting Windows files.

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Indexing might be the culprit
by lbmurray / October 28, 2011 11:21 PM PDT

Thanks jacetor. Indexing is very useful but might be hogging lots of cpu's (Google Desktop installed). It is so useful that I would not do any "uninstall".

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Try this....
by ebbtides / October 21, 2011 12:30 PM PDT

Don't trust just one "bug" program's scans! There are virus's, malwares, keyloggers, rootkits and other sources of infection that also need proper scanning. AV programs don't check all the current sources of infection these days...A combination of programs is the best defense, to wit:

1. Download, update and run "Malwarebytes," a highly useful program that finds things other programs miss. Keep it on your computer for regular maintenance.
2. There are other good anti-virus programs, but a couple of the best are free! If you choose to change your current AV software, first un-install the old program before downloading something like AVG or Microsoft's Security Essentials, then install and run full scans using the new AV program.
3. Download & install "RootkitRevealer, and run a scan with it. Post results on one of the many available online forums where experts can spot rootkit results.
3. Run these scans from "SafeMode" if possible.

For routine system maintenance, an excellent "many in one" (free) program is "Advanced System Care."

- Hope these suggestions are helpful!

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Security threats
by richteral / October 21, 2011 5:07 PM PDT
In reply to: Try this....

Identifying and eliminating security threats is a good first step. I would start with running HijackThis, then posting the log in a proper forum (e.g., WhatTheTech) to have it assessed, supplying full information about the issue. Guidance will be provided if more powerful security tools need be used, since they can also inflict damage on the system if applied without the necessary skills and experience.

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I Agree
by taaronp / October 21, 2011 5:54 PM PDT
In reply to: Try this....

I agree..I use Malwarebytes & SuperAntiSpyware as stand alone scanner's also have Spyware Blaster WinPatrol & WOT. No antivirus is going to catch everything. Oh..also have EMET 2.1 from Microsoft installed. My anti virus is norton internet security does a Great job for me.

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in addition....
by ebbtides / October 22, 2011 1:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Try this....

One further thought; eliminate all but the most essential browser toolbars! Toolbars for your internet browser can contain applications that run more than needed. Some people have more than one add-on toolbar, and these can cause hugs slow-downs as well. Something like a weather application may be updating at frequent intervals that are not needed.

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by SamRetNavy / October 28, 2011 11:54 PM PDT
In reply to: Try this....

These may be good sugestions ebb.... but why? Good ideas are ok but without explination they r just that... Ideas. I don't use what U sugeasted at all/ In fact I dont like those programs because i find them essentially ineffective in my case. I have all of them on my computer and they really haven't found much. Nothing of any real signifigance anyway. I run symantic endpoint, add-aware and Spybot in the background and have been doing so for 15 years. I think people should take the time (and be responsible) for thier security and take the time to see what works for them. Obviously there are different hazards on our everso growing online land of unknown so take a munite and explore what works in your area ,land or domain! Or at least on your computer. There is NO other comparison to when looking for suggestions and answers!

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Hard drive and wifi lights flash when idle
by goodgenie4u / October 29, 2011 12:42 AM PDT
In reply to: Try this....

I have vista and 7. My desktop with vista seems to be sluggish responding after being idle. Why? if the OS is supposed to be busy so that opening a browser is not so sluggish.? It also take6 5 minutes to start up when powered on.

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Re: Uninstalling Bell Canada malware
by RegisK / October 31, 2011 12:21 AM PDT

If you have your Windows Vista disk, you could try uninstalling BC Malware, and booting from the Vista disk. Then select the option to repair the operating system.

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