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Why is my CPU running at 100 percent, when only three windows are open?!


Windows XP: Why is my CPU running at 100 percent, when only three windows are open?!

I run Windows XP (Home Edition)on my system and frequently find that the number of processes running can be as high as 63, with the CPU usage rising to 100 percent and a commit charge of 943M/2313M. I should add that this happens with only two or three windows open but minimized.

This completely takes over my PC and virtually brings it to a non-useful condition. Can anyone please tell me what can be done to help me safely bring the amount of processes down as I don't believe that all 63 are needed? Many thanks and kind regards.

--Submitted by Patrick N. , London, United Kingdom

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Troubleshooting a slow PC --Submitted by Droid

Why is my CPU running at 100 percent --Submitted by Fatboy71

Runaway processes... --Submitted by Wolfie2k5

Check your processes & scan for viruses --Submitted by si

Try an "empty" start --Submitted by TreknologyNet

CPU at 100% running answer --Submitted by seking0011

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have some additional recommendations or advice for Patrick, please click on the reply link and submit it. Please be as detailed as possbile when providing a solution. Thanks!
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RE: Original post

there are many factors to why a cpu would go to 100%, but the main few are: malware (viruses and the like, do a scan with a fully updated anti-virus), Adobe flash, Programs (anti-virus scanners, windows update, and badly coded and incompatible programs and drivers) and Computer age (computers from 2000 and older, never ran XP quickly, as XP is a bit heavier then 2000, despite being built on it, since XP has alot of new features and a heavier theme)

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download process explorer from Micrsoft via Cnet
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CPU running 100 percent

This usually happens to me when I use firefox. Find out what software is hugging your cpu usage. ALT-CTRL-DEL Click on "Processes" and then click on "Mem Usage" to find out which program has the highest memory use. Highlight this program and "End Process"

Now click on the "Performance" tab. Hopefully, the CPU usage will be lower than 100 percent.

If this does not work, check your computer for virus, worms, etc.

Hope this helps.


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not enough info for this kind of question

It is impossible to answer this question without a LOT more info. (I could list what is needed, but my answer fits the question as is.)

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I agree

In reply to: not enough info for this kind of question

I totally agree, There needs to be more system info then just the operating system "like RAM" and defiantly what three programs are running. If they know how to check task manager and see the processes running they should surely check the Performance tab and see how much Memory the system is using and post it as well. Right there you could see which program launched causes the biggest spike in cpu usage.

You can't say for sure it's spyware if your running 3 memory hungry programs. Say for instance your running a photoshop or video program and used all your physical ram up now your computer's running off the set aside virtual memory and using extra cpu power to transfer data across the hard drive ! That defiantly makes a computer crawl to a screeching halt.

I've also seen corrupt software and drivers that can peg a computer's CPU usage. I once had a multimedia keyboard that turned out to be the culprit. I uninstalled all the fancy button features and it fixed my 100% issue immediately.

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A lot more info is needed!

In reply to: not enough info for this kind of question

It's anybody's guess it seems, as to why your PC is bogging down. What kind of CPU are you running, how much RAM, what kind of RAM? I have worked on many, many PC's, and laptops, and no two problems are ever alike. It could be malware, spyware, not enough RAM, a slow processor, and a combonation of all these things. Sometimes PC's run slow, or seemed like they are clogged up because they are overheating. One of the best answers I have seen so far is to run msconfig, and disable useless, resource hogging start up programs etc. And stop useless background services as well. You may just have to take it to an experienced tech (not Best Buy stores)and have them troubleshoot it.

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Maxed out CPU

I recently found the same problem on a fairly new Dell desktop running Vista Home Premium edition (i.e., with only IE open, it was at 83 to 100 percent CPU usage). The culprit was some sort of Dell executable, and as I recall, it was a version of SQL Server. It was contained in the preinstalled Dell directory, and I don't know whether it was related to the backup or the online storage that Dell offers. But once I renamed the executable file, and rebooted, so that it wouldn't restart, the CPU was back to normal. Use Task Manager to see what processes are running to help identify the culprit on your machine.

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This is where dual-core comes in

In reply to: Maxed out CPU

I had that problem persistently with 2 different desktops and one laptop running XP, but when I bought my first laptop with a dual-core processor and Vista and later a desktop with the same and Win7 I noticed that problem disappeared. There have been numerous explanations and solutions on the CNET forums during the Windows XP era but it's clear to me that having a machine with a dual-core processor, even with modest RAM, takes away that problem of how many processes can run before things come to a halt. This may not help you now, but it's worth remembering for the future. The 64-bit factor and RAM are nowhere near as important for smooth, fast operation as the dual- or quad- core processor...

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CPU Using 100% in Windows XP with 63 processes running.

It has been my experience that this could be caused by your anti-virus or internet security program. Usually because of a bad install or update of the anti-virus or internet security program. The best way to check is to turn off your internet modem then shut down your anti-virus or Internet security program. Check your CPU usage via the Task Manager's Performance Tab. To get to the Task Manager in XP hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete keys. If the CPU continues at 100% start shutting down tasks one by one until you notice on the Performance tab that your CPU usage drops to a normal level.

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Get processhacker

I've found that usually open windows are not the bad guys when this happens, but rather other processes that are not apparent. With some few exceptions, like editing a 250mb image with photoshop, the above statement remains true.
I would recommend to get processhacker (freeware) and check what specific process are consuming more of your processor time. You will be impressed on what you can find. Sometimes media player stays open, but hidden. Other times I have had Safari Browser on a hidden window eating up my processor. Even adobe reader gets lost and starts devouring memory and process time, not to mention some antivirus.

When a process got stuck or just lost control, you can easily detect it with process hacker and kill it.
If it is recurrent, of course it could be a virus or malware, but start up by finding what is the problem.

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Similar problem.

I have a similar problem on my XP Home system. I find that it is caused by a program hanging such as AOL when I try to close it. It looks like it is closed but it still is running in the background. Sometimes it may be another program. I use Ctrl+Alt+Delete to bring up the Task Manager to close the program that is hanging or not responding.

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Something is lurking...

Open the task manager and look in processes and you may find a background process that doesn't show as a window and is hogging up your processor time.

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CPU Usage at 100%

I had this same problem, it was caused by Adobe Acrobat Reader updating in the background. It popped on with no notice and everything just stopped working while the CPU was at 100%. While I killed Adobe Update by uninstalling it, my ultimate solution was to uninstall Adobe Reader and replace it with Foxit Reader here: Foxit's free reader is much smaller and not prone to security glitches.

Another thing to get is Process Explorer: Process Explorer will show all the process running on your box and allow you to kill any one you find suspicious or hogging resources, such as Adobe Update.

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simply 3 words to fix this issue

add some memory

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Download this tool

Go to this link, ...and download the tool. It is a great tool and will show you everything running on your machine, the CPU that they are using and a whole lot more. You will find that a lot of programs start auto when you boot up your machine. You can then go and stop them from starting when you open windows. I was having a similar problem and it didn't take long to solve after getting the tool. Oh ya, it's a free download.
Good luck, Dan

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What is causing the OS to max out?

Hi there!

You must understand I am not one who is a techie; however, I am relatively proficient with computers, and I have found the very same thing occurring with my XP OS. All I could do, was check this and that, in a matter of "well, it's not this, not that, not this."

After doing this for quite awhile, I found something that I do hope will help you, for MY PROBLEM, was that I used two anti-virus software, and two malware software, and these were not getting along.

I was using Avast Free edition, and I had bought a two-year copy of BitDefender [under $50], and because I was so sick and tired of this !00% usage of the CPU, and my mouse barely being able to move because of the CPU max, I did two things:

1/ I downloaded BOTH anti-virus software, and I downloaded only one malware, the free edition, and kept the Sunbelt Counterspy, which I had paid for. BitDefender was trouble to uninstall, and so I hope you do not have this one! I downloaded MICROSOFT SECURITY ESSENTIALS, which is a really good and FREE anti-virus, anti-malware and firewall, and I kept Counterspy, I think is the best anti-malware software around. Right now as I write, my CPU is working at 11% with three pieces of software working [WordPerfect; Foxit Reader - the best PDF Reader around - and free; and Advanced System Care Pro], and this machine has not run this fast, since I bought it. Windows XP Home, only 2 Gigs of RAM, AMD Athlon -3700, running at 2.2 Gigahertz.

Now, I was having this problem off and on for months - sometimes I would just shut the whole machine down, and do something else, really uptight because I didn't feel I could find the cause, but last time, three weeks ago, I'd finally had it, and I did find the reason - no viruses, no malware, too much software for security, and they would get all maxed out working together, and so I did the BEST THING I had ever before done, to increase my system performance. At least every second day now, I defrag and optimize, and the machines's like lightning! If you've got lots of security software, try taking one out of memory, just leaving one anti-virus working, and see if this works. OTHERWISE, scan, scan, scan!

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I must ad some info here...

In reply to: What is causing the OS to max out?

You can't run two anti-virus REAL TIME protection schemes together, you can run as many anti-virus scanners as you want, but only ONE realtime protection process can be running.

You can only have ONE firewall too; this can put you in pretty dangerous territory trying to run two at once, but not as dangerous as two anti-virus utilities.

You can run as many malware utilities as you want, if they are designed correctly, they will get alone with each other and your other security tools too!

It helps to pick malware utiities that all approach the malware/greyware problem from different angles.

SpywareBlaster, MBAM, and AdAware all use totally different technologies to keep the cr@p-ware off your PC and also do it in REAL TIME! My clients run them and Comodo Firewall, and Avast, and they never have the problems everyone else has.

P.S. - Using CCleaner to get rid of cookies and all temp files alone with AdAware with AdWatch turned on, will speed your browsing up very significantly.

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Why is my CPU running 100%

You haven't let us know the most important fact. How much RAM do you have?

1) Clean your computer - when you dust off the motherboard, put a finger on the fan and hold it down enough so that the compressed air doesn't make it spin. Be sure to clean off the area that holds the hard drive.

2) If you are using a netbook XP Home is the best Operating System (OS) that you can use. If you're running anything else, and it's still possible upgrade to Windows XP Media Center Edition.

3) The real truth is that your computer is probably loaded with malware, be it viruses, trojans, worms, or whatever. Download two free programs from CNET - CCleaner, and the free edition of Malwarebytes Antimalware. If they either (1) don't install or (2) don't run then some powerful piece of malware is preventing them from working properly. Then you have to have a friend download them and put them on a flash drive or DVD and if he knows how, have him change their attributes to read only. Put whichever of these that you use in the appropriate place. The flash Drive needs a USB2 port. Run CCleaner first. Don't click on "analyze", click on "run". Then run the second program. When you run Malware... do a full scan, not a quick scan. Take out the flash drive and see how your computer is running. If it's okay then take every flash drive, CD-R, CD-RW and DVD-RW. Then start MalwareBytes anti-malware and check off the appropriate place where the flash drive, etc and while I know that it's tedious do this to clear out every storage device that you ever intend to put in your computer again. That really should do the trick, after the cleaning.

This isn't as tough as it seems, just time-consuming. I assume that you have an anti-virus program, an anti-spyware and adware program, and a good firewall. If not get them and install them. You can get a free firewall and anti-virus, but for the third program I don't think that the free programs begin to compare to "Spyware Doctor" which I think costs about $30 - $40.

Last if you are using Internet Explorer and you're really hooked on it, make sure that you are using IE8, nothing earlier.

If you're not really hooked on Internet Explorer switch to the browser "Firefox". It's free, it has all sort of safety devices and there are thousands of add-ons.

Good luck!

If you still aren't getting favorable results, you have two choices.

(1) Take it into a shop to have it repaired (expensive, more so if it's a laptop.

(2) Buy a new computer. They're dirt cheap.


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Why your CPU is running at 100 percent

Sounds to me like you have a bunch of viruses and or trojans running on your machine.
I repair computers and do networking for a living, and I take out viruses FREQUENTLY.
If you have Norton Antivirus, or almost all of the free ones, except AVG and Malwarebytes and possibly avast!, you have some nasties running in the background.
Some of those processes running are "bad guys".
I use Webroot Antivirus. I have been using this for about 8 or 9 years.
I remove viruses almost every day. This is what I use to get rid of most of them.
I suggest you get this antivirus. Then TURN OFF SYSTEM RESTORE. Then do a sweep in the regular mode if you can.
After you find the 5 to 10 things running (It will take a little time, they have over 1,950,000 definitions of viruses and trojans), click on the quarantine button. Then, to make sure you get them all, put your computer in Safe Mode, and do another sweep. Sometimes you can't fully remove anything running, so in Safe Mode (usually), the viruses are not running. Some are bad, and are able to run in safe mode, but not many.
I suggest you leave System Restore off, but if you must have it, you can turn it back on again after the second sweep. Also, if you want you could then set a new restore point.
This should solve your problem. If however, your machine is very, very, infected, some of your operating system files may be corrupted and you may have to back up your files and do a clean install of the operating system, reinstall programs, set up printers, etc.
Good Luck!

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Find the program hog

Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to bring up the task manager. Then in the processes tab, scroll to find the program with the CPU usage near 100%. Then Right-click on the process and click "End Process." Windows will ask you for a confirmation on ending the process, so click "yes" and the process will close for you. You can sort the columns if you like by double-clicking on the column to find the program hog, so to speak. That's how to end a process in Windows. FYI, in linux, the terminology for this is to kill the process. You can do similarly in linux as Windows, except for a different terminology. I do this a lot. Just don't end a process that is system critical like certain .exe files (eg. Windows Explorer unless it is hogging the CPU). Hope this helps you out.

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In reply to: Find the program hog

It's OK to terminate processes with Task Manager, but every time I do it, I get a rather stern warning message ending with "Are you sure you want to terminate this process"* I usually go ahead. However, on one occasion, terminating a process had a nasty result. I terminated a process I thought wasn't doing anything, explore.exe. Immediately, my desktop icons disappeared! A reboot restored them, but since then I've been much warier about terminating any process.
* If Microsoft manufactured automobiles, when the driver's air bag was about to deploy, the car would display the message, "Are you sure you want the air bag to deploy."

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It's Will ROBINson, not Robertson


As spoken to Billy Mumy, the kid from Lost in Space, by the robot "Robbie" - who actually existed before the program and was brought in (and duplicated) for the show. Yes, there was an actor inside (don't ask how I know). Enough trivia. Billy lives in California and has actually had a life since the original "Lost."

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Sorry - my old brain must have been Lost in Space...

In reply to: It's Will ROBINson, not Robertson

Wikipedia: "The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965 and March 6, 1968." Reruns aside, Lost in Space was last lost 42 years ago. Remembering even "DANGER, WILL..." took a major effort.

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first of all, without your specs as requested by cnet(Note: If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.) it is very difficult to give you a quick solution but to just take a shot at it, you might want to consider cleaning your cmputer from viruses, spy/ad/malware what are known to let your computer act like you describe...


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windows xp slopws down

how long has it been since you ran an anti adware program to clean up all the spies on yer cpu? and how about cleaning the registry?
i ran win xp for years and it was blazing fast on a 8 yr old cpu 2.66mhz pent 4 and on several occasions i learned real quick that if you dl a program and then remove it there are always lingering files and false leads to the register and yer propbably loaded down with backups, adware malware and spy cookies.. so if i was you i would go dl "spybot" free here i think but easily found. be careful and do not change anything that you are not sure about with spybot. just run it and let it fix yer dl "adware" from from ..
and if all else fails a program called "Cclean". now that baby will clean yer registry, cookies etc.. and you should notice a much faster CPU...

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for running your pc perfectly

In reply to: windows xp slopws down

Dear Friends,

I suggest all of your to use following 3 softwares in order to run your pc smoothly without any problem.

1) Quickheal virus software (including PC Tuner)
2) Uniblue Registery Cleaner
3) and install SPYBOT

If you have installed all of the above 3 you never will face any threat. Your PC will be 100 p.c. okay.


OS Name Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Version 5.1.2600 Service Pack 3 Build 2600
OS Manufacturer Microsoft Corporation
System Name ACCOUNT27
System Manufacturer LENOVO
System Model 8985AQ5
System Type X86-based PC
Processor x86 Family 6 Model 15 Stepping 2 GenuineIntel ~1861 Mhz
BIOS Version/Date LENOVO 2OKT42AUS, 19/06/2007
SMBIOS Version 2.4
Windows Directory C:\WINDOWS
System Directory C:\WINDOWS\system32
Boot Device \Device\HarddiskVolume1
Locale United States
Hardware Abstraction Layer Version = "5.1.2600.5512 (xpsp.080413-2111)"
User Name ACCOUNT3\user
Time Zone India Standard Time
Total Physical Memory 512.00 MB
Available Physical Memory 25.57 MB
Total Virtual Memory 2.00 GB
Available Virtual Memory 1.96 GB
Page File Space 1.20 GB
Page File C:\pagefile.sys

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How To Disable Unnecessary Services in XP.

Disabling unnecessary Services in XP Home Edition helps improve computer speed. Computer sluggishness is usually and often caused by anti-malware and/or unnecessary services running therefore aside anti-malware scans and registry cleaners to help eliminate any cause(s) of computer sluggishness also consider disabling unnecessary services. In XP Home Edition (Start>Programs>Administrative Services>Services) some services are needed and cannot be turned off or may cause problems if stopped or disabled therefore Googling each service is recommended before attempting to experiment on stopping and/or disabling crucial services. It also helps to familiarize oneself with viewing the Dependencies Tab of each service before deciding to disabling-or-not a service via Start>Programs>Administrative Services>Services>double-click or right-click on a service> Properties>Dependencies Tab to see if a service is dependent upon other services, and/or what other services may or may not be dependent upon the service in question. The following list is only a single example of a home desktop 80MB hard drive with 640 available RAM with Road Runner basic services used for browsing, writing and printing. I correspond only by email and do NOT use any messaging, voice nor webcam applications. As a result of disabling unnecessary services the sluggishness had disappeared and thus far I have had no problems with any of my usual applications but please consider the following list only as a vague and quick individual guideline subject-to-change:

.NET Runtime Optimization Service v2.0.50727_X86; Manual.
Alerter; Disabled.
Application Layer Gateway Service; Manual.
Application Management; Manual.
ASP.NET State Service; Manual.
a-squared Free Service; Manual.
Automatic Updates; Automatic; Started.
avast Antivirus; Automatic; Started.
avast! Web Scanner; Manual; Started.
Background Intelligent Transfer Service; Automatic; Started.
ClipBook; Disabled.
COM+ Event System; Manual; Started.
COM+ System Application; Manual.
COMODO Internet Security Helper Service; Automatic; Started.
Computer Browser; Disabled.
Cryptographic Services; Automatic; Started.
DCOM Server Process Launcher; Automatic; Started.
DHCP Client; Automatic; Started.
Distributed Link Tracking Client; Disabled.
Distributed Transaction Coordinator; Disabled.
DNA Client; Automatic; Started.
Error Reporting Service; Disable.
Event Log; Automatic; Started.
Extensible Authentication Protocol Service; Manual.
Fast User Switching Compatibility; Disabled.
Folder Size; Automatic; Started.
Google Update Service; Manual.
Health Key and Certificate Management Service; Manual.
Help and Support; Automatic; Started.
HTTP SSL; Manual.
Human Interface Device Access; Disabled.
IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service; Manual.
Indexing Service; Disabled.
IPSEC Services; Manual.
Java Quick Starter; Manual.
Logical Disk Manager; Manual.
Logical Disk Manager Administrative Service; Manual.
McAfee SiteAdvisor Service; Automatic; Started.
Messenger; Disabled.
Microsoft Antimalware Service: Automatic; Started.
MS Software Shadow Copy Provider; Manual.
Net Logon; Disabled.
Net.Tcp Port Sharing Service; Disabled.
NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing; Disabled.
Network Access Protection Agent; Disabled.
Network Connections; Manual; Started.
Network DDE; Disabled.
Network DDE DSDM; Disabled.
Network Location Awareness (NLA); Manual; Started.
Network Provisioning Service; Disabled.
NT LM Security Support Provider; Disabled.
NVIDIA Display Driver Service; Disabled.
Performance Logs and Alerts; Disabled.
Plug and Play; Automatic; Started.
Portable Media Serial Number Service; Disabled.
Print Spooler; Automatic; Started.
PrismXL; Disabled.
Protected Storage; Disabled.
QoS RSVP; Manual.
Remote Access Auto Connection Manager; Disabled.
Remote Access Connection Manager; Disabled.
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager; Disabled.
Remote Procedure Call (RPC); Automatic; Started.
Remote Procedure Call (RPC) Locator; Disabled.
Removable Storage; Manual.
Routing and Remote Access; Disabled.
Secondary Logon; Disabled.
Security Accounts Manager; Manual.
Security Center; Manual; Started.
Server; Disabled.
Shell Hardware Detection; Automatic; Started.
Smart Card; Disabled.
SSDP Discovery Service; Disabled.
System Event Notification; Disabled.
System Restore Service; Automatic; Started.
Task Scheduler; Manual.
TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper; Manual.
Telephony; Automatic; Started.
Terminal Services; Disabled.
Themes; Automatic; Started.
ThreatFire; Automatic; Started.
Uninterruptible Power Supply; Disabled.
Universal Plug and Play Device Host; Manual.
Volume Shadow Copy; Manual.
WebClient; Disabled.
Windows Audio; Automatic; Started.
Windows CardSpace; Disabled.
Windows Driver Foundation; Manual.
Windows Firewall/Internet Connection Sharing (ICS); Disabled.
Windows Image Acquisition (WIA); Manual.
Windows Installer; Manual.
Windows Management Instrumentation; Automatic; Started.
Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service; Disabled.
Windows Presentation Foundation Font Cache; Manual.
Windows Time; Disabled. [Instead I use TClockX.]
Wired AutoConfig; Manual.
Wireless Zero Configuration; Automatic; Started.
WMI Performance Adapter; Disabled.
Workstation; Disabled.

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Could be a virus scan, But....

A benign cause for the condition you describe could be a virus scan being run. Try opening Task Manager by typing Control-Alt-Delete together and releasing. Click on the "Processes" tab and sort by CPU usage. If you don't recognize the process using all the CPU capacity, search for the process name on Google to see if it is associated with some sort of Mal-ware. If so, try to research for removal instructions. If it is an antivirus application, you may need to find one that is less of a resource hog.

Of course, the problem may be that your CPU and memory configuration are no longer up to the task of running more contemporary Apps. What is your hardware setup?

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Reduce the number of programs in notification area

I too run one of my computers on Windows XP Home edition. I have come across this problem which tends to slow the computer greatly. I have found that many programs which run in the background, or terminate and stay resident, and appear in notification area are quite taxing on the processing capacity. Try eliminating some of the unwanted programs. It would certainly help.

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Control Alt Delete

if you to control alt delete, Task Manager will come up. Then select the "processes" tab. You'll see a column labeled "CPU?. Click on this heading, and it will order the processes according to the load on the CPU. The one near to 100% is the offending process. You can elect to stop that process within task manager by selecting it, and then clicking on "End Process". This will solve the immediate lockup. The name of the process, if malware, needs to be researched on the Internet for removal, or use your antivirus program. Hope this helps.

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