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Gaming is one of the biggest industries in the world right now. It is producing a revenue of well over $100 billion per year, and that was before people were locked inside for a year with little else to do.
In fact, there is at least one gamer in over two-thirds of American households, and it’s become so popular that now people even enjoy watching gaming live, like sports. And in something of an eternal cycle, while gaming keeps getting more popular, the computers they are played on keep becoming better developed.
But, most of us don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on our computers, so it is pretty common to come across glitches and issues from time to time. One of the most common problems that gamers face is how to lower the CPU usage.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at gaming, if your computer runs into a technical problem, it’s going to seriously hinder your game. That’s why we’re here. We are going to help you with how to reduce your CPU usage, looking at aspects like background applications, game and computer settings and GPU drivers.
But first, let’s make sure that we are all on the same page about what the CPU does, so we can understand how and why it becomes over-used, and therefore how we can reduce its usage.
What does the CPU do?
Almost all the devices you own contain a CPU, or Central Processing Unit. From your computer, to your thermostat, from your smartwatch to your cell phone, they all contain a CPU. In simple terms, the CPU is the brains of the computer.
So much like how the motherboard is the communication centre for different tasks, the CPU controls what’s going on. It’s essentially a chip that sits within the motherboard, and it is separate from the memory or graphics.
The chip is filled with billions of microscopic transistors, which allow the CPU to make all the calculations necessary to run the programmes that are stored on the system’s memory. This can be anything from starting up Windows to writing an email, to watching a video.
These days the CPU doesn’t run everything itself, but it still has to do the delegation. So it still needs to send the calculations to the right parts of the computer. CPUs have got much quicker too. This is partly because the number of transistors on each microchip is increasing rapidly.
In fact, the number is pretty much doubling every two years, which is a rate that was first noticed and predicted by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, back in 1965 and is now known as Moore’s Law. Another way in which CPUs have improved since the good old days is the increase in the number of processing cores.
CPUs used to just have one processing core, but these days they use multiple cores simultaneously. Almost every CPU sold today is at least dual-core, quad-cores are very common, and there are even some chips that have thirty-two cores. All of this means that they can multitask and work way more efficiently in processing the data than they used to.
Why is there high CPU usage?
Needless to say, when you’re gaming, the CPU is working pretty hard to handle all the communications that you are throwing its way. This results in something that is known as bottle-necking. There are a bunch of reasons why this would happen.
Some of the main reasons include unnecessary third party applications that could be running in the background, often without you even noticing, as well as aspects like power preserving modes being enabled in your computer, or the settings within the games. But don’t worry, we’ll take a look at ways to fix all of these problems down below.
Why do you need to reduce CPU usage?
Before we do, you might be wondering why you even need to decrease your CPU usage. If the CPU really is the brains of the computer, and if it is so much better developed these days than it used to be, then why do you need to reduce it? Isn’t that what it’s designed for?
Well, when you’re gaming, you’re using a whole bunch of features on the computer, from graphics to audio, as well as often requiring various applications to be open. And all of that is on top of your computer running itself in its regular way, with the third party apps open in the background and so forth.
All of this means that your CPU is firing on all cylinders, or at least it’s trying to. There are so many calculations being processed that there can end up being a bit of a bottleneck problem. This will of course have a negative impact on your gaming ability.
It is better to instead try to channel more of the processes to the GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, which is specialised in accelerating the creation of images and manipulating graphics. It works independently from the CPU, but often when people are gaming, the CPU is working at 90-95% capacity, while the GPU is at a mere 40%.
If you want to be able to game to the very best of your ability, then you need your computer to be performing at its absolute best too, which means that the GPU needs to reach its full potential, rather than only 40%.
Another reason why you need to reduce CPU usage, beyond the goal of gaming at your best, is a more physical reason. When a CPU is working hard, it gets hot. That’s why the fan tends to be so close. But if you are going to be sending every calculation around to the CPU, and probably overclocking too, then your CPU is going to start getting too hot for the frame.
Sure you can build in more fans, but at some point you’re going to have to start reducing the CPU usage too. That’s where we come in. Take a look at our top tips down below.
How to reduce and fix high CPU usage?
Okay, let’s take a look at some of the main issues that can be affecting your CPU usage, and how you can reduce them so that you can maximise your gaming potential.
Limit the background processes
Pretty much the first thing you need to do if your CPU usage is too high, is make sure that you don’t have any services or applications running in the background. We’ve been through how much the CPU has to handle with gaming, so it needs to make sure that it can focus on that.
Of course you need to check out any open programmes that you have running, but you should also open your task manager. This can show you any idle CPU usage, which will be running without you even realising.
This amount of usage should sit roughly between 1 – 5 %. So if you are in a higher range, above 10% or 20%, you need to work out what it is that is using up so many processes, and switch them off. If there are certain programmes that are the main culprits, have a think about whether or not you need them.
If it is bloatware or a programme that you don’t really want anymore, make sure to uninstall them. If it is a system process or service though, you’ll need to work out why they are using so much of your CPU. There could be a bigger underlying issue that needs to be fixed.
Check the health of your computer
This might sound a little obvious, but you need to make sure that your computer is staying healthy, that means checking it for viruses and checking for overheating. If you don’t give it regular check-ups, small problems could become big issues.
And your computer won’t be able to handle your gaming at top-speed if it’s feeling a bit under the weather. This also means that you should make sure that all of your hardware is up-to-date and in good condition. A problem somewhere else could be the reason why your CPU is ending up in an overloaded state.
Run your games with GPU
We’ve already spoken about how important it is to run your games through GPU rather than CPU, but did you know that this is something that you can set up manually?
You’ll need to go to your graphics settings and make sure that they don’t just go through your integrated graphics card, but instead, redirect them to your dedicated GPU. This will help enormously. Remember to check it for different games too, as each one could be different.
Some games might need to be checked on too. Sometimes the issue is just with one game and often reinstalling it will fix it right up.
Related Reading: What is the difference between CPU & GPU?
Disable power preserving modes
When you are trying to be the best gamer you can be, what you don’t need is to be held back by your computer attempting its power-preserving modes. It will hold back the CPU’s performance and is pretty much pointless anyway if your CPU is already getting bottlenecked.
To fix this, there are a couple of things you need to do. First, you should check the simple aspects like battery life and other options related to power saving. Then, you should also go to the “additional power settings” and change the plan setting, to make sure that it is not on the power saver.
Finally, if you need, you can also go to the command window, run as administrator, and give the command “shutdown /r /fw”. This will help your computer boot the new command into the UEFI firmware settings, so you shouldn’t be held back by them again.
Now that we’ve been through the main problems, hopefully, you’ll be able to put a stop to any bottleneck issues that you’ve been facing so that you can game to the maximum. If your computer is in a healthy condition, and your CPU is no longer running at overload, there’s no reason you can’t become one of the next great gamers.