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Low CPU Usage in Games – Causes & Fixes

    ✅ Fact Checked
    Updated on October 6, 2022
    John Chad, Bachelor Computer Science Degree & Computer Engineering.
    Written by
    John Chad, Bachelor Degree in Computer Science & Computer Engineering.
    Russel Collins
    Fact Checked by
    Russel Collins
    John is a certified IT & Computer Engineer with a Bachelors Degree. He has worked for a International Insurance Company in the IT department before deciding to become a full time blogger to help his readers. Holds a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from Stanford University.

    In this article, we-re going to explain what causes low CPU usage in games so that you can better troubleshoot your problem. And once you understand why the game is using up(or not) all of your system resources, I’ll provide some solutions for fixing this issue.

    Let me start by explaining exactly what “low CPU usage” means. It refers to the amount of processing power available within your computer when running a particular program or task. For example, if your processor core(s) are only working at 30% capacity while playing a CPU-demanding game, then there is obviously something wrong. You should have more than enough horsepower left over to handle multiple tasks without any lag & you should have enough to get higher FPS in games — especially considering most modern-day applications run smoothly even after having hundreds of windows open at once.

    So let’s first take a look under the hood at what actually happens inside of our computers’ processors during these instances.

    How does the CPU work?

    The CPU is responsible for performing computations that end up producing results. These computations might include mathematical calculations, data manipulation, logical operations, memory accesses, etc., depending on the type of application.

    For instance, if an app needs to render 3D graphics based on data from a video file or in a game, its workload would consist primarily of manipulating large amounts of information stored in memory locations called registers. This process requires reading lots of small pieces of data and combining them together into larger units before outputting the final result as pixels via the display panel onto the screen.

    On the other hand, if an app has to perform simple arithmetic like adding two numbers together, its workload consists mainly of executing commands one instruction at a time until completion. The actual number of instructions executed per second depends on the processor clock frequency which determines how many cycles each instruction takes to complete.

    Now that we’ve got an understanding of what “processing unit” really entails, let’s find out what’s causing your low FPS & your low CPU usage while playing games.

    Low CPU Usage in Games – Causes & Fixes

    While CPU saturation problems typically stem from too many active processes competing for limited processing power, sometimes lower CPU usage can occur because of specific conditions instead. Here are some common culprits:

    Slow hard drive speeds

    Poorly optimized code

    Lack of proper hardware support

    Bad drivers

    Insufficient system memory

    A lack of virtual memory

    An abundance of background processes & services

    Background services running slower than foreground processes

    Using outdated versions of installed software

    Malware infections

    CPU bottlenecked by your GPU (if your GPU is too “weak” when paired with your CPU)

    To help ensure that none of those apply to you, check the following list of items and make sure they’re all updated according to current recommendations:

    Your system BIOS version matches the motherboard manufacturer specifications. Don’t forget to update the latest chipset drivers.

    Check whether any suspicious processes are taking up valuable CPU resources. Use a tool like Resource Monitor built into Windows 10 Pro/Enterprise editions to inspect this. Alternatively, try Sysinternals Process Explorer [Broken URL Removed] if you’d prefer another solution. Searching online for “[app name] + Resource monitor” usually brings up relevant search results.

    Make sure your PC meets the minimum requirements set forth by game developers. Many popular titles nowadays require DirectX 11 or newer. Check Microsoft’s official website for info regarding supported specs.

    Try turning off unnecessary visual effects. Games often utilize fancy lighting effects and post-processing filters to enhance realism. Disable them if needed.

    Disable unnecessary background services. Background processes refer to nonessential services running in the background. Examples include indexers, updaters, cloud syncers, backups, etc. Disabling these can potentially relieve pressure on the main CPU. Note that enabling background services is essential for security purposes. Therefore, use caution when managing these settings.

    Adjust the priority of important processes. High-priority processes receive more CPU energy to execute. Conversely, low-priority processes receive fewer cycles. Adjust these accordingly to prevent bottlenecks and slowdowns.

    Consider upgrading your storage device. Slow disk drives cause plenty of trouble regardless of platform. Not only are SSDs much faster than HDDs, but they also have greater capacities.

    Update older drivers. Drivers are essentially firmware designed to communicate between components. Whenever manufacturers release updates, bugs inevitably arise. Developers eventually roll back old driver revisions to fix said flaws. By keeping track of driver releases for various devices, you can avoid getting caught in this predicament.

    Enable hyperthreading. Hyperthreading allows physical processor cores to act as though there are twice as many total cores. Thus, programs utilizing multi-threading techniques can take advantage of all four processor cores.

    Manage CPU temperature properly. Too hot = reduced performance.

    Avoid overclocking. Overclocking basically involves raising the processor’s base clock rate to achieve more efficient operation within the confines of safe temperatures. However, excessive overclocking can severely damage processors & it can often make it not function properly if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    Unpark your Cores.

    Make sure your GPU isn’t bottlenecking your CPU.

    Why do some apps use too much CPU?

    There are several reasons why a program may require extra computing power beyond what the CPU provides. Some examples of such cases include:

    Running intensive background services like antivirus software or backup utilities

    Heavy resource-intensive foreground processes running concurrently

    High network traffic due to downloading updates or uploading files

    Large databases/tables being queried

    Complex algorithms requiring long periods of calculation

    Having numerous threads operating simultaneously

    Hopefully, you learned a thing or two today about what causes low CPU usage in games and what steps you can take to address it.