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Mysterious CPU usage in the middle of the night isn't all that mysterious. There are a number of things that are automatically configured to run when you might be sleeping.
I have an ALIENWARE M17x Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU Laptop with Windows7 Ultimate SP1, I use this computer almost 18 hrs a day. My weird problem is that almost between 12 to 2 o'clock in the morning, the system slows down rapidly and sometimes it hangs up. It seems like it's loading the CPU because the CPU usage meter reads almost 96%. This condition happens almost every day. Although only Yahoo or Skype are open. I really don't know why it happens. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have.
In this excerpt from Answercast #38, I look at a high CPU usage in the middle of the night that, honestly, doesn't surprise me.
Yea, I've got a couple of thoughts actually.
I mean, a few minutes before midnight, fire that thing up. Have the display sorted by CPU usage (you can see how to do that in my article, "How do I find out who's hogging all the CPU?")
That will show you in real time which applications or which files are actually using all of the CPU. You can then immediately identify who it is that's slowing your machine down so dramatically.
Now, without that information even, I still have a couple of really good guesses.
Between midnight and two o'clock in the morning. I'm willing to bet that:
Your anti-malware tools are starting up a scan;
And/or Windows is automatically firing up a defrag of the hard disk;
Or some other task that Windows plans to do for maintenance is scheduled to start up automatically between midnight and two o'clock in the morning.
The easiest way, honestly, to find out exactly what's happening is using Process Explorer, like I explained a moment ago.
But if you're really curious, you could go into the Task Manager.
If you take a look at Control Panel, you'll find that there's an Administrative tools section and there is the Task Scheduler.
If you poke around in there a little bit, I'll think you'll find that there are a number of scheduled tasks that Windows has prepared for you.
My guess is that you will find your anti-malware tools there as well.
Perhaps your backup program, if you're running one.
Perhaps Windows own defragger, or other maintenance utility, is firing up automatically as well.
If those turn out to be the problem, then you have a couple of options.
The biggest option you have is to:
Simply change the schedule at which those things are happening.
Stagger them a little bit better so that they're not all trying to start at once.
Or if they have options to be run in a less impactful way (as some of the anti-malware tools often do), change the way that they're configured to run.
All of it depends on exactly what it is that's firing up between twelve and two. And like I said, Process Explorer is the way to find out what it is: since you happen to be awake and at the computer during the time it's happening.
Next from Answercast 38 – Will Windows 8 overwrite my system restore partition, and if so how do I restore?
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