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What causes taskmgr.exe to take up 25-30% of my CPU for a long time after I heavily loaded my Business Vista computer?

Posted on 2009-07-14
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
I have a Dell Latitude D630 with 2.0GB of Ram.  It runs just fine most of the time.  When I run a lot of resource intensive programs at once (camtasia, Word 2007 with a large document, several IE instances) the performance deteriorates and taskmgr takes up more and more CPU until the machine is pretty unresponsive and taskmgr is consistently taking up 30% or more of the CPU.  When I close all programs taskmgr still takes up 25 -20% CPU.  If I wait long enough (sometimes a couple hours!) everything returns to normal with 99% idle CPU.  If I restart the computer before taskmgr.exe has settled out, it goes through this settling out process when the computer restarts and eventually the computer performs weel with idle at 99% if no program running.

What could be causing this behaviour and how do I fix it?
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Question by:jsgreiner
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by:samenglish
ID: 24855657
What's your CPU?
I would suggest Windows 7 or back to XP... Vista is slow on the best machines.
When you think the PC should be idle (but you suspect it isn't), open task manager and have a look at the processes tab... sort the list by CPU time by clicking on that column heading. That way, you'll see which process is taking up your CPU, it may be valid or not, but you might want to identify it first.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 24855696
With respect, I disagree entirely with the assertion that Vista is slow on the best of machines. It runs like greased lightning on my Thinkpad T61p. Fastest machine I have ever owned.

I think (to the OP) you might find 2Gb of memory is just not enough. Certainly go to 3Gb and see if you can go to 4Gb. Memory will help out for sure. I noticed the difference going from 3 to 4Gb on my own machine. I think what you are seeing by waiting is memory being released

Also do a disk cleanup. Word may be leaving behind temporary files. So run disk cleanup and then defragrment your PC.

I do agree with samenglish's suggestion to review the processes in Task Manager to see if anything pops out.
.. Thinkpads_User
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by:jsgreiner
ID: 24855705
I have had Vista for 2 years on this computer and it has behaved quite well.  This behaviour I am describing is pretty recent.  I want to stay with Vista for now.  When I sort by CPU I see
System Idle 70
Taskmgr 25
Outlook 2
sometimes explorer 2
sometimes iexplorer pops in if I am using it.
sometimes svchost (one or two instances) pops in with 5 to 15
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by:jsgreiner
ID: 24855715
If it is a memory issue, why would the problem take so long to resolve itself after closing all programs?  
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by:John Hurst
ID: 24855739
Did your PC download and install SP2? Is it current on patces?  Service packs and patches are starting to have a bad habit of outrunning memory. That is one possible reason.

You have not yet commented on temporary files and disk cleanup. That is another thing that consumes memory (while dealing with all the temporary files). Also as noted, fragmentation can cause issues.

So there are legitimate reasons why this could happen.

Then, there is always the chance of a virus or other malware, so certainly also do an in depth scan
... Thinkpads_User
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by:samenglish
ID: 24855919
Sorry thinkpads_user....Ok, I exagerated with "best machines"... but my point was...
In the industry, hardware always leads software. Better hardware is available before the software that can take advantage of its capabilities. That's if cost is irrelevant to you. However, if you're an average computer user trying to find value for your money, you're going to be left with hardware that barely manages to keep up with your operating system's grandoise vision of usability. The answer is to hang back a couple of years with software, while still remaining relatively up-to-date with hardware. That way you'll always have a machine that can adequately deal with your ambitious operating system.
If 2GB is not enough for Vista, then that in itself is an admission of its poor responsiveness if used with your average up-to-date pc hardware. I'm sure 4GB is available to buy, but it's rarely presented as a standard. I have heard many people say that Vista is too slow, why? because they are average users who have average budgets and nobody thought they'd need 4GB to surf the internet and download a couple of files here and there. Evidently, this is a valid point since Microsoft's Windows 7 is much more responsive and far less ambitious than Vista... Sam.
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by:jsgreiner
ID: 24856036
I routinely delete files from my temp folder and occassionally get rid of cookies.
I defrag once a week and have 20GB free on a 120 GB drive.
I have NOD 32 running all the time for anti virus protection.  Windows definder is on my computer and runs a scan once a week.  Spybot S&D is on my computer but never finds anything significant becasue the other two programs stop the bad guys.
I do keep Vista updated with Microsoft Update so it does have SP2 and all the current patches.
I doubt that I have any viruses or malware, but will run a scan with each of the three programs mentioned above and let you know what happens.

What is taskmgr.exe doing when it takes so long for the computer to get back to mostly idle time after being heavily loaded?  
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by:John Hurst
ID: 24858283
In my experience, Task Manager is a symptom and not a cause. I have not seen Task Manager on its own cause performance problems.

You say your PC is running most properly, that it has no viruses, and that you are trying to run many things at once (first post).  All of those jobs take memory, and it takes time for memory to release when you close one or more of them (I see this on older, low memory machines all the time).

So I would have two conclusions from this:
1. In my own opinion, 2Gb is not enough memory for Vista SP2.
2. However, if you feel it is adequate for you, and everything else is OK, you might have to consider saving off your documents and reinstalling Vista. It happens to the best of us.
... Thinkpads_User
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jsgreiner earned 0 total points
ID: 24860229
I ran some hardware diagnostics with the Dell Technician and they are going to replace my mother board, CPU, and heat sink based on the test results.

It failed a memory test and took a very long time to run the tests.  It is also no longer able to support my high resolution monitor.

Thanks to all of you for your input.  In this case it looks like flakey hardware getting flakier all thee time!

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