Central processor unit (CPU) spikes in personal computers can be caused by a number of factors, such as excessive and continual usage, inadequate power supply, or improper cooling. Heavy software applications and running many programs at once can also cause spikes. Another common cause is viruses, which tend to take up all the available CPU resources, resulting in system instability and spikes.
A CPU spike is a sudden increase in processor utilization, which can cause temporary or permanent damage to the CPU and motherboard. Spikes can be caused by the simultaneous running of applications that use a large amount of resources and RAM. High-graphic games running along with multiple programs, such as music players, web browsers, and email clients, can cause the CPU core to heat up, hampering its performance. Programs tend to lag when this state continues for a prolonged period, as not enough resources can be allocated to them.
In newer versions of Microsoft Windows®, the CPU monitor in the task manager enables users to check the degree of CPU utilization. Percentages and graphs of the usage of standalone and system programs can be monitored. This will give a fair idea of whether the CPU is being over-utilized and can help pinpoint which applications are causing spikes. The user can control which tasks he or she wants to keep running, and terminate high CPU consuming tasks.
Virus attacks are another common cause for CPU spikes. A virus can take up all of the PC's RAM and CPU resources, causing the computer to be unresponsive for long periods. Some viruses automatically open multiple programs simultaneously; this also considerably strains the CPU. Installing an updated antivirus program and running it regularly can help avoid spikes due to virus attacks.
Computers that have been continually used for more than 12 hours without being shut down or placed in hibernation mode can decrease in performance due to overheating of the motherboard. Besides regularly shutting down the computer, one tactic to avoiding spikes is upgrading the PC's CPU and RAM. Upgrading the fan in fan-cooled CPUs, or installing a CPU heat sink for heat dissipation, can also improve system performance, reducing the strain on the cores.
Software optimization is also useful for avoiding CPU spikes. Regular runs of the Disk Cleanup wizard can delete unused files from the cache, freeing up space for new programs. CPU optimizers, whether standalone or bundled software packages, can maintain healthy CPU levels and automatically terminate non-responsive programs and those that require a high amount of resources.