Incredibly high cpu usage on old rig

demonslayer157

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Nov 8, 2017
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Greetings, so I have a rather long and boring story on how I ended up in this situation, but long story short, I'm running off primarily 11 year old parts and trying to gradually frankenstein the thing into something functional.

My old budget gaming laptop's motherboard quit on me a few weeks ago and I've had to put together a desktop from old parts from my basement a friends old build. Anyways after getting everything fairly well in order I've been attempting to play some fairly low impact games (dungeon defenders 2, Alien swarm, Modern warfare 2) and have been barely able to run them, even on close to the lowest settings and resolutions. Through task manager I can see that my CPU usage is always running at 99-100% with a game open. I concluded that the Core 2 Duo 2.13Ghz processor I was running simply wasn't cutting it so I ordered a used Pentium D 940, running at 3.20 Ghz with a 4MB cache from ebay (one of the best my old motherboard can support), dropped it in yesterday only to have nearly the exact same issues. Not only that but I'm noticing that my CPU is hovering around 70-100% even with little load on it (maybe 4-5 firefox tabs, discord and steam minimized in the background). In addition, what's running up my usage fluxuates all the time, it isnt any one thing it seems. Sometimes discord can spike up to 60%, other times a windows process will push it up, sometimes its a combination of multiple things. Either way I'm confused as I'd imagine a 3.2ghz dual core processor should atleast be able to handle regular browsing and such without being pushed to its absolute limits shouldn't it? Could it be that my motherboard simply can't support any reasonable speeds?

I've done alot of looking around and tried numerous things, updating/ reinstalling drivers, making sure both cores are enabled, malwarebytes/avast scans, messing with BIOS settings, etc etc etc

Any help or ideas at all would be wonderful, I've been fighting with this since thismorning and am about out of patience. I've been trying to avoid a motherboard upgrade as I don't have a windows installation disk or anything and really don't have the money for anything much better (hence the gear I'm stuck with atm)

Thanks in advance

PC:

Intel Pentium D 940 3.20GHz
Nvidea GT640
6GB of ram (more coming)
Relitivley young HDD (transferred from laptop)
p5lp-LE leonite Motherboard (ouch I know)
EVGA 500W Power supply
 
Core 2 is 3x as fast per clock as Pentium 4 in Java. So a Core 2 Duo at 2.13GHz is as fast as a dual-core Pentium 4 running at 6.4GHz, and your "upgrade" has essentially cut performance in half, at least for rendering modern webpages full of Java. It's actually worse than it sounds, because the secret to Pentium 4's performance was compiler optimizations, and nothing has been optimized for Pentium 4 in many years now so there are some things P4 will be very bad at today.

As an aside, Coffee Lake turned out to not have the promised 15% improvement in IPC so even it is not 3x faster than Core 2. So the jump between P4 in 2005 and Core 2 in 2006 was simply massive and we have not seen such a jump in all the years since then. Although we may begin to see improvement now that AMD is competitive again.

P4 is actually about as fast as those Atom or newer ARM chips in tablets, routers and netbooks, though it uses ~20x the power. Those have special hardware to offload many tasks from the CPU though, and while you can add a modern-ish GPU to a desktop to do the same, that's obviously not possible on a laptop so everything must be decoded in software on the poor CPU. Your desktop GT640 has VDPAU feature set D so can for example even fully hardware-accelerate 4k H.264 videos, something that would otherwise be impossible to play on a P4.

Windowsupdate does peg one core at 100% but it's not so bad with dual-cores, just slow. Windows 7 was broken for quite a long time with updates taking 100% CPU for 6-8 hours on such slow machines, and at the time I thought Microsoft was just trying to annoy people into upgrading to 10 (which was not possible without XD/NX-bit anyway). I am actually delighted now to only have to download the monthly Security Only Quality Update instead.

BTW the fastest supported processor for that HP board is the Core 2 Duo E6700 at 2.67GHz. I have a laptop with a 2.6GHz Core 2 and it's really not bad in either 64-bit Windows 10 or 7.

 

DigitalHamster

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Nov 10, 2016
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This may sound stupid but have you tried leaving your computer on to idle overnight?

If you have a new install of Windows 10, or especially Windows 7, they will run an update checker that uses a literal ton of CPU usage (Usually single threaded, but when I reinstalled Win 7 on a core2duo laptop, it was maxed out for ages).

I know it sounds silly but I suspect this is the problem. If you can't run overnight, see if you can leave it idle for a good few hours and check back to see how it is getting on. I recommend keeping task manager open in the background so you can see CPU usage if you are around.
 

demonslayer157

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Nov 8, 2017
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I have left my pc overnight atlest a few times in the last week or so, and it's not a particularly new install of windows, I've had it around a month I think. I do have tragically slow internet however so it would make sense if that would take a while, is that something I'd be able to see by checking windows updates in the control panel?

 

DigitalHamster

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Nov 10, 2016
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No, the internet speed shouldn't make a difference, that will just effect how long it takes to download the updates.

I am currently using an old laptop which has a core2duo 2.2GHz, and yes, it really does have all the processing power of half a potato.
What I see on an hourly basis is what you have described - webpages eating 50% of the CPU, games using 100% CPU and generally being slow and terrible. (I will be getting my desktop delivered this week, actually!)

One thing I did notice was that you said you were using malwarebytes and avast. Please make sure only one is installed at a time. Basically, only run one antivirus at once, otherwise they can conflict with each other.

So, the Pentium D should be a bit faster, but is still massively underpowered.
I don't think there is much you can do :(
 

demonslayer157

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Nov 8, 2017
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Congrats on your desktop, hope all goes well with that

And yes as far as the conflicting antivirus I usually only use avast for realtime protection and pull out malwarebytes for a full computer scan every now and then, but don't typically have it running.

So you think it really is simply a problem of the CPU being too outdated?

I suppose the next step at that point would be upgrading motherboards to something that can support something newer.. Really a shame as I don't think i'll be able to find the money for that anytime soon :/

 

DigitalHamster

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Nov 10, 2016
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My desktop is at home and I am just getting it taken over to my university residence :) That's why I am stuck with this laptop for now!

Ok, so CPU stuff, yep, I just reread what you wrote and you are almost exactly in the same boat as me - steam, discord and a few firefox tabs open, and CPU usage is above 50%.
One thing you should definitely try is Firefox Quantum which is what I am using. That's why my CPU usage is at 50%, no 90% :D

Two things you could try if you are feeling keen:
1) Try a dual boot with Linux Mint - it is very lightweight and runs pretty well, aside from some menu lag but that's normal. Boot into windows when you need it, boot into Linux when you don't. But booting can be slow so I can understand if you aren't so keen.
2) Overclocking. I have no idea if the motherboard even supports this, but it seems the CPU may be unlocked. I would expect you can get it a bit faster quite easily.

My conclusion: Massively outdated CPU, its basically a potato. It isn't your fault, it's just the way it is.

P.S. My CPU usage just dropped to 10%, not sure why...
 

demonslayer157

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Nov 8, 2017
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My bad i didn't see your response earlier, anyways I'm glad to at least have some proof that its just my old cpu and not some other problem i can't figure out

I'm trying a different hdd with windows 8 installed on it, seems to be running a little cleaner than 10 which is what i was on.

anyways thanks for all your help I really appreciate it :) best of luck in your endeavors
 
Core 2 is 3x as fast per clock as Pentium 4 in Java. So a Core 2 Duo at 2.13GHz is as fast as a dual-core Pentium 4 running at 6.4GHz, and your "upgrade" has essentially cut performance in half, at least for rendering modern webpages full of Java. It's actually worse than it sounds, because the secret to Pentium 4's performance was compiler optimizations, and nothing has been optimized for Pentium 4 in many years now so there are some things P4 will be very bad at today.

As an aside, Coffee Lake turned out to not have the promised 15% improvement in IPC so even it is not 3x faster than Core 2. So the jump between P4 in 2005 and Core 2 in 2006 was simply massive and we have not seen such a jump in all the years since then. Although we may begin to see improvement now that AMD is competitive again.

P4 is actually about as fast as those Atom or newer ARM chips in tablets, routers and netbooks, though it uses ~20x the power. Those have special hardware to offload many tasks from the CPU though, and while you can add a modern-ish GPU to a desktop to do the same, that's obviously not possible on a laptop so everything must be decoded in software on the poor CPU. Your desktop GT640 has VDPAU feature set D so can for example even fully hardware-accelerate 4k H.264 videos, something that would otherwise be impossible to play on a P4.

Windowsupdate does peg one core at 100% but it's not so bad with dual-cores, just slow. Windows 7 was broken for quite a long time with updates taking 100% CPU for 6-8 hours on such slow machines, and at the time I thought Microsoft was just trying to annoy people into upgrading to 10 (which was not possible without XD/NX-bit anyway). I am actually delighted now to only have to download the monthly Security Only Quality Update instead.

BTW the fastest supported processor for that HP board is the Core 2 Duo E6700 at 2.67GHz. I have a laptop with a 2.6GHz Core 2 and it's really not bad in either 64-bit Windows 10 or 7.

 

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