Why is Your CPU Underperforming? (16 Reasons & Fixes)

By Dominic Chooper on May 19, 2022

What are the reasons why your CPU is underperforming? The CPU of your computer will not perform at the same level year after year. It will tend to slow down or underperform for sure and there are several reasons for it to happen.

If you are not aware of these reasons you will be left wondering why and have to bear with the underperforming processor.

Here is an article that will let you know the reasons and take necessary actions to save you from such annoyances, sometimes without even having to replace the processor with a new one.


16 Reasons Why CPU is Underperforming

Why is Your CPU Underperforming

1. Multiple Start-up Programs

There are several programs that will start automatically when you power on your computer unless you manually disable them from running at start-up.

A large majority of these programs, not including anti-virus software, need not run at start-up, as they can be opened if and when needed.

When multiple programs run simultaneously, the CPUs processing power is divided among each one of these programs.

This causes the CPU to slow down and underperform.

Without doing much you can instantly find out if you have multiple programs running at start-up by simply observing how long your computer takes to boot up and display the home screen.

Keep in mind that starting up is a fairly quick process when only a few programs run at start-up.

You may wonder how you ended up with so many start-up programs.

What you may not have realized is that some newly downloaded programs will try to sneakily get enabled to start at start-up.

This is precisely why you must manually uncheck the permission to ‘Begin at start-up’, while installing any new programs.

CPU underperformance will be even worse if you have an older device, as its ability to multitask isn’t as great as new computers.


Use the Task Manager to first access the Start-up tab and then manually disable such programs.

Leave only vital programs like an anti-virus software enabled to run at start-up.

2. Outdated Software

If your computer isn’t functioning optimally it may be because the programs, device drivers and OS i.e. Operating Systems are not up-to-date.

By running the latest version of programs, device drivers and OS you will never have to face any underperformance issues whatsoever.

This is because your CPU will no longer struggle with buggy software that has missing parts and limited features.


On a regular basis install updates for every program you use. Doing so will allow your CPU to function optimally and help boost your efficiency and productivity.

3. Too Many Browser Tabs & Add-ons

The more browser tabs you open, the more RAM they take up, as new tabs are saved in RAM.

This habit will cause serious problems if you ever have limited RAM and the programs you actually need to run will be unable to operate optimally or at all because all the extra tabs will cause significant slowdown.

When you have multiple tabs open you may not even realize that some of them might be auto-refreshing and unnecessarily using up more resources & RAM.

Also, beware of installing too many or unnecessary browser extensions as they too utilize processing power and negatively impact performance.

Furthermore, some browser adware are disguised as useful extensions but in reality all they do is push ads by downloading them and displaying them as pop ups when you open your browser.


Review all your open tabs, bookmark any sites that you may have to frequently refer to and close all tabs.

This decluttering will also help you focus better as you will be compelled to concentrate on one tab and one thought at a time.

Additionally, you can install an add-on like One-Note to compile multiple open tabs into one list in just one tab.

Then you can access these websites very easily whenever needed.

Remember to only keep the extensions and add-ons that you use frequently and remove or disable all the extensions and toolbars that you never actually use.

Since, you can easily reinstall any extension/toolbar that you will only need once in a while.

4. Low Power Mode

Low power mode, as the name suggests, uses less power and hence, can make your computer much more energy efficient and help save battery life in laptops.

However, that is because in low power settings, CPU and all computer peripherals have limited access to power.

Hence, the CPU has no other choice but to underperform in lower power settings.


Maximizing performance in computers is made possible and quite easy by creating a custom power plan.

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If your computer lets you tweak the speed of its components you will see three options, Balanced, Power Saver and High Performance.

At this point you must choose High Performance and give this power plan any name you like.

Then you will be given an option to choose your preferred power plan and you must choose the new plan that you just created.

These settings will automatically optimize your computer’s performance because you created your new plan based on ‘High Performance’ settings.

A few windows laptops also provide an option to change the power settings in order to optimize performance.

You can access the ‘Create a Power Plan’ option from the Control Panel.

5. Not Restarting Enough

Putting your computer in sleep mode is definitely better than leaving it running even when you are not actively using it.

However, it is not enough and hence your device must be powered off and then powered back on at regular intervals.

Manually closing all programs followed by shutting down your computer frequently is a must.

There are several benefits of regularly doing so that many computer users tend to overlook in order to save a minute or two that may go into rebooting their devices.

Shutting down your computer not only gives your CPU and other peripherals a little break, but it also deletes the memory cache, which helps your computer operate in a much faster and responsive manner.

If it has been a while since you completely shut down your computer it is time for you to manually power it down.

Since, computers were never designed to run for hours or days on end.

Most computer users rarely open the Activity Monitor or Task Manager to manually end programs that are not being used but are still running in the background.

Since they continue to consume the CPU’s processing power they slow it down and cause underperformance.


Every day after you are done working on your computer you must shut it down and power it back on only when you need to.

Restarting is an easy, quick and effective way to get rid of the background programs and programs that get hung due to a variety of reasons.

In simplest terms, restarting your computer is like flushing out everything that is unnecessary so you can start your work every day on a clean slate, without problematic programs taking up resources and causing your CPU to underperform.

Additionally, frequent restarting is a must so that all important system updates can be applied and CPU performance can remain optimal.

6. Hardware Failure

Your CPU’s underperformance may be caused by its gradual failing, as it may be at the very end of its lifespan.

It is also possible that another computer component is failing and the slowing down has nothing to do with the CPU itself.

The gradual fading of the CPU, RAM, hard drive, GPU etc. may not become instantly apparent, as initially it is quite difficult to determine exactly which computer component is failing or malfunctioning.


Upgrade to the latest new and improved hardware components based on your needs and budget.

If upgrading does not fully resolve the underperformance issues you may have to invest in a brand-new computer.

7. Too Many Programs Together

Sometimes CPU underperformance has more to do with how we use our computers than it does with the computer itself.

If you run several programs simultaneously thinking minimizing other apps while working on one won’t cause any issues, you might unknowingly be causing your CPU to underperform.

Yes, we own and use computers for education, entertainment and to accomplish a variety of our daily tasks and responsibilities.

However, just as we struggle while multitasking, our computers are also unable to handle extreme multitasking efficiently.

A computer’s multitasking capabilities also rely on its RAM i.e.

Random Access Memory, which lets it swiftly switch from one program to another.

A significant slowdown occurs when one among the several programs being run is demanding, and memory and processing power intensive.

Even when programs are minimized and running in the background they are actively utilizing processing power.

Hence, the more programs you run at once, the slower your computer will run as a whole.


Open Task Manager and look into just how much processing power each program is utilizing while they run in the background.

This information will make your decision much easier as you will instantly know which programs to close right away and which programs can be run in the background without any slowdown issues.

8. Poor Power Supply

Inadequate power supply to the CPU might also result in underperformance.

Initially you may notice minor issues such as graphical downgrades but gradually you may experience extreme issues, like not even being able to power on your CPU.

The root cause may be a faulty or failing PSU i.e. Power Supply Unit that is unable to supply enough power for your CPU to function optimally.


CPU underperformance caused by inadequate power supply is extremely easy to fix.

Buy and use a PSU that provides a 600-watt or 650-watt output.

Not only will this supply more than enough power but it will also ensure that your CPU performs optimally if and when you upgrade to the latest hardware and software.

9. Virus & Malware

Virus and malware are malicious software that are a threat to a computer’s wellbeing and our privacy.

They are designed and spread by hackers to corrupt files and programs of a computer and/or local network in order to take control of the device and steal personal data.

Computer viruses and malware disrupt systems, create operational and data loss issues and ultimately result in data leakage.

As they slowly wreak havoc on our systems they cause the CPU to drastically underperform.

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Determining if your computer has been infected is fairly straightforward even when you do not have an antivirus and antimalware software installed.

If you notice random ads popping up, programs opening and closing on their own, your browser redirecting to phishing and advertising websites or a complete system crash, your device has most likely been infected.


Install a trusted up-to-date antivirus software and anti-malware software and regularly scan your computer for viruses and malware.

If and when this software detects an infected file or program you must delete whatever has been infected.

Doing so will safeguard your computer and the rest of your files and programs against these destructive threats.

In addition, you must avoid visiting websites that your browser is trying to warn against.

Also, never open sketchy emails from people you may not know and avoid downloading suspicious programs.

Furthermore, always run an antivirus scan on external USB devices before opening them on your computer.

By following these simple steps, you can not only avoid such threats but also ensure that your CPU is not forced to underperform.

10. Overactive Antivirus Program

As explained above, to safeguard your CPU against external threats you must install and regularly run reliable antivirus and anti-malware software, as they are essential to maintaining good computer hygiene.

However, if your antivirus is actively running at all times and running frequent scans in the background, your CPU will start to slow down as a result of the antivirus program and its constant functioning.

Since, a full system scan can even take multiple hours to complete.


Adjust your antivirus software’s settings. Instead of scanning daily you can set your antivirus program to run scans at weekly intervals, as this will not only keep your CPU safe against virus threats but will not slow it down by constantly consuming processing power.

Keep in mind, this feature may not be available in free antivirus software.

You may want to upgrade to the paid version, as it offers better safety and customization features.

11. Hard Drive is Almost Completely Full

You may have experienced CPU underperformance issues way before your hard drive became almost completely full.

In fact, if your hard drive is 95% full your CPU has slowed down by a whopping 50%.

This means that there is no more room to save temporary files that are needed to smoothly run other programs.

Moreover, this leaves the OS i.e. Operating System unable to function correctly.

Hardware space is filled up mostly by programs, their updates, downloads, temporary files and files associated with programs that have already been deleted.

Fortunately, this means that a substantial amount of hard drive space can be cleared up simply by deleting these files.

If you suspect that your CPUs underperformance is linked to your hard drive being almost completely full, you probably are right, as you may not have deleted files you no longer need and use.

You can check exactly how much of your hard drive is full to determine how it is having a negative effect on your CPU.


Get rid of unused programs, unnecessary files, temporary files, outdated downloads and everything else that you know you simply do not need and will never use again.

Uninstall any bloatware that was pre-installed when you purchased your device.

Beware of keeping too many backup versions, as restore points and system backups occupy a considerable amount of space.

Also, multiple backup versions are completely unnecessary, which is why they must be deleted right away.

Files and data can be moved to a trusted cloud storage service in order to free up space and keep important files safe.

Essential files and programs can also be transferred to an external hard disk drive.

You can run Disk Cleanup or CCleaner to delete completely unnecessary temp files that are created by browsers and stored on the hard drive.

12. Running out of Memory

If your CPU is underperforming even after you have freed up plenty of space in your hard drive, it may be time for you to add more RAM or upgrade to a brand-new RAM.

Your computer may be running out of memory because you are using multiple graphics and memory intensive programs regularly.

You may also be running out of memory if your CPU is older and never had much RAM to begin with.

Most computer users these days find that an 8 GB RAM is more than enough for uses related to work, entertainment and some gaming.

However, if you enjoy gaming and must run several memory-intensive programs simultaneously for your work, you definitely need more than 8 GB of RAM.

For instance, if you need to run a video or photo editing software, both of which take up quite a lot of memory, an 8 GB RAM might be insufficient for you.

Additionally, an entry or mid-level device with limited RAM will also remain incompatible with your uses.


You must first make sure whether or not CPU underperformance is being caused by lack of memory because if you have sufficient RAM suited to your uses, you will not benefit much by upgrading it.

If the RAM is in fact causing slowdowns you will have to either add more RAM or upgrade to a completely new one.

Luckily, upgrading the RAM is affordable and easy to do.

13. Overheating

It is completely normal for electronic devices to heat up slightly while they are in use.

Mild generation of heat is not an issue, especially when CPUs have internal fans to provide cooling.

Performance problems begin when a layer of dust coats the components of your CPU, as this layer does not let heat escape easily.

This trapped heat then begins to first cause underperformance issues and then gradually leads to hardware damage.

Dust makes it harder for the fan to spin freely and cool all components adequately.

This is precisely why you must ensure that there is no build-up of dust and debris on the CPU casing or inside.


To ensure adequate ventilation and quick cooling you must clean the CPU thoroughly using a compressed air can, a microfiber cloth and a vacuum cleaner if needed.

Additionally, you must keep your computer’s surroundings clean so that there is minimal dust around.

Also, to ensure quick cooling you can install additional fans on the CPU chassis or place and use your computer in a clean air-conditioned room at all times.

14. Too Many Graphics and Animations

Its boils down to personal preference when choosing between performance and appearance.

Having interactive graphics, transitions and animations displayed while using our devices improves the overall aesthetics and makes user experience much more enjoyable.

However, these visual effects take a toll on processing power and cause the CPU to slow down.

Hence, with regular use of these effects, underperformance issues might become more noticeable.

If your GPU or graphics card has 1 GB RAM these visual effects will not slow down performance.

However, if your GPU has RAM less than 1 GB you will notice the slowdown associated with use of the visual effects.


The solution to underperformance being triggered by excessive visual effects is extremely straightforward.

By simply turning off or even adjusting visual effects, you will be able to boost performance, even more so in older CPUs.

15. Failing Hard Drive

Every electronic device and components within it, have a limited lifespan.

The same applies to hard drives that have moving parts, which are required to spin thousands of times every single day.

This is why they wear down and sometimes even get badly damaged.

Hard drives work efficiently for around three years after which their gradual deterioration and consequent slowing down begins.

Your CPU could be having a hard time accessing and reading the data stored on your hard drive because the hard drive is failing.

However, initially it may just seem like your CPU is underperforming.

With wear and tear a common problem that occurs in hard drives is disk fragmentation, which refers to the fragmentation of a file.

As old files are deleted from the drive and newer ones are created, they tend to fragment and exist in several places, not as a whole but as pieces.

Hence, when a file is opened the CPU is tasked with locating, piecing together and then reading the file to open it.

Disk fragmentation can be mistaken as a CPU’s underperformance because reading and opening fragmented files takes much longer than opening other files.


Upgrade to an SSD i.e. Solid State Drive, as it is significantly faster than a Hard Disk Drive and has no moving parts and hence is not prone to much wear and tear.

SSDs can last close to a decade when used and maintained responsibly.

Computers with SSDs boot up in under 20 seconds whereas computers with HDDs take a few minutes to power on.

However, before you upgrade you must also consider that SSDs are more expensive when compared to HDDs.

Additionally, run Disk Cleanup to get rid of all the unnecessary program files, browser cache files and temporary files which may be filling up your computer’s hard drive.

Also, run disk defragmenter so that all files scattered across the drive can be pieced back together and organized.

This will make your CPU’s tasks easier, as it will become easier to quickly access and read data.

Once your hard disk drive is functioning optimally you can expect your CPU to do the same as well.

After all, its processing powers will be restored.

16. Illegal Cryptomining

If your CPU has been dramatically underperforming and your electricity bill has skyrocketed all of a sudden, it is very likely that your computer is being used by cryptominers to illegally mine crypto currencies.

Sketchy websites may have a code that allows them to use your CPU’s processing power in order to mine crypto currencies for as long as the site remains open in your browser.

This crypto mining technique is carried out using a browser extension.

A more intense and destructive illegal mining technique is called cryptojacking that is executed by a malware which gets discreetly downloaded to your computer and begins to mine intensely.


An easy and quick fix is to shut down the browser you suspect is being used for illegal crypto currency mining.

Next, you must determine if you mistakenly downloaded cryptojacking malware.

Close all programs you may have running before taking a look at the Task Manager or Activity Monitor to see exactly what is using processing power and causing underperformance when no other programs are actively running.

Then, run your antivirus and anti-malware software to detect and remove any cryptojacking malware that has been wreaking havoc on your system.

In addition, you must install a reliable anti-crypto mining extension in your browser to block cryptominers.


We would be unable to lead productive and enjoyable lives without our computers and their brains, their CPUs. Hence, it is our responsibility to consistently use our devices responsibly.

Since your CPU has started to underperform you must focus on first identifying the reasons why it is underperforming.

Once you have narrowed down the possible reasons you must use the list above to troubleshoot and restore your CPU’s speed and efficiency.