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Diagnosing the cause of a busy CPU

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 8/30/2020 By Jay Lee, Contributor
an open laptop computer sitting on top of a table: Microsoft's Surface Go is a thin, light Windows 10 PC that doubles as a tablet and a laptop. © Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface Go is a thin, light Windows 10 PC that doubles as a tablet and a laptop.

Q: I have a Windows 10 computer. When I check my Task Manager, there is a process named WMI Provider Host that takes a lot of the CPU. After a reboot, it usually takes a few days for the CPU percentage to ramp up, but eventually WMI Provider Host will constantly take 25 percent to 30 percent of the CPU and this really hurts performance. I did a web search on this process but did not find anything useful. Do you have any suggestions other than rebooting every few days?

A: WMI Provider is a process that is integral to the Windows operating system and is how other software applications communicate with your with your computer to query the current state and available resources.

Typically, this process does not consume a lot of system resources, so what you are seeing may indicate an underlying problem. Most likely a faulty piece of software installed on your PC.

Unfortunately, finding the cause will take a little sleuthing and requires accessing some functionality in the Windows operating system that the average computer user rarely, if ever, uses: the Event Viewer.

The Event Viewer is used by Windows to keep track of system events like hardware and software errors as well as myriad other data.

To access the Event Viewer, click on the Search icon in the Taskbar and type Event Viewer and then click on the app when it appears.

When it opens, look in the left column and expand the section under Applications and Service Logs and then Microsoft and then Windows and you will see WMI-Activity. Now select Operational and you will see a log of all the events surrounding WMI Provider.

You can sort on just the errors and if you look at each error you will see something called ClientProcessID = followed by a number. This is known as the PID. The PID can then be checked in the Task Manager under the Details tab to see what application is associated with it and from there you might be able to determine which application is causing the problem.

It can be daunting, as the information provided may seem very esoteric to the uninitiated, a reason most people never venture to this corner of their operating system.

This is why many I.T. people will simply ask you if you turned the computer off and on again as the reboot generally resets things until the next time the errors pile up and the computer starts to act up.

It is also why uninstalling your apps and even reloading the computer software can make an old PC feel new again.

If you want to learn more about the Event Viewer there’s a good How To Geek article at tinyurl.com/helplineeventviewer which explains some of this in greater detail.

helpline@chron.com

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