Sometimes you'll be using your PC and suddenly notice it feels
sluggish, for no apparent reason. It's the type of situation where
you're clicking on things and doing your normal Windowsing, but for
whatever reason your PC is not as responsive as it usually is.
You're not doing anything intense like encoding video, so why is
your PC chugging along all of a sudden? The truth is, Windows 10
PCs have a zillion different processes running in the background
all the time, which take up both CPU bandwidth and system memory,
so when your PC begins to lag, you want to know what is taxing your
Check resource usage
in Task Manager
To begin your investigation, start with the Task Manager—a handy
tool built into Windows that shows you myriad stats, specs, running
programs, and a lot more.
In order to open the Task Manager, there are two keyboard
- Ctrl + Shift + Escape
- Ctrl + Alt + Delete, and then click Task
Manager from the options presented.
Additionally, you can find the Task Manager via the Start Menu
or the Taskbar:
- Right-click the Windows button, select Task
- Right-click on the Taskbar and select Task
Once you've opened the Task Manager, donned a pair or rubber
gloves, and leaned in a bit to get a closer look at the evidence,
it's time to begin sleuthing.
You'll want to pay close attention to those first two vertical
columns: CPU and Memory. If you click either
column header, the list of running processes will sort in order of
resources used—from most to least, or vice versa.
For example, say that you notice the Memory column is
registering 30 percent usage. Clicking the top of the column ranks
processes from most to least RAM hungry, and by golly, Google
Chrome is at the top of the list! We would have never expected to
see that, and that's sarcasm, by the way.
In this particular scenario we don't mind if Chrome devours 1GB
of our system memory, since we have 32GB total, but if that was a
problem for you, you can just right-click the memory-muncher in
question and select End Task.
If that's too much effort, Windows will automatically highlight
programs that are taking up excessive resources. Colored flags,
such as yellow, orange, and red, indicate the relative severity of
the resource consumption. Mind you, using even excessive resources
isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you are intentionally running
The Task Manager makes it easy to see what's going on so you can
make those determinations. Sometimes Windows will run various
processes intermittently to index files or perform system checks
and interrupts, which can cause unexpected slowdowns. If you find a
program hogging resources, but you don't have the option to simply
End Task, you can always reboot your system, and then
check Task Manager to see if it's still running.
Create a floating CPU
Task Manager also offers a way to keep an eye on CPU usage in
real-time, provided you can spare some screen real estate. To
create a floating CPU monitor, click on the Performance
tab of Task Manager, click CPU, then hover your mouse over the
charts showing your CPU cores, right-click, and select Graph
Summary View. You can resize it to fit your desktop—it makes a
nice and nerdy addition!
Monitor to get more details
If you're not satisfied with what the Task Manager is showing
you, Windows has a more fine-tuned resource monitor that shows a
bit more information on what's happening with your CPU and
To open this program, just click Start, then Run, then type
Resmon to open the Resource Monitor.
While Task Manger is preferable if all you're strictly
interested in CPU use, the Resource Monitor offers more detailed
information about memory usage. A handy graphical interface shows
you the amount of RAM in use, by which programs, as well as how
much is available, how much is installed, and lots more. You can
see how much each program is chewing up, and even automatically
search the internet for a highlighted program, if you're not sure
why it's running or what it is in the first place.
Great, but I want more
What we covered above is more than enough to figure out what's
using all your CPU and memory resources. But if you're the type of
person who says, That's great, but what kind of CPU do I have, and
how fast is my memory? then we've got you covered as well. If you
really, really want a deep dive into every nook and cranny of your
system, we recommend HWINfo.
The slickest feature of this program is when you hover your
mouse over one of the fields it will tell you in plain English what
that information means, which should satisfy your craving for specs
and more info on your hardware. If you want more options, be sure
to check out our article on How to Check Your Specs in Windows 10.