Identify and Diagnose CPU Problems
Edited by Jerry Rivers, Lynn, Charmed, Eng and 28 others
The computer processing unit within your PC or Laptop is truly amazing. As was discussed in Build Your Own Computer, your CPU functions like the brain of your computer. It is known also as a microprocessor because it undergoes three steps to process information and makes calculations for the computer user. It gathers data (input) from your instructions, decodes it, accomplishes the task (output), and then writes this output into the computer's memory. This is a continuous cycle with vast amounts of data processed remarkably each second. It is all aided by a quartz crystal called a "clock" which synchronizes the processing. With all this intricate and complex technology, there is much that must be synchronized for your computer to function properly. Should you ever have a problem with your CPU, rather than rush it to a costly repair shop, there are some steps that you can follow to diagnose a problem and possibly repair your CPU yourself. The problem could be as simple as a component not seated, or it could be a software "glitch". A list of CPU problems that may arise and the steps to fix the problems will be presented here. I hope that you just may be able to save time and a costly repair bill for you, too.
- 1 Checking for a CPU hardware problem
- 2 Checking for a CPU software problem
- 3 CPU at maximum operating level
- 4 Sources of maximum running of your CPU
- 5 Identify and Diagnose CPU Problems: Diagnosis and Overview of CPU Related Problems
- 6 Tips Tricks & Warnings
- 7 Questions and Answers
- 8 Comments
Checking for a CPU hardware problem
- 1Although there are quality assurance checks during the assembly process, it is possible that there was an error along the way during your computer's construction. With all the many delicate parts to any computer, especially with all the pins and connectors involved, a mistake could easily have been made and missed.Assembly error - If you purchased your Laptop or desktop computer new, it will be under warranty for a year.Advertisement
- 2There are many components, such as the CPU, that are seated or inserted, and one may be loose. Remember that static electric discharge (SED) can wreak havoc on a CPU. Before you open your computer, so that you do not zap components inside, you must touch a metal surface that is grounded or wear some form of static electricity (SED) protection. You will have to physically check to see if your CPU is properly secured on the motherboard.Loose or damaged component - If your warranty has expired, there is much you can do to identify the problem with your CPU or other parts.Advertisement
- 3It will immediately report the origin of a malfunction with colorful warning signs. To pinpoint a hardware problem, go to Start > Control Panel > System > Hardware, then select the Device Manager. You can then arrange hardware properties with the Device Manager.Use the Device Manager - You can do a quick check of how all your components are functioning by using the Device Manager.
- 4This can especially happen to a Laptop with its sealed components in a compact case. If you modified your computer to operate at higher processing speed than the original setting by "overclocking", your desktop is also more prone to overheating. If overheating is the cause of your computer problem, you will need an external cooling fan for your Laptop. For your desktop, you will need a higher powered heat sink. There is software available that you can use to monitor the temperature of your computer's components.Overheating of the CPU - Your CPU can overheat, causing a problem in operating.
Checking for a CPU software problem
- 1You should have your computer set to receive driver updates. I inadvertently had my Windows 7 set to not receive automatic updates, and suddenly my Laptop began crashing. I went to Start > Control Panel > System & Security > Windows Update, and clicked "Turn Windows Updates On or Off". Once turned on, the crashing stopped and it has been running smoothly, so be sure to eliminate this as a cause.If your computer begins crashing, you may need drivers replaced or updated.Advertisement
- 2A text will appear, identifying any hardware malfunctions while booting or operating your operating system (OS).Booting up problem - The Power On Self-Test (POST) displays on your screen as soon as you turn on the computer.
- 3You may need more hard drive space. If you have the Windows OS, you can free up disc space by going to Start > Control Panel > System & Security > Administrative Tools: Free Up Disc Space. It will scan and remove unwanted temporary files, recycle bin items, temporary Internet files, downloaded program files, and thumbnail photos. It will only take a few minutes. Then, after that is done, you can select "Defragment Your Hard Drive". This may take an hour or so, but usually, you can use your PC for other functions simultaneously. If you have Windows, you can designate a time each day for your computer to defrag automatically.Sluggish loading - The CPU may be hit with an error in your operating system.
- 4It is caused by one of three problems: Your processor is beyond its capacity, there is not enough random access memory (RAM), or the audio is set to PIO (Programmed Input/Output) mode. If in PIO mode, change to DMA (Direct Memory Access).Rough audio play - If the audio on your videos is streaming badly, you can correct it.
- 5If your new software is the culprit, it will let you know and give info about how to remedy the problem. Often if the problem is caused by new software, it is overloading your CPU. If so, it will have to be removed. The software may have a program uninstalling option. If not, then go to Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program.New software - If you suddenly have a problem after installing new software, go to Control Panel > System & Security > Action Center, and click Troubleshooting.
- 6It is probably over-working in this scenario and requires a technician. If your CPU fan (heat sink) begins running high speed constantly, and your room temperature has not risen, your PC system is straining, putting a burden on your CPU. Ensure that you have your computer in an open and cool area with plenty of ventilation.Auditory signs of a CPU problem - Anytime your computer is making extraordinary sounds while operating, it is nothing paranormal.
- 7Make sure that you have a reputable company's virus scan that stays up to date with detecting and destroying the latest viruses. ESet is an excellent virus scan, and if you are looking for a trustworthy free one, try Avast! Set your virus scan to run regularly and automatically.Perform a virus scan - Your current CPU dilemma may be caused by a virus.
- 8This is the bare "skeleton" of the most needed programs to operate your computer to see if there is still a software malfunction.Use the safe mode - Upon power up (POST) press the F8 key to bring up the safe mode.
- 9They save memory space in your RAM, while they command the EXE (executable program) to execute specific functions. They perform their duty only when called to do so by your PC, such as functions in your Control Panel like defragmenting. If you have somehow a damaged or missing DLL file, the operation of your CPU will be disrupted. When you troubleshoot as mentioned above, you will receive a message and remedy for this predicament. It will instruct you how to download a replacement DLL file.Damaged or missing DLL files - The DLL (Dynamic Link Library) contains tiny mini-programs that are, as their name indicates, stored in a "library" section outside the RAM (random access memory).
- 10The BSoD will give you a message of the identified problem and a code to help you repair the problem. Sometimes, if the BSoD appears, all that is needed is for you to reboot your computer.The Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) - As mentioned at Fix a Computer System Crash , if you have the "blue screen of death", or a "STOP Error" suddenly appears on your monitor screen, these are warnings that you have a problem, such as a DLL files damage, malfunctioning hardware, corrupted software, or missing/damaged driver.
CPU at maximum operating level
If your microprocessor is suddenly slow and/or crashing constantly, one cause may be that it is running at maximum capacity. The CPU first gathers instructions for processing. The rate of processing these instructions is in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). So that it makes sense, each processing cycle mentioned above is measured in a standard called hertz (Hz) per second. One MHz is 106, or a million cycles/second, and GHz is 109, a billion cycles/ second. This is an overwhelming amount processed constantly each second that must be synchronized, or "clocked". Your CPU, understandably, has a limited number of cycles that can be handled each second. Once it hits the threshold of MHz or GHz, it becomes a tortoise. It will no longer run but crawl. Ideally, your PC normally operates at about 50 percent. If it hits the maximum, you have problems.
Sources of maximum running of your CPU
Overly high usage of your CPU can also be caused by the some of the same problems that disrupted your computer operation:
- Too many applications running concurrently
- Malfunctioning driver
- Malware or virus
- Not enough RAM
Your computer is a modern marvel, but many of us now take our computers for granted. It can be used for a wide array of tasks, and for many of us we need it as a valuable career tool. Thanks to computer pioneers and engineers, it is user-friendly. If suddenly the CPU has a problem, as the "brain" for your Laptop or PC, the entire operation is affected severely. Licensed computer repair technicians are highly skilled, and can certainly diagnose and repair (or replace) any problem. However, to save time and money, first follow the remedying steps above for various causes. Chances are that you can DIY (Do It Yourself), and have your computer up and running smoothly shortly.
Identify and Diagnose CPU Problems: Diagnosis and Overview of CPU Related Problems
First of all, if there are not any manufacturing problems and all of the correct guidelines for installation procedure have been followed by the manufacturer, then suffice to say CPU related dilemmas are quite rare. The end results of CPU abnormality will fall under one or two categories:
- 1Random Failures - Intermittent issues that could occur often
- 2Catastrophic Failure - Easy to identify, since the computer doesn't boot up
Solutions for Catastrophic CPU Problems
In an event that the PC can't boot up, and the user suspects there is something wrong with the CPU, he or she could do either of the two following options:
- 1The user should jot down or count the frequency, as well as the number of beeps, and then compare what's on the list with those that are in the motherboard manual. This must be done to ascertain if there is really an issue in the CPU.Typically, the computer's motherboard will produce a couple of "beeps" once the PC has been opened.
- 2Buy a tool that can help in identifying and diagnosing hardware problems.
Random CPU Problems
The majority of CPU related problem symptoms are unpredictable and intermittent in nature. This is why an excellent Problem Log is relevant when it comes to diagnosing the cause of the CPU problem. The computer user needs to follow the given guidelines, which can be found in Intermittent Problems section until he or she is able to ensure that the main problem is the CPU and not another computer part.
Among the most usual reasons for the misbehavior of the CPU are:
- 1The PSU or the Power Supply Unit is not giving the CPU sufficient power, or it has difficulty in maintaining a continuous supply.Power Problems.
- 2This means the processor is overheating or becoming too hot.Heat Problems.
- 3What happens here is that there is a component of the motherboard, such as MCH or Northbridge (which is responsible for communicating with the processor of the computer), that is misbehaving or has been damaged.Motherboard related problems.
Tips Tricks & Warnings
- Before you open up your computer, wear static electricity discharge (SED) protection. There are SED wrist straps and gloves available at computer shops.
Questions and Answers
My computer has thermal slow down?
My computer has a thermal shutdown problem. Goes to recovery every time. I changed the thermal compound. Can CPU be faulty?
If your computer is experiencing a thermal slow down, and you have already changed the thermal compound, then the issue is more likely due to either poor ventilation, or another component overheating. If you're running high end graphics, this is often the cause of excessive heat. Also, a faulty power supply can cause heat overload as well.
The easiest thing to do is to leave the case of your computer open, and observe how fast the fan is running. If you fan is not running at an optimal level, or your computer is not in a well ventilated area, then this will also create heat issues.
Another issue can be that you have over clocked your processor, which will cause excessive heat, and many times require a much higher rated fan that normally recommended for your processor type. In this case, you may want to consider a liquid cooling option, upgrade your existing fan, or add other fans.
Finally, you may have already damaged the system, as system components can overheat, causing the connections to expand and break on a micro level. You won't be able to see it, but as the system heats and cools, critical components won't have sufficient voltage, or will not be properly connected, resulting in significant increases in heat due to the elevated resistance component connections are requiring to transmit current. Remember that electrical resistance generates heat as a byproduct of increased throughput. This is why sometimes a power supply or electrical cord that is overloaded will be warm to the touch.
Keep in mind that computer cases are all designed to operate when closed, as this facilitates optimal ventilation.
See more questions like this: Computer is Stuttering and some animation tearing
Would you be able to help me with a problem I think it is to do with CPU or motherboard?
Originally it was Windows 8. with low space and always had full disc usage whilst crashing randomly and it wouldn't use the software without the program flashing with non-responsive. After that I replaced my RAM, added an additional hard drive and then reset my window to default, erasing everything. With the clean install it still randomly crashes after random times, so I installed Windows 10 thinking it might be the OS, but it still persists and now I'm thinking it could be the CPU or motherboard as last year when this started it was under a desk and I was wondering if overheating could have affected the last 2 components I mentioned
- If the crash shows a blue screen of death or reboots your PC, then you need to either examine the error code online or send the most recent memory DMP file from the root folder of the C drive to Microsoft. Here is more information from Microsoft on how to do that: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/129845.
- Always make sure that you have at least some space on your C: drive. We cannot name the exact value, but 4 GB should be enough if you use the page file on another drive or disable it completely.
- If your system hangs and does not react at all, then it might be an overheating problem. Install this program: http://openhardwaremonitor.org/ and run it in the background or second monitor to track the temperatures and find out whether they are dangerous to your specific components. If the temperatures are too high, you will need to clean your computer. You may need to remove the cooler from the CPU and apply new thermal paste. GPUs are much harder to disassemble, and it is recommended to send the video card to a service center for replacing the fans. While you remove your CPU, check the pins in the socket: they should be even and straight. Overheating problems usually go as soon as everything is cleaned and fans are replaced.
- If your computer just shuts down, then it can be the power supply getting older and not providing enough power to the system, especially with an added hard drive. Replace it with a new power supply or with a higher power rating.
- Run a memory test with MemTest86. You should boot from a medium that you can create with that tool. If there is a RAM problem, then you will know about it.
How to avoid my processor being overheated or too hot?
What can I do if my CPU is overheating or becoming too hot?
- 1In the image below, you see a big white fan, which is a part of the CPU heat sink. You can just blow it in short and strong gusts, use compressed air, or use a vacuum cleaner in reverse (it is a rare feature on some of the vacuum cleaners) to blow the dust out, but hold the fan slightly with your finger not to damage it. This measure helps for some time.The first and the easiest method is opening the case and blowing dust out of the heat sink on the CPU.
- 3For the third method, you will need a set of screwdrivers, replacement fans, alcohol, a tissue or a napkin, a thermal paste in a syringe, a plastic card, and, if possible, a manual for your cooler.
- Detach connectors from the motherboard.
- Carefully find a way to remove the CPU cooler. There might be screws and plate on the back of the motherboard; so, you will need to take the whole motherboard out of the desktop.
- When the CPU cooler has been removed, clean the cooler thoroughly.
- Blow the dust out of the cooler and the motherboard.
- Replace the fans of the cooler with new ones of the same diameter. Make sure that they use the same power connectors to avoid installing a fan that will not be powered.
- Clean the CPU with alcohol by using a tissue or napkin and let the CPU dry a bit.
- Then, apply the thermal paste to the center of the CPU and distribute it evenly with a plastic card. The surface must be level and even.
- Reattach the CPU cooler to the CPU and put the motherboard back. Reattach all connectors.
- 4It must be sucked in, travel through essential elements, and come out. That may mean: one or two fans at the bottom for suction and one on the back for exhaust.The third method requires you to replace or install extra fans to push the air across the computer.Advertisement
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