Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 update is causing CPU overload at startup, and Cortana may be the culprit. As reported in Windows Latest, the updated version of Cortana causes CPU jumps of 30-40% and takes up system memory. On the Microsoft Feedback Hub, one user reported that Cortana was constantly consuming about 200MB of memory. Another saw it “running at more than 35% CPU usage and 150 MB of memory, as reported by Task Manager for at least a day.”
As usual, the update was tested by Windows Insiders in the Preview release ring before it was released, and the problem with Cortana was reported. But “the reports seem to have been ignored because they weren’t voted on enough,” according to Windows Latest.
What are the reasons for Cortana’s excessive CPU, memory, and network usage?
One of the big problems with the latest Windows 10 update is the significant increase in CPU usage of SearchUI.exe, which is part of Microsoft Cortana, a service that most people don’t use anyway.
Most people call this latest problem “Cortana high CPU usage,” when in fact it’s the SearchUI.exe process that’s causing it. And we’re here to help you fix it and reduce CPU usage so that you can continue using your laptop or computer at optimal speed.
The problem mentioned above is what everyone fears about new Windows updates: they always seem to come with unexpected problems, as was the case with the relatively recent SysMain problems. This time it is Cortana and/or SearchUI.exe it’s training on your CPU, and we’re here to tell you how to fix it!
Fixing Cortana’s high CPU consumption problem
The first step, save your work and restart your computer. “Turn off and on again” is classic troubleshooting advice for a reason. It can solve the problem, especially if your last reboot was a very long time ago — a reboot can erase temporary files and possibly fix slowing down long-running processes.
Interrupt or resume processes
Open the task manager (CTRL+MINUTER+ESCAPE). If a program restarts with an increase in CPU load even after rebooting, Task Manager provides one of the easiest ways to track it.
Note that full-screen programs, such as games, sometimes distract your attention from the Task Manager (hiding it behind its own window). To avoid this, click on “Options” in the top menu bar and select “Always on top.” If you have a second monitor, you can also simply drag the Task Manager window to that location.
While in Task Manager, click on the “Process” tab at the top. At the bottom of that tab, click the “Details” button to see the Windows background processes. Find the “CPU” column at the top of the “Processes” tab and click on it to sort by CPU usage.
You can expect high CPU usage if you’re playing games, using video editing or streaming apps, running virus scans, or juggling many browser tabs.
When you encounter this daily situation of high CPU usage, you should close all programs and tabs in the background that you are not using and then return to Task Manager to see if the situation has changed.
It is important to remember that high CPU usage can be normal when multitasking.
Modern processors handle multitasking by separating processes between multiple processor cores that simultaneously execute different instruction sets. Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology (Intel® HT) goes one step further, creating multiple execution “threads” in each core, each processing different processes. When a busy program such as Adobe Premiere has a heavy load on the processor, it can efficiently use only the available processor cores.
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology can also help keep up with heavy workloads by dynamically boosting processor frequency. The Intel® Core™ X-series processor family has another tool to help prevent slowdown, as Intel® Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology automatically assigns the fastest processor cores to the most important tasks and boosts processor speed.
These processor technologies can dramatically increase speed when multitasking and running resource-intensive programs, but you may still encounter situations of abnormal CPU usage. If you see a background process with a name like Runtime Broker, Windows Session Manager, or Cortana at the top of the CPU column when you reach 100% CPU usage, you have a problem.
These Windows processes are designed to use very little CPU or memory power under normal circumstances – you’ll often see them at 0% or 1% in Task Manager. When your PC is idle, all of these processes usually use less than 10% of the CPU power. However, chaotic or unexpected behavior – for example.
when a Windows process repeatedly tries to perform a search action that has been disabled elsewhere – sometimes this causes the process to consume almost all of your system resources.
After opening the Task Manager and finding a process that unexpectedly takes up most of your CPU, search online to identify it. You should not stop a process such as explorer.exe (which controls many graphical elements such as the desktop and the start menu) or winlogon.exe (boot tasks and CTRL+ALT+DEL screen) unless you have a good reason to.
Once you’ve identified the process as non-critical (and once again made sure you saved the data you were working on), click on the process to select it, and then click End Process in the bottom right corner of Task Manager. The end process will cause the program to exit without saving.
If the process is still using too much CPU, try updating the drivers. Drivers are programs that control certain devices connected to your motherboard. Updating the drivers can fix compatibility issues or bugs that are causing increased load on the processor. Open the Start menu, then Settings. Click Updates and security, and then click Check for updates. This will update the major factors. Video card manufacturers also provide utilities (such as NVIDIA GeForce Experience for GPUs) that can improve overall game performance.
Some rare bugs can also be fixed by updating the BIOS. The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is the firmware on your motherboard which instructs your computer’s other components when you boot.
Since a BIOS update usually does not improve performance (and can cause new problems), you should only do it if you find a bug that caused a high CPU load and find a BIOS update that fixes it directly.
Checking for malware
If the problem persists, it may be caused by malware masquerading as a normal Windows process. Some malware consumes CPU and GPU bandwidth for various purposes (e.g. to extract cryptocurrency data), while appearing in the task manager under a familiar name, such as “Cortana.exe” or “Runtime Broker”.
Run a full scan with an antivirus program of your choice. A good option is the free standalone Windows Security scan (which runs in the taskbar or in Windows settings).
Some power settings can reduce processor speed, whether you’re using a laptop or a desktop computer. Check your power settings by clicking on the Start menu and typing “Change Power Plan.” Once the window opens, click on “Power Options” in the address bar at the top of the window. Click on “View Additional Plans” and then activate the non-power plan. Open the Task Manager again to see if CPU usage is returning to normal.
Find specific instructions online
Many different processes can lead to high CPU utilization, and there is no single solution. To find a specific tip, go to the process name in the “Process” tab or to “Details” (a more specific view) in Task Manager, and then search online for thread support on that topic.
If you don’t see any results for the first query, add any specific information that might help, such as your CPU model (listed next to “Processor” in your system information) and the names of other programs that seem to be causing the problem. It’s rare to find a bug that hasn’t already been discussed on the hardware and game forums, so take the time to try some variations of your search.
If you have a restore point before the CPU problems started, try using it. But since Windows disables system protection by default, most of us don’t have it. In that case, your last resort might be to reinstall Windows. This process can be tedious, but it can potentially solve CPU usage problems caused by the software.
The Windows 10 PC Reset feature removes all your programs but leaves your personal files alone. You will then need to reinstall any non-Windows programs you use, and your settings in those programs will be lost unless you save them and back them up. As a precaution, also back up all of your personal files either to an external drive or through cloud storage services.
When you are ready to start, click “Start” and type “Reset this PC”. Then click “Start.” The procedure can take an hour or more. After that, you will need to reinstall the programs you are using.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Use Ctrl + Shift + Escape to bring up the Task Manager (or right-click the Start button and select Task Manager from the list).
- Click on Cortana to display the active processes.
- Right-click on Cortana and select "Go to Details" to see what's going on.
- Click the Processes tab again and find Cortana.
"Cortana (or SearchUI.exe) should not consume a lot of resources when you explore it in the Task Manager. You may wonder why Cortana consumes resources. It's because it's loaded into memory so that it can be viewed immediately when you click on the "Windows Search" box in the taskbar or press Windows+S.
- Reboot. First step: save your work and restart your computer.
- Stop or restart processes. Open the Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESCAPE).
- Update the drivers.
- Check for malware.
- Power Options.
- Find specific instructions on the Internet.
- Reinstall Windows.
Cortana is compatible with Windows 10 and Windows Search. So you will lose some Windows features if you disable Cortana: personalized messages, reminders, and natural language search in your files. However, the default file search will still work.
Mark Ginter is a tech blogger with a passion for all things gadgets and gizmos. A self-proclaimed "geek", Mark has been blogging about technology for over 15 years. His blog, techquack.com, covers a wide range of topics including new product releases, industry news, and tips and tricks for getting the most out of your devices. If you're looking for someone who can keep you up-to-date with all the latest tech news and developments, then be sure to follow him over at Microsoft.