Fix: System Interrupts High CPU Usage

System Interrupts is an official part of Windows and, while it does appear as a process in Task Manager, it’s not really a process in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s an aggregate placeholder used to display the system resources used by all the hardware interrupts happening on your PC.

Hardware interrupts are a core part of any computer and they are used to effectively manage and run many activities simultaneously. There are hundreds of processes executing simultaneously on your computer. Interrupts are used as a mechanism to execute an important instruction right away by suspending the activity of some other processes or they are used by processes to alert the CPU that they are ready for execution.

Although its important use in the operating system and on your machine, the process System Interrupts shouldn’t go beyond 2-3% in any normal conditions. If the process jumps to around 20% and stays there, it means you have a problem. These problems can be traced back to badly configured drivers, some external devices, and fast boot etc. We have listed down a number of different workarounds to solve this case. Start with the first one and work your way down as the complexity also increases.

Solution 1: Disabling USB Root Hubs

The USB Root Hub is not a physical device that you plug in a USB peripheral. It is instead a software driver that lets you connect multiple USB peripherals to your computer. Most computers have multiple USB root hubs so you can share the data bus across multiple devices.

In order to disable the USB root hubs not in use by your keyboard and mouse, we have to first determine which USB root hubs are they using. First, we will determine this and then disable all the extra root hubs in hopes this will fix the high CPU usage.

  1. Press Windows + R, type “devmgmt.msc” and press Enter.
  2. Once in the device, expand the category of “Universal Serial Bus Controllers” and locate all the root hubs listed there.
  3. Right-click on the root hub and select Properties. Once in the properties, open the tab of “Power” and check if your devices are attached there. Your mouse and keyboard should show up if they are using this root hub. If they are, you can disable all the other root hubs with this as an exception.

  1. After identifying the root hub in use by your mouse and keyboard, disable all the other root hubs by right-clicking it and selecting “Disable”.

  1. Reboot your computer and check if the problem at hand got solved. If this doesn’t make any difference, feel free to revert all the changes.

Solution 2: Disabling Audio Enhancements

Some sound drivers use enhancements in an attempt to improve your sound quality. If these properties are not compatible with your computer, this can result in some major problems like the CPU usage we are just experiencing. We can try disabling the audio enhancements and check if the CPU usage gets better. Not all sound drivers perform this function. They may have the Enhancements tab renamed as sound blaster. In that case, we can try disabling all the effects to the audio.

Some sound drivers also have an issue with the “Exclusive mode” option which allows other applications to take full control of your sound card. This shouldn’t be a problem but it is worth a try to see if this fixed our problem.

  1. Press Windows + R button to launch your Run In the dialogue box, type “Control Panel” to launch the application.
  2. Once in the control panel, type “sound” on the search bar present at the top right side of the screen. Open the options of sound the return in the search result.
  3. Once the sound options are opened, click on the audio device connected to your computer. Right-click and select Properties.

  1. Now head over to the Enhancements tab and uncheck all the enhancements enabled (you can also check the box which says “Disable all enhancements”).
  2. Now select the Advanced tab and uncheck the exclusive mode where applications are allowed to override the settings. Save your changes and exit.

Note: If this doesn’t bring any change you can always turn all these options back on.

Solution 3: Disabling the Wake on Magic Packet Settings

There is a feature on Windows where your network adapter has the privilege to wake up your PC upon transmission of data. The computer refers to the data packet as “Wake on Magic Packet”. This feature is also known to cause high CPU usage issues as it seems that a lot of interrupts are generated and the system corresponds to each of them. We can try disabling this option from your Settings. If this doesn’t produce any expected results, you can always disable it later on.

  1. Press Windows + R to launch the Run application on your computer. Type “devmgmt.msc” in the dialogue box and hit Enter. This will launch your computer’s device manager.
  2. In the device manager, all the devices connected to your computer will be listed according to the categories. Click on Network Adapters for the drop down which contains further devices.
  3. Select your Ethernet and WiFi device, right-click it and select Properties from the list of options.

  1. Now navigate to the Advanced tab. Here a lot of options will be available. Navigate to the end of the list and you will find an option which says “Wake on Magic Packet”. Its value will be enabled. Select Disabled, save changes and exit.

Restart your computer if needed and check if the problem got fixed.

Solution 4: Installing Intel Rapid Storage Technology

Intel Rapid Storage Technology is a Windows-based application that provides improved performance and reliability for systems equipped with SATA disks for desktop, mobile, and server platforms. When using one or multiple SATA disk drives, you can take advantage of enhanced performance and lower power consumption. When using more than one disk, you can increase protection against data loss in the event of disk failure.

There were a few instances where users observed that installing the Intel Rapid Storage Technology module solved their problem for them. Installation isn’t much of a hassle but you should be aware that it replaces the SATA controller driver on your computer. If you are well aware of the mechanics, go ahead and install the module from Intel’s official website. If the product is installed successfully, you should see an icon in your taskbar which looks something like this.

Solution 5: Turning off Fast Startup

Windows 10’s Fast Startup (also called fast boot) works similarly to the hybrid sleep modes of previous versions of windows. It combines the elements of a cold shutdown and the hibernate feature. When you shut down your computer, Windows logs off all users and closes all applications similar to the cold boot. At this point, Window’s state is similar to when it is freshly booted up (as all users are logged off and applications are closed). However, the system session is running and the kernel is already loaded up.

Then Windows sends a notification to device drivers to prepare for hibernation and saves the current system state to hibernation and turns off the computer. When you restart the computer, Windows doesn’t have to reload the kernel, system state or the drivers. It just refreshes your RAM with the loaded image in the hibernation file and navigates you to the startup screen.

We can try disabling this feature as it doesn’t completely shut down your computer in the traditional way we expect. There were numerous people who found that disabling this feature solved the high CPU instantly.

  1. Press Windows + R to launch the Run application. In the dialogue box type “control panel” and hit Enter. This will launch your computer’s control panel.
  2. Once in the control panel, click on Power Options.

  1. Once in the Power Options, click on “Choose what the power buttons do” present at the left side of the screen.

  1. Now you will see an option which requires administrative privileges named as “Change Settings that are currently unavailable”. Click it.

  1. Now head to the bottom of the screen and uncheck the box which says “Turn on fast startup”. Save changes and exit.

  1. You might need to restart your computer. Check if the problem at hand got fixed.

Solution 6: Troubleshooting Devices and Drivers

If you have gone through all the solutions listed above with no results, we have no choice but to start diagnosing which device/driver is causing the problem. System interrupts are mostly driven by bad drivers or device with only a few software exceptions (which we just covered above). We will start by disconnection all your External devices and then move on to your Internal devices. We will also update the device drivers in each instance.

  1. Start disconnecting all external devices including the mouse, keyboard, external Bluetooth devices, external WiFi cards etc. Disconnect them one by one and observe the CPU usage for a couple minutes. If it stays the same you can continue disconnecting other devices but if it lowers down significantly (to around 2-3%), it means that you have found the culprit.

  1. If you are unable to detect any faulty external device, we can start moving on to internal devices and see if the problem lies there. Of course, this step is trickier than before you can’t just unplug the devices. You have to disconnect them one by one using the device manager.
  • Press Windows + R, type “devmgmt.msc” and press Enter. Once in the device manager, target devices like network adapters, sound cards, and other add-on cards etc. After disabling each device, check the CPU usage by system interrupts. If it doesn’t change and is still stable at 20-30%, it means the device you disabled isn’t the culprit and you have to move on to the next.

Avoid disabling important system devices such as disk drives, display adapters, anything under computer, processor, or system device categories.

  1. Now we will update the device drivers of all devices present on your computer. This is also a tricky and time-consuming part. Automatic driver updates are not reliable therefore we have to update them manually. There are two ways to be absolutely sure that a specific device isn’t causing a problem; first, we will update drivers to the latest build available and if you don’t see any difference, roll them back to a previous version. If you still don’t see any change, you can move on to updating another device driver.

You have to download the required drivers from your manufacturer’s website.

  • Right-click on the device and click “Update device driver”. Now select the second option “Browse my computer for driver software”.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

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Fix: System Interrupts High CPU Usage

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