Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Overheating Video Card

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
Share
February 3, 2009 10:48:45 PM

Hi all,

I realized I was posting in the wrong section. I've been having problems with my video card... My old card was an nVidia 7900gt. I could use that video card for anything BUT gaming and it would be fine. Once I started gaming, the screen would start flashing and ultimately my computer would freeze.
I replaced that card with a new video card, the Radeon 4850. Same issues apply. After gaming for about an hour, the game froze up and I was forced to reset the computer. Normally, I have an external room fan blowing into my computer to keep it from overheating. But I figured with the new VC, I wouldnt have to do it being that its winter and its cold lol!
The weird thing is, I dont even have the case on the computer, its open on both sides, so i'm just curious how and why my computer keeps over heating!

More about : overheating video card

February 3, 2009 11:11:02 PM

So, it doesn't seem to be related to the gfx card . . . but it could be, however the fact that it does the same thing with the 4850 as with the 7900GT would seem to point to something else. Do me a favor and post your system specs, CPU, memory (manufacturer/model as well as speed), aftermarket cooling on CPU (if applicable), power supply, case, and all hard drives in the system. Heat problems can be hard to troubleshoot, but there are things you can do to narrow down the list of possible suspects. I have had issues with graphics cards overheating and causing system instability on several builds I have done for friends, but usually replacing the video card fixed.

Post your specs, and it will give me an idea of where to look . . .
February 3, 2009 11:24:50 PM

Hey Drew,
I forgot to mention.... with the nVidia... the computer would freeze within 10 min.... with the new video card, it goes over the hour mark atleast before it froze on me.
Related resources
a b 4 Gaming
a b U Graphics card
February 3, 2009 11:26:48 PM

What PSU do you have?

In fact, post your complete specs...
February 3, 2009 11:32:31 PM

Sure. I have the:
- Asus P5B Deluxe.
- INTEL Core 2 Duo E6400
- OCZ GameXStream OCZ700GXSSLI 700W ATX12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
- Patriot PDC22G6400LLK 2GB Kit DDR2-800 PC2-6400 Dual Channel Memory Kit
- COOLER MASTER RC-532-SKN1 Centurion 532 Mid Tower Case Retail (case sux) :( 
- Western Digital Caviar SE WD2000JS 200GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM

I have another HD in there, that is a 150gig that i have only for my OS (Windows XP)
February 4, 2009 4:41:36 AM

Actually, your case is not that bad provided you do have the front fan and the side fan. Compared to what most large PC builder companies, i.e. Dell, eMachines, HP, Gateway, etc. use it has much better air flow. First I would run some tests that are easy on the gfx card, but fairly cpu intensive to rule out a cpu heat problem.

Get CoreTemp from here: http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/

Get prime95 from here: http://majorgeeks.com/Prime95_d4363.html

Run prime95.exe, choose Options --> Torture Test --> in place large FFTs, click OK

Now watch the cpu temps with CoreTemp. If there is a large gap between the cores, you may have a cpu heat problem (by large gap I mean, > 8-10 deg C). Also, accepted maximum temps for the e6400 are ~70C, but that is a max . . . during the prime95 test you should be between the 65 to 68 range (or lower) after about 10 minutes. If you are seeing temps greater than 70C, stop the test (!), and pull your CPU cooler and clean it, and reapply thermal paste. I recommend Arctic Silver 5 or Arctic Cooling MX2, but any silver based thermal compound will be better than stock. (edit: MX2 is not silver based and is not conductive which is why I like it :)  ) If you don't have any, your local Best-Buy should have something silver based, though not as good as either of the two mentioned, it will do in a pinch.

Try this, and let me know what you get for temps. If the CPu isn't the problem, we can look at MB temps to see if its maybe a NB/SB problem. Basically, I am trying to assume its not the video card and then if nothing pops up with testing, then assume it IS the video card.
February 4, 2009 11:01:58 AM

Thanks drew, i'll give it a shot today after work!
February 5, 2009 2:01:56 AM

drewp29 said:
Actually, your case is not that bad provided you do have the front fan and the side fan. Compared to what most large PC builder companies, i.e. Dell, eMachines, HP, Gateway, etc. use it has much better air flow. First I would run some tests that are easy on the gfx card, but fairly cpu intensive to rule out a cpu heat problem.

Get CoreTemp from here: http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/

Get prime95 from here: http://majorgeeks.com/Prime95_d4363.html

Run prime95.exe, choose Options --> Torture Test --> in place large FFTs, click OK

Now watch the cpu temps with CoreTemp. If there is a large gap between the cores, you may have a cpu heat problem (by large gap I mean, > 8-10 deg C). Also, accepted maximum temps for the e6400 are ~70C, but that is a max . . . during the prime95 test you should be between the 65 to 68 range (or lower) after about 10 minutes. If you are seeing temps greater than 70C, stop the test (!), and pull your CPU cooler and clean it, and reapply thermal paste. I recommend Arctic Silver 5 or Arctic Cooling MX2, but any silver based thermal compound will be better than stock. (edit: MX2 is not silver based and is not conductive which is why I like it :)  ) If you don't have any, your local Best-Buy should have something silver based, though not as good as either of the two mentioned, it will do in a pinch.

Try this, and let me know what you get for temps. If the CPu isn't the problem, we can look at MB temps to see if its maybe a NB/SB problem. Basically, I am trying to assume its not the video card and then if nothing pops up with testing, then assume it IS the video card.


Hey Drew, with core temp the readings never fluctuated more than 3-4 degree celcius. Both were anywhere from 51-56 during the test
February 5, 2009 2:08:46 AM

Nvm.. during the prime95 test, the temps quickly reached around 72-75 c within 5 minutes! i stopped the test immediately
February 5, 2009 2:56:06 AM

If you haven't started to remove the heatsink, first boot to your bios --> during the boot process while it is checking memory, hit the delete key repeatedly . . . this should get you to the bios. If you are booting with the front screen on, i.e. during boot there is a front screen that usually has the motherboard manufacturer's name and some graphics instead of showing the memory test and what speed your CPU is running at, just hit delete repeatedly while this screen is up. When you are in your bios, there should be a selection called system monitoring or something like that . . . anyway, find the screen that has the values for your fan speeds and there should be an option for SMART fan speed. Look at the right side of the screen where it shows you the description of the options and whichever option says something about adjusting the CPU fan based on temperature you should disable. This will cause your CPU fan to run at 100% all the time instead of adjusting it according to temp. If this is already disabled, then you should think about redoing the thermal compound on your heatsink to get those temps lower during the prime test.

Don't worry about the temp it reached during the test. The e6400 should be able to reach 80 to 85 degrees Celsius without damage to the CPU. You don't want it to run for any length of time at these temps, but it shouldn't harm the CPU. Prime95 generates the maximum amount of heat your CPU will ever put out, and you most likely will not see these kinds of temps during normal use, even during gaming.

However, if forcing the CPU fan to run at 100% does not keep the temps at or below 70C during prime95 then you should definitely redo the thermal compound and retest it. If you have any questions about how to apply the thermal paste, look that up before you turn your computer off . . . a thin layer on the cpu should be all you need, some suggest just putting a drop in the middle of the cpu and letting the heatsink spread it during attachment, but I still like to spread with a small paddle so I make sure the coverage is complete. Just a suggestion - it takes less thermal paste than you think. And don't get the thermal paste on anything but the top of the CPU (silver based compounds are conductive and could short out the MB if you get it on any circuit paths).

Let me know what you find out.

Drew
February 5, 2009 3:06:41 AM

Hey cjl, anything else to add? You usually have some good insight . . .

Or anyone else for that matter :) 
February 6, 2009 2:39:22 PM

If you are using the stock Intel CPU cooler I would highly suggest an aftermarket cooler even if running at stock speeds. I've been in the 'box fan cooling necessary' situation, and it sucks big time.
February 6, 2009 3:22:33 PM

Hey drew... im out of town for the weekend..
but this is the after market cooler i purchased
Arctic Cooling ACFZP7 Freezer 7 Pro CPU
February 6, 2009 6:35:47 PM

Just purchased, or is it the one on the CPU now? That's a good cooler, and if it is already on there, then I would definitely say redoing the thermal paste should make a difference in those temps. If you just purchased it and its not on yet, then I would think that given the quality of cooling the AF7 provides you should see a big difference in the test temps.

Bringing the CPU temp down will hopefully make a big difference, if it doesn't solve the problem fully then we'll look at Northbridge and Southbridge temps.

Have a good weekend! :) 
February 6, 2009 6:54:29 PM

Yeah, it's been on there since day 1. I will play with the thermal paste when I get back next week and keep you posted.
Thanks for the input so far, I appreciate it mucho!
February 11, 2009 2:53:37 AM

wow... worst luck ever... i got back to my house and booted up my computer.
warning, cpu fan error.
my cpu fan is broken... waiting for a new one to arrive because i can't find the stock fan that came with the chip...
im using the fan i used to use on my vc for my cpu now lol!
February 11, 2009 1:43:19 PM

Doh! You know, if the fan speed has been low from the start that may have been the problem. I'll keep my fingers crossed that when the new one arrives the temps are kept in check so you can play games without the box fan cooling. We can hope . . . if its one thing I despise in computer problems it is heat issues; it has been my nemesis on more than one occasion.
February 11, 2009 1:46:41 PM

I'm hoping that was the case all along also!
It would make me :wahoo: 
February 11, 2009 3:11:21 PM

hey drew and sunman, sorry for interuption. I would like to know where should I stop Prime 95, at what temp??? i have q6600 +stock fan and within 5 min, it goes up to 70, so i stop.
February 11, 2009 7:26:33 PM

@magicbullet

70C should be alright, if you are upwards of that and into the 75C range, I would consider making sure your CPU fan is running at 100% in the bios settings that I described above. You should check in CoreTemp what your TJmax is set at. "Q" processor's generally accepted TJmax value is 100C. "E" processor's generally accepted TJmax is 95C, although some (like unclewebb on overclock.net) feel it should be 85C but is very 'individual processor' dependent. The core temperature is derived in software by taking the difference of the temps read by the CPU die sensors and the TJmax temp (TJmax - Dietemp = Core absolute temp) This can be accurate if the TJmax is correct for the CPU, but since there is no way to literally determine the TJmax for the given user's CPU, the TJmax values I stated are just "generally accepted" values. There is still a lot of voodoo and hand waving involved in determining whether the temps read in software are accurate, as the only accurate way to determine them is with a hole in the cooling block and CPU and using a probe to read the value directly. But, with the TJmax values set as I stated, it is a good indication of the temperature area you are running in.

So, long explanation short, set your TJmax on the Q6600 to 100C and if the temp gets above ~75C you are too hot, and should consider aftermarket cooling or redoing the thermal paste on the CPU cooler with a proven thermal compound. The stock thermal 'patch' is not very good compared to Arctic Silver 5 or Arctic Cooling MX-2. Redoing the thermal paste is good to do every once in awhile anyway as the thermal coefficient changes as the paste ages. It does take a good day or two burn in period to set the thermal paste and get maximum heat transfer after redoing it.

Once again, I think the 65-70C area in prime should translate to good temperatures for everyday usage.
February 13, 2009 8:59:31 PM

Drew... just installed the new CPU Fan. idle temps are 32-34
temps with prime95 running are hovering around 47-50
Looks like the entire time it was the Fan!!!!!
I did a pretty crappy job with the thermal paste i think hehe but we'll see how it goes...

Thanks for your help... hopefully nothing goes wrong in the near future!
February 16, 2009 4:06:59 AM

Excellent, those temps look great - I still have my fingers crossed, but I really think that will solve the problem. Your welcome for the help, these forums have helped me more than once, and I thought its about time I started returning the favor! Oh, and have fun with whatever games you play, the 4850 is a pretty great card and should serve you well. Take care!
February 23, 2009 12:34:49 PM

just when you thought everything was ok.... I was playing L4D last night and all of a sudden my PC shut off. I didn't think too much of it, so i restarted and started playing again. A few minutes later my pc shut down again. I honestly don't think it is due to my CPU temps, as those never rise over 55... My brand new VC, however, was well over 70.. i think maybe even bordering 80!!! what is going on here!! :( 
February 23, 2009 2:57:48 PM

That's not an uncommon temp for video cards as they tend to run much hotter than your CPU. Check this thread here:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/252306-33-4850-temps

Try doing the workaround that is described in the link in the second post. It links to rage3d.com. Set the fan speed to like 35-38% with 'Automatic' enabled. See if this will help - but first, you said you can manually set the fan speed in CCC . . . do you hear a noticeable increase in the fan noise when you set this to 100%? I can't seem to find whether the newest Catalyst drivers actually fixed the fan speed problem or not. If you do notice a change in the fan noise when setting it through CCC, then the workaround won't be any help.

I think this may be a northbridge temp situation, or perhaps memory overheating. The P5B MBs have a decorative cap on the NB, which is the heatsink with the heat pipe. Remove the cap! I removed the cap on my Gigabyte x38-DS4 and its running cooler now, which has helped system stability with my overclock.

Before removing the cap though, go get Everest from here:

http://www.lavalys.com/products.php?ps=&page=11&dlid=35...

Just use the free trial, it should give you results for temps, etc., but it won't allow benching and other stuff we aren't going to use.

After install, run Everest and go to Computer --> Sensors

MCP is southbridge, SPP is northbridge

Run Prime95 or maybe ATI Tool's Artifact Tester to see what these temps get up to. If the NB is greater than 60C you probably are getting instability. The Southbridge should be cooler than the Northbridge.

Then remove the cap/sticker from the NB and see what the temps hit.

Let me know what you find out.
February 23, 2009 6:32:42 PM

The reason I think it i probably the NB is that it took it awhile to overheat, which is probably due to the CPU fan cooling better than it was. The increased airflow at the NB from the CPU cooler helps keep the NB temps down a bit, but after awhile, well, it can only do so much.
February 23, 2009 6:40:42 PM

hey drew.. im not exactly sure of this "cap" you're referring to.. but if i remove it, are there potentially any negative consequences that may follow? if not i'll just pop that sucker off.. granted i have to find out exactly what your talking about first =)
February 24, 2009 12:38:07 AM

Take a look at this thread here:

http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=34...

It seems with the research I have been doing that the P5B MB's do have some issues with the NB overheating. Anyway, about halfway down the page there is a picture of the NB chip with ASUS in blue on a gold cover (or cap). Just pop that sucker off there, it is really only for aesthetics, and it actually hinders the air flow through the heatsink fins. A post I read said it is kind of like a metal sticker, just peel it off.

Your MB may not have a NB temp sensor (some posts I read sounded like it does, but nothing definitive), in which case Everest will not have show a MCP or SPP sensor. If that is the case, you should run your computer with the side off, crank up L4D, ground yourself by touching the metal of your case with one hand, and place a finger on the NB heatsink. You should get the idea pretty quickly if the NB is running too hot! Now touch your CPU heatsink, and you will see what it should feel like - warm to the touch, and maybe a little warmer than that, but not painfully hot.
February 24, 2009 11:08:58 AM

Hey drew.. I was reading that other thread you linked me to...
i'm beginning to wonder, i run my pc with an open case as well, wondering if that messes up the air flow with all the fans im currently running...

also..is this the cap you are referring to?



February 24, 2009 6:17:31 PM

Yes, that is the cap I was referring to - since it covers the heatsink it is not allowing air to circulate through the fins. It might need active cooling to get the job done, a 40mm fan would do - usually it can be attached by screws that fit in between the fins.

With regards to running your computer with the case open, yes, it is impeding the air flow around things like the NB heatsink, but since you are adding a box fan, this is not a problem. It think it was said best by someone in another thread I was reading - Its hard to cool with hot air~!

I was thinking the stock fans for the case might need to be replaced or maybe just flipped around - depending on which way they are blowing. I usually exhaust out the back since its up towards the top of the case and heat rises. I like to pull in fresh air from the front and the side and exhaust out the back and the PSU since they are towards the top.

However, in your case the NB might need the extra flow from the rear fan, so I would have it blowing in, and the front blowing in, and the side blowing out. This is probably the configuration you already have.

You could always look at getting some higher CFM fans, sacrificing the silence of the 1200RPM fans the case comes with for higher airflow with more noise.
February 24, 2009 6:46:03 PM

sounds good i'll let you know the next chance i get to mess with my stinkin' pc :) 
i'll try and put the sides back on and see what happens... my goal was to move away from using a room fan to cool my pc haha.
thanks again for your quick response.
February 25, 2009 11:00:24 PM

ive removed the cap... will let you know how it goes!
February 26, 2009 1:10:09 PM

Cool - I've got my fingers crossed
March 3, 2009 6:34:45 PM

Any status updates? Just curious . . .

Edit: I take that as a no?
Anonymous
a b 4 Gaming
a b U Graphics card
August 21, 2009 5:47:44 AM

hey i'm having a similar issue. I'm running an HP Pavilion a1510n with these specs:. I think the graphics card is the culprit.

The cpu will run at 100% constantly. Also, the computer will not always boot up / shut down correctly. Process Explorer sometimes says the System process (not System Idle) is at 100% cpu. Other times, it will say the active program (internet, etc.) is at 100% cpu. I've noticed that the problem manifests itself quickest when a game is showing onscreen. If it is minimized, the cpu will return to a normal usage rate.

I've run Core Temp with prime95 and the CPU only gets to 55C or so. I tried Everest, but no sensor readings showed up. I've tried everything from replacing the power supply to new HDD to new OS to new graphics card to no avail. Please help!
August 21, 2009 12:00:50 PM

@ Drew.
Very weird, i never received notification of your response... Normally i do.

Everything is working fine in my system!

Thanks for your help!
August 21, 2009 3:25:38 PM

Quote:
hey i'm having a similar issue. I'm running an HP Pavilion a1510n with these specs:. I think the graphics card is the culprit.

The cpu will run at 100% constantly. Also, the computer will not always boot up / shut down correctly. Process Explorer sometimes says the System process (not System Idle) is at 100% cpu. Other times, it will say the active program (internet, etc.) is at 100% cpu. I've noticed that the problem manifests itself quickest when a game is showing onscreen. If it is minimized, the cpu will return to a normal usage rate.

I've run Core Temp with prime95 and the CPU only gets to 55C or so. I tried Everest, but no sensor readings showed up. I've tried everything from replacing the power supply to new HDD to new OS to new graphics card to no avail. Please help!



Hmmmmmm . . . let me think on that one for a bit - I'll get back to you!

Drew
August 21, 2009 3:31:43 PM

Wes,

Glad to hear everything is as it should be!

Drew
Anonymous
a b 4 Gaming
a b U Graphics card
August 21, 2009 4:42:18 PM

Thanks for the quick response, Drew!
August 22, 2009 6:32:21 AM

I'll have to have you post some things on Sunday or Monday, Spectre. My thoughts are it could be a program running in the background, but with the OS reinstall, it might not be unless it is a usual program that you install with the OS installation. Otherwise, it could be a finicky pci bus, which we'll approach after I see a couple of things about your system. I'll be out of town until Sunday sometime, but I'll try to get a list together of things you can post for me to give me more of an idea of what's going on.

Until Sunday then - night all!

Drew
August 25, 2009 5:14:42 AM

I don't have anything going on tomorrow after work, so I'll get some ideas together so we can solve this Spectre (or anonymous as it says now). Sorry, been really busy lately.
August 25, 2009 5:27:07 PM

It's ok. Thanks!
August 28, 2009 12:02:20 AM

Alright, lets try to solve this

go to Task Manager --> Ctrl + alt + del --> Task Manager

go to the Processes Tab and click on the top bar so it sorts by CPU usage

What process is using the most %? Edit: read your post again . . . the SYSTEM process . . . got another idea . . . I'll post it after dinner.

System Idle Process is essentially the % you have free, and what ever is underneath that is using the most CPU cycles. How much is being used?

One more thing - what driver are you using for the graphics card? Right click on My Computer --> Properties --> click the Hardware Tab -->click Device Manager --> Click the plus sign next to Display Adapters --> right click the name of the graphics card that just appeared --> click Properties --> click the Driver Tab --> tell me what it says next to Driver Version:_____________

could be a driver compatibility thing, or it could be an finicky pci bus.

Answer the questions and we'll go from there! cool . . . sorry this took so long to get back to you, my parent's computer exploded the other night, and we're going to need to buy a new CPU for it. Core 0 was showing sustained temps of 69-70C and probably had been running like that for months . . . took the heatsink off and the chip was stuck to the heatsink which means it had gotten REALLY hot at some point. Unstuck the CPU finally, applied new thermal compound, booted it and still had the high temp. Undervolted the CPU by 1 step, still had the heat problem. Undervolted the CPU by 2 steps in the bios. Still had the problem. Then the ethernet connection started switching between connected/not connected fairly rapidly and the machine shut itself off. It wouldn't boot after that, not even a post. Power supply is good, could be the motherboard, but apparently the board they have doesn't like to post if the CPU is bad . . . so, new CPU it is.

Drew
August 28, 2009 1:45:45 AM

So, you should go get this tool - Process Explorer

From here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb89665...

run the program and in the left hand column you should have System Idle process at the top --> hit the + sign to drop down what's below

Now you should see Interrupts, DPCs and SYSTEM

Hit the + sign next to SYSTEM. Then keep hitting + signs below SYSTEM until you can see just what is running the CPU usage up to 100%.

Tell me what that process is . . . and THAT will give me something to troubleshoot :) 

Drew
August 28, 2009 7:30:03 AM

Well it's really strange. It is not always the same program taking up the CPU. When I play a game, it'll take up 98-100%. If I use Google Chrome, it will be the process that takes up 98-100%.

I thought I had made a breakthrough a few days ago when I was running XP. I did not have any programs open and the CPU was still at 100%. I saw that ACPI.sys was using 99% (double-clicked on SYSTEM in Process Explorer, went to the Threads tab, and saw it). I used Process Explorer to suspend that process and it quieted down for a while. Eventually, though, the CPU goes back to 100% if I try playing a game.

When I was running Vista, the ACPI process was unable to be suspended, and it was not even taking up any of the CPU. It would always be the "active application" (like Google Chrome or a game). The weird thing is, as soon as I open a game, all I have to do is minimize it and the CPU usage goes back down. If I play the game long enough, the 100% CPU usage switches to SYSTEM once I close the game.

As for the graphics card, I am using the GeForce 6150LE. I believe that the driver is the beta version of the 182.08 release. I will be able to confirm this for you tomorrow (Friday).

That's all I have for now. Sorry for the long post.

August 28, 2009 1:08:05 PM

No worries on the long posts . . . I tend to want to let people know every detail so my posts are long as well. But, longer posts tend to give more info about what has already been tried, so it is easier to suggest things that HAVE NOT been tried.

I need to think about this some more, but I'll post later . . .

Drew
August 29, 2009 3:13:41 AM

Do you have anything plugged in via USB ports? Like an external hard drive or mouse and keyboard? The USB driver could be causing issues.

If you have a USB mouse and keyboard, try using the USB to PS/2 converter, if you have a couple converters. Unplug anything else that is USB.

When did this start happening? Did you add anything to the system around the time you started to notice the computer lagging from increased CPU usage? Did you change / start using any new drivers around that time?

I'm just throwing ideas out here . . .

You could also try booting to your bios to see if there is a manual setting for the PCIe frequency. You could lower it or raise it one or two steps to see how it affects the cpu usage. I know my overclock settings work MUCH better when I have my PCIe frequency set to 111 instead of 100. This is a pretty extreme change, but through trial and error I found that I get 4.0GHz out of my e8400 without bluescreens if and only if I have my PCIe frequency set to 111MHz.

I would not recommend changing yours, if you even can, much more than +/- 3MHz to test whether that is causing the problem.

Drew
August 29, 2009 4:05:39 AM

The problem began at the end of May. My brother tried printing a document. It wouldn't print, and ever since then, we've been having the issue. We did not add any new programs or update any drivers.

This is the driver version for my graphics card: 7.15.11.8208

I hope at least some of this information will be of use to you.

I will try the disconnecting USB devices and changing the PCIe frequency if necessary.

Thanks!
August 29, 2009 5:07:25 AM

Just to clarify, my graphics card is integrated into the motherboard. I'm not sure, but I do not think I can change the PCIe frequency.

I unplugged the external hard drive from a USB port. Both the mouse and keyboard use a PS/2 connection already.

Still no luck!
August 29, 2009 5:50:23 AM

Did you reboot after unplugging the external drive?

We are most likely looking at a driver conflict , we just need to figure out where.

One other possibility is a program/ system utility that is starting on boot. Even though the actual program isn't running up CPU usage, it might be causing the other programs to freak out.

Go to Start --> Run --> type msconfig

When the window pops up, in the general tab, click selective startup, and deselect load startup items.

Reboot. A lot of things will probably not work correctly, but see if it fixes the CPU usage issue. If it does, then you can run msconfig again, click on normal startup, then go to the startup tab and deselect all the items, and enable them one by one (reboot inbetween) to see where the problem lies. This will take some time, but if disabling the startup items really solves it you'll definitely want to spend the time figuring out which item is causing this.

You can also click on the diagnostic startup in the general tab for msconfig, and that could give you different results on reboot.

Just to check, you're running XP Pro or Home?
!