How to Limit Application CPU Usage in Windows

How To Limit Application Cpu Usage In Windows

Limiting application CPU usage is one of the best solutions for speeding up your PC. Besides a much smoother and more convenient desktop experience, this method can also help you avoid system and app crashes, Blue Screens of Death, and other such uncomfortable occurrences on a Windows PC.

1. Use a CPU Usage Limiter Application

One way to manage your CPU usage is to utilize apps designed to perform this task. One such app is Process Tamer, an old, yet very light, simple, and reliable donationware for Windows XP/7/10. A 64-bit portable version also exists and can be used on Windows 11 without issue.

  1. Get Process Tamer either via the DonationCoder website or forum.
  2. Once the download has completed, open the installer file and proceed with the installation.
  1. Launch the Process Tamer app by double-clicking on its icon, which will open it in the background. To view the app window, click on the “Show Hidden Icons” icon located on the right side of your Windows taskbar (upward arrow).
Clicking on "Show Hidden Icons" button in the taskbar.
  1. To open the app window, double-click on the “Process Tamer” app icon.
Double-clicking on the Process Tamer icon in the system tray.

Tip: Windows desktop displaying black wallpaper? Learn what to do.

Adding an App and Setting Rules for It

  1. When the program launches, right-click on the large box at the bottom of the “Configuration” tab.
"Configuration" tab in the Process Tamer app with "Application Name" box visible at the bottom.
  1. Click on “Add Rule.”
Clicking on "Add Rule" option in the Process Tamer app.
  1. Browse to find your application, select it, and click on “Open.”
Browsing to find process in Windows.
  1. Set the “Explicit Rule” for the app by clicking on the arrow next to it and choosing your desired action from the drop-down menu. If the application is taking far too many CPU resources, opt for “Force Low” or “Force Below Normal.”
"Explicit Rule" set up in the Process Tamer app.
  1. After each configuration, click on the “OK” button at the bottom of the window.
Pressing "OK" button after configuring the rule.

Hints for Using the App

The “Processes” tab is used to view the processes currently running on your PC with their respective usage percentage.

"Processes" tab view in the Process Tamer app.

To change the priority of a certain app, click on the arrow next to its priority level and modify it in the drop-down window.

Changing app priority in the Process Tamer app.

To close or terminate a process, right-click on it and choose the desired option from the drop-down list.

Terminating processes in the Process Tamer app.

You can also set an explicit rule for each app by clicking on the arrow in its respective row and column. For example, you can choose “Force Low” to ensure a certain app always uses a low percentage of your CPU.

Setting an explicit rule from the "Processes" tab in the Process Tamer app.

The “Configuration” tab is used to manage the app itself and set detailed explicit rules for each app.

"Configuration" tab in the Process Tamer app where you can manage individual apps.

You can check the “Start with Windows” box to ensure this app runs each time you start up.

Enabling "Start with Windows" option in the Process Tamer app.

A crucial setting to look for is the threshold for triggering the explicit rules. This includes the percentage for the “CPU Usage Trigger Low” option.

Setting a threshold for triggering explicit rules in the Process Tamer app.

Tip: get up to speed on how to stop background processes from running in Windows and wrecking havoc.

2. Change the Process Priority

You can change the priority of a certain process via the Task Manager. Assigning a lower priority to an app that consumes a lot of your CPU can lift the load from the processor.

  1. Right-click on the Start menu and select “Task Manager.”
Selecting Task Manager from the WinX menu.
  1. Click on the “Details” tab to view a detailed version of all processes and their respective stats.
Clicking the "Details" tab in Task Manager.
  1. Find the process you wish to modify from the alphabetically sorted list and right-click on it.
Right-clicking on a process from the "Details" tab in Task Manager.
  1. Hover over “Set priority” and choose your preferred priority from the new drop-down window.
Hovering over the "Set Priority" option to bring up more options in Task Manager.
  1. Note that you can’t change the priority of fundamental Windows processes such as System.

3. Set Processor Affinity

The majority of processors today have multiple cores, and each app is run using one or more cores that are assigned automatically by the operating system. The selection of cores affiliated with a process is called processor affinity, and you can change this in case an app is putting pressure on your CPU by limiting its access to fewer cores.

  1. Right-click on the Start Menu icon and click on Task Manager from the drop-down window.
Selecting Task Manager from the WinX menu.
  1. Navigate to the “Details” tab to view a list of different processes and their usage.
Clicking the "Details" tab in Task Manager.
  1. Right-click on your desired process and click on “Set affinity.”
Clicking on "Set affinity" option in Details tab in Task Manager.
  1. Select which cores you would like the process to have access to by checking the box next to them and clicking on “OK” when done.
Checking cores in the "Processor affinity" window.
  1. Keep in mind that you can’t change the processor affinity for essential Windows processes.

Good to know: want to know more about your Windows PC’s built-in power options? Read about the differences between shutdown, sleep mode and more.

4. Modify the Maximum Processor State in Power Options

Your power plan might be responsible for limiting the maximum processor usage percentage. By default, it is set to 100%; however, you can lower the percentage to reduce heat and stress on your processor.

  1. Click on the Start menu, type “Control Panel,” and select it.
Searching for "Control Panel" via Windows Start.
  1. Click on “System and Security.”
Clicking on "System and Security" in Control Panel.
  1. Go to “Power Options.”
Selecting "Power Options" in Control Panel.
  1. Choose a power plan (preferably “High Performance”), then click on “Change plan settings” next to it.
Opting for a power plan and then clicking on "Change plan settings" in Control Panel.
  1. Click on “Change advanced power settings.”
Clicking on "Change advanced power settings."
  1. Scroll down and double-click on “Processor power management” to expand it.
Expanding the "Processor power management" menu under Power Options.
  1. Expand the “Maximum Processor State” option. Modify the percentage by clicking on the percent and typing your desired percentage. Between 80% and 84% would be ideal.
Modifying "Maximum Processor State" options.

Tip: keeping the CPU temperature in check is essential for your Windows to properly function. Learn how to keep an eye out for that.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my CPU speed?

If you want to improve your CPU speed, there are a number of ways to do it. For example, you can start overclocking your CPU. For more methods on how to do that, refer to our guide that details a number of ways to optimize your Windows PC performance. If you want to learn more regarding what affects CPU performance, we offer help in that area as well.

Can dirt and dust lead to slower CPU speed?

Yes, they can. Dust accumulation over time on certain electronic parts (such as the CPU) can gradually hamper their expected performance. Make sure you’re cleaning your hardware parts every once in a while.

You can clean your CPU with a clean piece of cloth or cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol. Cleaning should include the CPU socket, its surrounding area, and fresh thermal paste. However, the whole process should be handled with extreme care and delicacy. If you’ve never done this before, you may want to consider employing the services of an expert to minimize risks.

Image credit: Pexels. All screenshots by Farhad Pashaei.

Farhad Pashaei
Farhad Pashaei

As a technophile, Farhad has spent the last decade getting hands-on experience with a variety of electronic devices, including smartphones, laptops, accessories, wearables, printers, and so on. When he isn’t writing, you can bet he’s devouring information on products making their market foray, demonstrating his unquenchable thirst for technology.

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