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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 5,973

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Problem Solution: Windows XP, svchost.exe using 99% CPU, very slow system

We encountered this problem the other day and the solution isn't obvious without some Googling, so I'm posting it here.

Symptoms: Your computer is running very slowly and networking may also be running at a snail's pace.

Confirmation: Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del to start up Task Manager. In the Processes tab, check out the CPU activity for svchost.exe. If it's running high, possibly even peaking or consistently at 99%, then you probably have this problem.

Solution: If you're running a version of Internet Explorer earlier than 8, update it, then apply security update KB2870699. (Even if you never use Internet Explorer as a browser, it's an integral part of Windows XP.)

How to do it: Since your computer is running so slowly, you're best to do this in Safe Mode with Networking, where your computer should run fairly normally.

To do this, reboot and keep hitting F6 until you see a screen that offers a range of boot options. Select Safe Mode with Networking.

Using either Internet Explorer or your usual browser, download IE 8 and install it. You can find it here:


or more directly from


After installation, your computer will ask to reboot. Let it do so.

You'll now be back in your usual Windows configuration. If your system's still running slowly, you may need to reboot into Safe Mode with Networking again to do the following.

Download and install Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP (KB2870699) from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40119

Reboot again. By now your computer should be running more normally.

After you've done that, visit http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/ and let it identify any other updates needed by your computer and install them. If your computer's running relatively normally by now, you don't need to do this in Safe Mode with Networking.

This resolved the 99% usage problem on one of our laptops which was originally still running IE 6. It also sped up another laptop which already had IE 8 installed but not the security update, and which was running less quickly than normal and showing intermittent 40% or so svchost.exe CPU activity even when at rest.

There may be other reasons why your computer might be running slowly, so you need to confirm that svchost.exe over-activity is the problem before applying this solution.

Afterthought: svchost.exe over-activity has been a recurrent problem with Windows XP for some years, usually tied to Windows Automatic Updates or sometimes installation of proprietary software (e.g. from Hewlett Packard) that uses an updater.

One simple solution doing the rounds is to disable Windows Automatic Updates, but that can lead to its own problems over time.

Other solutions require more tinkering under Windows XP's hood. At the time of writing, this particular instance of the svchost.exe problem does seem tied to IE and its security update, which is why I've offered this solution here rather than trying to address other possible causes and solutions that may apply now or later. It uses normal Windows processes and doesn't involve any great technical knowledge, so it's unlikely to do any harm, and it's worth trying it first before doing any more instrusive troubleshooting, as at least you'll have eliminated one possible cause.

My goodness, Chuck, you're a real big fan of this "Dan from Squirrel Hill's Blog"

judging by your journal: http://www.democraticunderground.com/~Chuck%20Smythe

I checked Dan's blog out: http://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/

Quite a RW libertarian paradise there, from what I've seen.

Rifffling though his categories and some of his comments, Dan doesn't seem to like leftists at all, among probably WAY more than 169 other things that many folks on DU generally stand for--unions, Barack Obama, the ACA, gun control, environmentalism ...

Funny that.

You wouldn't happen to actually be Dan, would you, Chuck?
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