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I haven't had this kind of sluggishness for years - I've a quad-core PC with 4Gb RAM running Windows7 and it's normally fine but sometimes just bogs right down... windows stop responding for a few seconds, hard drive chugging away, etc.

However I note my idle CPU never drops below about 90% when this is going on - I feared some malicious process.

Should I be worried something nasty is avoiding my AV software, or is there some other maintenance I can do? I note Eclipse and Chrome are the two apps which seem most slug-like in case it's relevant.

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You mention "hard drive chugging away", could this be the bottleneck? – John U Feb 26 '13 at 9:25
If the CPU is fine, what does the Resource Monitor tells you about the apps memory use? – Silver Quettier Feb 26 '13 at 9:28
I would check the harddrive is OK. Download for free the Acronis Disk Monitor (SMART tool). I would also check to see what is running at start up (via MSCONFIG) and also if anything is being started via Task Scheduler. – Dave Feb 26 '13 at 9:29
What AV are you using? – gronostaj Feb 26 '13 at 10:15
When this happens, which processes actually consume CPU time? Task Manager will tell you. Note that you may need to Show processes from all users to see the culprit in the Processes tab. – Michael Kjörling Feb 27 '13 at 12:29

Computers waiting on network or I/O bound tasks (hard drive read/writes) will exhibit this behavior. The computer could be doing updates on software (eclipse and Chrome and AV software check for updates when it launches as default behavior). If the Hard drive is getting full the number of times the computer tries to write to the drive increases.

Don't overlook hardware: A failing CPU fan might be the culprit as well, a computer cpu will stop for several seconds trying to protect itself from overheating. There are so many reasons for this it is really hard to track down without more diagnostics.

All of the previous answers have had good things to try Resource monitor, msconfig, I would add spybot if you are wondering about spyware.

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You have to check your Task Manager for running process that may be the only reason behind the sign
so that you have to go in the Run and type msconfig and in that Start up tab and uncheck the process or program's which you don't want to start at Start up and restart your computer


you have to check the Google Chrome also because it also need a lots of memory to run and some time it run in the background after closing the Chrome or just check the Chrome Task Manager so that you will come to know Hope this will work ...!

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