Sunday, July 12, 2009

AVG CPU Utilization

Howto: Instructions on how to tell if AVG 8.5 is hogging too much CPU utilization - 100% CPU utilization, along with steps to fix the problem. This article was originally written for version 8.5 and has not been tested with version 9.0. Near the bottom of this article are steps on how to tell your CPU utilization.

In previous posts I have recommended AVG's free virus scanner, version 8.5. But on the last three machine's I have worked on, the virus scanner hogged large amounts of CPU and I can see from Keyliner's web-traffic, this continues to plague many readers. Because of this, I no longer recommend installing AVG's scanner (See this keyliner article: Using MSE).
However, the remainder of this article discusses possible solutions.

The computers in question were capable machines, with plenty of RAM and they were virus and spyware free, and yet, they were still beat to death by background processes. And I confirmed that AVG was not trying to update itself in the background. I've spoken to colleagues and they report similar experiences.

It took a while to find a likely solution and the following steps have solved this problem on the past several computers I've worked with. Near the end of this article are diagnostic steps you can use to determine if your computer is running slow.


Fixing the Problem:
Jumping to the solution, I found this tid-bit on AVG's forums (later in this article are steps on how to diagnose the problem in more detail):

If you notice AVGemc.exe causing 100% CPU utilization, or otherwise slowing down your machine, re-install AVG in custom mode with ONLY the MS Outlook plug-in. Do not install the Bat! or Personal E-Mail Scanner plug-ins.

In fact, AVG recommends if you're using Outlook, only install the MS Outlook plug-in. If MS Outlook Express, use the Personal E-Mail scanner plug-in. (Basically, uncheck the other options, see illustration below).


My recommended steps:
These steps are for the "Free" version (and may or may not work on their demo/commercial version).

1. Uninstall AVG and reboot, as instructed
2. Re-Install AVG.

Use this link to download the software: Note: Since this article was written, AVG has now released version 9.0 and this link takes you to the download page; be sure to select the Free version (not the free-upgrade version)

Link:
AVG's Free AntiVirus
(When installing AVG, be sure to download the Free version, which is different than the Trial version. It may take a moment to find it; as of 2009.10, this link takes you directly to the page.)


3. Choose Custom Install
4. Accept the default path

5. Choose these custom options:

If you use Outlook Email:
Uncheck "Link Scanner"
Uncheck "Bat Plug in"
Check Plugin for Microsoft Outlook
Uncheck Office Plugin

If you use another Email Client:
Uncheck "Link Scanner"
Uncheck "Bat Plug in"
Check "Email Scanner" only
(Uncheck Microsoft Outlook Plug In)
Uncheck Office Plugin



6. Allow the software to install.

Other Concerns: Windows Defender:

AVG also has a spyware scanner -- with no apparent way to disable the feature. The trouble is, Windows Defender, included with XP SP2 and Vista, also scans for spyware and I suspect there is some competition between the two programs. Although I prefer Defender, I decided to disable Microsoft's program. Follow these steps:

1. Launch Control Panel, Security Center.

2. Choose "Windows Defender" from the left-menu.

3. Choose top-menu "Tools", options.

Scroll down the window, past Automatic scanning (this is not at all obvious).
Uncheck "Use Windows Defender"
Click OK past the various gripes.



4. Return to the Windows Security Center.

In the "Malware Protection", click the down-arrow to expand the section.

Change the Malware protection status to "not monitored" (optionally, click the side-bar 'Change the way Security Center alerts me') -- if not, it will bug you constantly about Windows Defender being disabled -- The security center does not understand that AVG does the same task.

How to Tell: CPU Utilization

If you suspect your computer is slow, here is one way to help prove the problem. To see how busy your computer is, do the following:

1. On any empty spot on the task-bar, other-mouse-click and choose "Task Manager". Alternately, ctrl-alt-del, choose "Task Manager".
 
Click illustration for a larger view; click right-x to return.

2. Display all of the tasks running:

* In Task Manager, click the top [Processes] tab
* Near the bottom of the panel, click "Show all processes for all users"
(You must click this button to get a clear picture of the process list.)

3. Change the Sort Order, showing the biggest hogs first:

* On the top column-bar, click the word "CPU" twice to change the sort-order -- largest tasks are first.

On most computers, "System Idle Process" should be at the top of the list. (If you do not see System Idle Process, see step 2.)

The list will flux and change; this is normal. Every program listed here is "running" -- although some take such little CPU time they register "00" (zeroes).


Watch the list. As a program gets the CPU's attention, it jumps higher in the list and the CPU column will show a higher percentage. Some tasks will jockey for second and third place, changing positions often; this is normal. The task-monitor itself takes one or two percent so you should not leave this program running.

Comments:
  • At the bottom of the panel you will see "CPU Usage xx%". Assuming you are not downloading a file or watching youtube videos, CPU usage should be around 3% to 5%. If yours is hovering around 20 or 30%, then something is wrong. See the bottom of this article for related links.
    For example, on my computer, even though I am running a photo-editor, word processor, browser, and a database, CPU utilization is still at 2 to 3%.

  • "System Idle Process" is an indication on how bored your computer is. If this number hovers in the high 90's (99, 98%), then this means the computer is simply waiting for you to do something and this task will statistically always be at the top of the list. This is good.
  • Other tasks in the list occupy varying amounts of CPU utilization and memory. In my recent cases, AVG was hovering around 25% on an idled system (making the System Idle Process around 75%) -- this is after uninstalling all kinds of other programs and background tasks.
    The screen shot above was captured on a healthy system; I did not capture an image for this article.
What does each program do?

On most machines I have worked with, they have so many programs loading at startup that the computer becomes bogged down, sluggish, and unusable. You will find toolbar programs, printer monitoring programs, automatic updates for Acrobat, background processes that remind you to pay your bills, and the list goes on. New computers have all kinds of trial software installed, and you might find expired virus scanners and the like -- all of this is commonly called "crap ware."

The exe names in the list can be obscure and you may need to search the web to find out what programs launched the task. In this article, Cleaning up Startup Programs, I detailed how to remove these programs.

But even when I had cleaned up the machine, AVG was still porking out a ton of CPU cycles -- about 25% of them and it was consistent.

Conclusion:

It is hard to tell if the de-install/re-install fixed the problem or if changing the installation options and disabling Defender was the trick. In any case, the computers are now operating normally.

Update 2009.01:
This article continues to get a large number of hits each monthly, indicating a continuing problem with AVG. This, along with the poor performance of other commercial packages, including McAfee and Symantec, makes it to where I no longer recommend any of these, including AVG.

I will review Microsoft's MSE in the future. Currently, because of all these hassles, I am no longer running a Virus scanner. A future article on this topic is almost guaranteed.

Please leave a comment if this article resolved your problem (no registration required).

Keywords: AVG CPU Utilization CPU Hog 100% utilization 95% 90% 100% resources

Related Articles:
Windows 7 Explorer Settings
For Windows 7: Start Menu Cleanup

For Windows XP: Streamline Windows XP / Vista Start Menu
Microsoft Security Essentials MSE
:Recommended

Link: AVG's Free AntiVirus

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