Ask Leo! #531 – CPU Maxed at 25%, External Drives, Scheduling Backups, and yes, Everything is Awesome!


What External Drive Should I Get?

One of my very frequent recommendations is that you purchase an external hard drive for back-up purposes. Backing up to an external drive is probably the most important first step in getting an overall back-up strategy in place.

The question that inevitably comes up then is just which external drive to get.

The problem, of course, is that it's an answer that keeps changing. Technology evolves, and as a result, so does my recommendation.

Let me give you a few guidelines, and then a few current (as of this writing) examples.

Continue Reading: What External Drive Should I Get?

Why won't my program use more than 25% of the CPU?

I am running a VERY LONG Excel'03 Spreadsheet (can be configured to loop calculating alternatives for hours using an embedded Basic Program/Macro). I am running this on a Quad Core Intel Q6600 with 4 GB.

When I check in Task Manager, the System Idle Process will not drop LOWER than 75% and the Excel Process will max out at 25%. I've tried upping the priority of the process and have checked the "affinity" to ensure it's using all 4 processor cores. The Performance tab does show activity / load on all 4 processor windows.

What's up? Why can't I utilize more than 25% of my system when I want to use it for a high priority and very lengthy task?

It's one of the most frustrating things to experience. Here you go and spend extra money to get that super fast quad- (or more) core processor, throw a huge task at it expecting it to go two or four times faster…

And it just pokes along.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that there's nothing wrong. The bad news is that … there's nothing to be fixed. This is completely expected, and depends entirely on the software you're running.

Continue Reading: Why won't my program use more than 25% of the CPU?

How Do I Schedule Automatic Backups?

Next to simply making an image backup, scheduling those backups to happen automatically is one of the topics most people find confusing.

Depending on the backup software that you're using, it's typically not hard at all.

I'll show you by walking through the steps of scheduling a monthly full backup, using the free version of the backup software I use and recommend: Macrium Reflect.

Continue Reading: How Do I Schedule Automatic Backups?


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Glossary Term


A core is technically a single CPU.

A CPU, or "Central Processing Unit", is the circuitry that actually performs calculations and executes the instructions of computer programs.

Most desktop computers originally used a single processor chip containing a single core or CPU. A computer may now also have a single processor chip with multiple cores, multiple processors with single cores, or multiple processors with multiple cores. Regardless of the configuration multiple cores allow a computer to quite literally do two two or more things at the same time.

The term "CPU" is often also used to refer to the entire processor chip and all the cores it may contain.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

What's an incremental backup?

Allan Poe writes:

When making a full backup, there are two choices: Clone and Image

This explanation was taken from PC World and gives a good definition of each.

When you CLONE a drive, you copy everything on it onto another drive, so that the two are effectively identical. Normally, you would clone to an internal drive made external via a SATA/USB adapter or enclosure.

But IMAGING a drive is more like creating a great big .zip file (without the .zip extension). Image backup software copies everything on the drive into a single, compressed, but still very large file. You would probably save the image onto an external hard drive.

So what are the advantages of each?

Should your primary hard drive crash, a clone will get you up and running quickly. All you have to do is swap the drives.

On the other hand, if your drive crashes and you've backed it up to an image, you'd have to buy and install a new internal hard drive, boot from your backup program's emergency boot disc, and restore the drive's contents from the backup.

So why image? An image backup provides greater versatility when backing up. You can save several images onto one sufficiently large external hard drive, making it easier and more economical to save multiple versions of the same disk or back up multiple computers.

How do I create a new machine image?

Dennis writes:

In Win 7 and viewing Control Panel>System and Security> Backup and Restore there is an option to 'Create a system image.'

Will this do? No need to download other software or what?

Leo writes:

It can do, but only in Windows 7 is it even close to acceptible. (It wasn't in Vista, and they broke it again in Windows 8 in my opinion.) In general programs like Macrium - even the free version - are easier, more flexible and more reliable. I wrote a book on using Windows 7's backup:

Windows XP must die! Long live Windows XP!

James Wong writes:

What I am doing is to keep Windows XP running in a virtual machine. I have old software like Dreamweaver MX, WordPerfect 2000 / 2002 which were released more than 10 years ago and ran well under Windows XP. I kept Windows XP virtual machines in a Windows 7 host using VMware Workstation 10 and VMware Player 6 to run them. They worked fine for my little purposes and I see no need to upgrade to current versions or any other software (especially not the Microsoft ones like the expensive Microsoft Office). There are no antivirus or security software in the virtual machines as I don't use them to surf the internet. They worked fine for me so far.

For my Chinese language word processing there is OpenOffice which has all I need. The software companies must hate me, haha!

In fact, I still keep Windows 98 virtual machines just to be able to run some old games which will not run properly under even Windows XP.

So I am going to continue using Windows XP for as long as I want, and no amount of persuasion and threat by Microsoft and others will change my mind. And if necessary, I may even use some of the older hardware I have to build a Windows XP machine, just for testing purposes.

Leo's Blog

Everything is Awesome!

I'm going to take a moment, step just a little to the side of computing, and let my inner geek out. Not that I restrain him all that much anyway…

I recently watched The Lego Movie, and besides bringing back some memories, it actually reminded me of something I hadn't thought about for a long time.

Not that everything is awesome … that's something I feel pretty much every day.

No, this was more about how I got my start, and how my grandmother may have had a hand in that.

Continue Reading: Everything is Awesome!

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