What is CPU Maximum Frequency? (Its Effect on Laptop Performance)

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What is CPU Maximum Frequency

Maximum Frequency is the highest speed at which the CPU (central processing unit) is allowed to run by the OS (operating system). The frequency of a CPU tells you the speed of the processor cores, measured in MHz (megahertz). Typically, the higher the frequency, the faster the CPU. By default, the percentage is set to 0 in current versions of Windows. Most modern CPUs can manage themselves efficiently, so there’s little advantage to changing processor settings. But if you find that your laptop is running too hot. Or you need to conserve battery power. Windows provides a way to adjust the maximum processor frequency.

Why You Generally Don’t Have to Adjust CPU Maximum Frequency

The CPU processor cores in your laptop are already programmed to run as high as they’re capable without damaging the component or your device.

Again, you can decrease the maximum frequency if you find the CPU is consuming too much power or running too hot. Conversely, if you need the CPU cores to run faster to handle more demanding tasks. You can adjust the frequency higher at the cost of your laptop producing more heat.

How to Find the Maximum Frequency of Your Laptop’s CPU

In the most up to date versions of Windows, you’ll need to go to the Windows Resource Monitor tab to see the current maximum frequency of the CPU. That will require going to the Windows Resource Monitor. This is how to get to it.

Next to the CPU Usage values in the Windows Resource Monitor tab is a status box and graph for “Maximum Frequency.” The value for Maximum Frequency can sometimes be over 100%! Why?

The clock speed of the CPU’s cores are calculated as a percentage of the frequency at which the CPU is running. When CPU performance technologies, like Turbo Boost and “power saving mode” are turned off. The Max Frequency percentage will read 100%.

But by changing the operating settings, you can decrease or increase this frequency percentage. For instance, setting the system to “power saving mode” lowers the maximum frequency to around 60%.

On the other hand, if you’re working on a task that requires the processors to work harder. Increasing the setting to “higher performance” mode will pump up the frequency up to 110%. But you’ll find that your laptop runs hotter than usual.

Newer processors manage themselves and need minimal intervention. This means that changing the CPU’s Maximum Frequency might actually affect your laptop’s performance, negatively affecting its ability to perform tasks. You should only attempt to do this if you really know what you’re doing.

In Windows 10, the processor is already operating at Maximum Frequency, so you can’t overclock it or increase the frequency beyond the set limit. However, you can underclock your processor and reduce the frequency.

Is It Safe for My CPU to Run at Maximum Frequency?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe for the CPU to run at Maximum Frequency. Some experts claim you’ll only notice a slight change in your laptop’s power usage by reducing the CPU’s Maximum Frequency. Doing so also only slightly affects the performance of the processor.

Reducing the Maximum Frequency becomes a bigger issue if your CPU is constantly under a high load. In this case, reducing the frequency will save the internal parts from damage and guarantee that the processor functions optimally. However, if your processor isn’t under high load all the time, the Maximum Frequency won’t pose a hazard to your machine.

What really matters is your CPU’s temperature and voltage. If they’re too high, this probably means that your CPU is at risk. It’ll keep working but wear out faster.

So, if you’re worried about hardware malfunctions or need to conserve your laptop’s battery life. It might be a good idea to temporarily manipulate the frequency.

What Can I Do if my CPU is Always Running at Maximum Frequency?

In some cases, your CPU might be running at maximum speed even when it’s idle. The likely result is that your device always feels hot. And you’ll hear the fans constantly running to keep things cool.

Check the Task Manager to find the frequency of the CPU. The tab will also show you all the information related to the performance of the CPU and how it’s functioning.

Can I Limit CPU Maximum Frequency?

Yes, you can. Again, in most scenarios a CPU that’s constantly running at maximum frequency poses no threat to the component or computer internals. But you might need to limit the frequency if you find the CPU is running too hot.

All the options to alter its Maximum Frequency are included in Windows 10, but it’s hidden by default.

If you want to change the CPU’s frequency, Windows 10 will give you two options. You can either set it when the device is running on battery power. Or set it when your device is plugged into a power outlet.

There are two ways to reduce the processor’s frequency: one uses an easy command prompt and the other uses the registry editor.

Command Prompt

For this method, you need to have the latest version of Windows. If you already have it, this method will work as intended.

  • Press the Windows Key + R to open the Run dialogue box.
  • When prompted by the User Account Control or UAC, choose Yes. This will grant you administrative privileges to the newly opened Command Prompt.pe (cmd).
  • Press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open an elevated Command Prompt.
  • Inside the elevated Command Prompt, type the following command: powercfg -attributes SUB_PROCESSOR 75b0ae3f-bce0-45a7-8c89-c9611c25e100 -ATTRIB_HIDE
  • Press Enter to add the Maximum Processor Frequency inside the Power Options menu.
  • Restart your laptop.
  • Once restarted, press Windows key + R to open another Run dialog box.
  • Type (powercfg.cpl) and press Enter to open the Power Options menu.
  • Select the power plan that’s currently active and click Change Advanced Power Settings.
  • Scroll down through the list of settings and you’ll discover a drop-down menu named Maximum Processor Frequency. Modify its values to set the preferred values in MHz.
  • Restart your laptop once the On battery and Plugged In values have changed, which will put the new values in effect.

Registry Editor

This process is easy as you only need to change one registry key.

  • Press Windows key + R to open a run dialog box.
  • Type (regedit).
  • Press Enter. This will open the Registry Editor.
  • When prompted by the User Account Control. Press Yes to grant administrative privileges, which will allow you to manipulate the values.
  • Inside Registry Editor, use the left-hand menu to navigate to the following location: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Power\PowerSettings\54533251-82be-4824-96c1-47b60b740d00\75b0ae3f-bce0-45a7-8c89-c9611c25e100

You can also copy and paste this location in the bar.

  • Double-click Attributes and set its value to 2.