How to find out which app hoggs CPU on your Android

Most of the apps you’ve ever seen and decided to install on your Android device is there for a reason. Some of them are useful tools or vivid games, others are Flappy Bird. And most of them have at least one problem. Now, most of the bugs or malfunctions are easy to locate. But, when it comes to resource-hogging of a bad optimized app, you’ll need to do some extra work.

You can easily locate RAM, storage or battery vampires, but it’s a bit harder when it comes to CPU. And the impact certain apps has on your handset’s CPU is too often disregarded as not essential due to the way the Android functions. The system indeed controls the CPU usage and kills some background processes to enables the others that are currently active to take more resources. But, that’s too often not enough for your device to work as fast as intended.

For that purpose, we prepared an informative article that should show you how to locate and terminate CPU-hogging apps in just a few steps. If you’re suspicious and want a complete control of your device, make sure to check the explanation below.

UPDATE: Google doesn’t allow third-party apps to access the hardware status anymore, due to security reasons. So, there’s no way of checking the CPU usage without rooting your phone. 

Use built-in resources

They are limited but should provide you with basic insight into the background doings of certain apps. The readings are mostly oriented toward the battery usage, but you can enable the CPU activity and act accordingly. But, firstly, let’s make a distinction. For example, if you play demanding, graphically intensive game and your last registered CPU activity is high, that’s OK. However, if some app that works in the background causes CPU spikes, that’s not what you want, we assure you.

If you’re not sure how to enable CPU on your Android device, follow these instructions:

  1. Navigate to Settings.
  2. Open About and navigate to Build number.
  3. Click 7 times on the number to enable Developer options in Settings.
  4. Get back to Settings and open newly unlocked Developer options.
  5. Locate the Monitoring pane below and enable Show CPU usage.

Now, you’ll be informed of the CPU activity in the real time. With that, you should be able to locate and disable certain background apps from hogging on your CPU immensely.

If you’re uncertain how to forcibly disable apps, follow the instructions below:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Developer options.
  3. Tap Running services or Processes.
  4. Stop suspicious apps.

Have in mind that this is effective only before the restart. With the new restart, there’s a chance that the app process you terminated will emerge again like the phoenix from ashes. Because of that, you should take into the consideration uninstalling of the troubling app. In addition, if you’re sure that the CPU usage is stable, you can easily disable the on-screen CPU monitoring and continue using your device just like before.

Use 3rd-party apps

Now, let’s move to a real deal. Most of the modern smartphones come with the built-in maintenance tools. However, most of the time, they’re not properly suited for advanced readings, but rather for the cache cleanup. For those, you’ll need a third-party tool.Well, there you can get a bit dazzled and confused with the variety of available tools. Luckily, we prepared a list of best-suited free tools for the job, including their main traits.

System Monitor Lite

Pros:

  • Great and simple but nonetheless colorful user interface.
  • Covers all the main readings you need, 6 of them, to be exact. Including the CPU activity, of course.
  • Small in size but quite powerful tool.
  • Supports most of the devices available in the market.
  • Individual core monitoring.

Cons:

  • Paid option is much better in many regards, especially for advanced users.
  • No Widgets.
  • No CPU temperature measurement.

You can download System Monitor Lite on this link.

UPDATE: System Monitor Lite has been removed from the Play Store.

TinyCore

Pros:

  • Well-designed and small in size as you would expect.
  • It more looks like a built-in tool since it integrates into the system and provides you with readings in real time.
  • Stats-bar is well placed and informative.
  • Low system footprint.

Cons:

  • As same as System Monitor Lite, TinyCore is somehow underwhelming when compared with the premium version, especially when it comes to customization.
  • No advanced readings in the free version.

You can download TinyCore from this link.

CPU-Z

Pros:

  • Probably the best CPU monitoring app you can obtain for free.
  • Mirrors most of the features available on the PC version of the app.
  • Supports most of the available handsets.

Cons:

  • It’s not as attractive visually as some other apps.
  • Too many ads. Including video ads with pop-ups and all that jazz that can drive you mad and diminish the overall experience.

CPU-Z can be downloaded by following this link.

Have in mind that these tools are there just for monitoring. They are just a first step. Once you’ve learned the cause of the CPU spikes, you must manually navigate and terminate the CPU-hogging apps.

That should conclude our list and instructions. We certainly hope that you’ll find those helpful. In addition, don’t forget to offer your opinions, questions or suggestions in the comments section below.

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5 COMMENTS

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GKA
Guest
GKA

System monitor lite link doesn’t work. Either app was deleted or there is mistake in address.

Amdr01d1337
Guest
Amdr01d1337

This doesn’t work:

“Locate the Monitoring pane below and enable Show CPU usage.”

All I have in dev options/monitoring is a toggle for “strict mode enabled” and “profile GPU rendering” – no option there to “show CPU usage”. I’m on Pixel 2, stock ROM, 8.1.0, build OPM2.171026.006.G1.

Ivan Jenic
Admin
Ivan Jenic

Hi,

It seems this option has been removed, which means third-party apps are your only option now.

Amdr01d1337
Guest
Amdr01d1337

It gets even worse. After a bit more digging, it looks like they removed CPU profiling by app *completely* from Oreo now. I think only way you can get it working is if you are rooted, which I’m not. 🙁 Bummer. I was really hoping to figure out the app responsible for overloading my Pixel 2 to the point that it’s barely responsive and practically unusable for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute or more. Although, this does usually seem to happen after opening Facebook Messenger’s “Chat Heads” UI to reply to a message, so I’m suspecting that it’s… Read more »

Ivan Jenic
Admin
Ivan Jenic

Thanks for the heads up! I’ll update the article.

Yeah, It seems third-party apps are not allowed to access the hardware status due to security reasons. And this probably won’t change in Android Q. So, it appears that rooting is the only way to go.
The closest thing to checking resource usage by app is by going to Dev options > Running services. Maybe you’ll get an idea of what’s going on from there.
However, if you suspect Messenger is the culprit, you can try the Lite version, if you’re willing to make a compromise.