(Note: I also posted this over at Microsoft Forum, so I'll be getting some help from them, too, hopefully.)
Been browsing the forum, but the answer to each problems seems highly specific to each instance of the problem, so I don't see an alternative to posting this question and hoping for some individualized feedback here. Thank you in advance for your help.
Before I get to the problem, I'll provide some system specs:
Dell Latitude E6430 Laptop
Intel i5-3210M CPU @ 2.5 GHz
3.88 GB RAM
Windows 7 Pro (SP1) (64-bit)
Recently, I've noticed that some unknown thing is hogging resources far beyond the usual amount even when the computer is idle. Right now for example, I only have Task Manager and Chrome (2 tabs) running yet my CPU usage is hovering just under 40% (of 2.5 GHz processor) and my physical memory is at 43% (of 3.88 GB installed memory). This is much higher than it should be. Here is a pic of Task Manager:
I can see two obvious problems when I look at this. First, the NT Kernel and System is using up way too much of the CPU. Since that's a Windows process, obviously I can't just disable it, but I don't even know where to begin in looking for causes to that.
The second problem that I see is that there are well over 100 processes running (often upwards of 120). I remember back in the day with older Windows OS, I liked to keep this well under 50. But alas, I don't think that's an option anymore with how Windows runs. Throughout the years, I've found it increasingly difficult to diagnose problems due to these processes due to their confusing names and seemingly overlapping responsibilities. The complexity is increased by the use of svchost processes (18 instances running when I last checked) which apparently contain a bunch of stuff in them.
While I worry about the constant load on the processor and RAM for its own sake, these problems seem exacerbated by something else that I cannot diagnose through Task Manager. Though the total CPU usage never seems to get very high, my system comes pretty much to a halt each time I load a webpage or program. The CPU indicator light will be solid (or nearly so), which indicates to me that there is something going on (whether high CPU usage or RAM usage), that I can't see.
The changes that I can remember making lately are that I installed a USB Bluetooth transmitter and driver and I installed a new Western Digital external hard drive. These installations seem to have exacerbated whatever problems were already going on and seem to have led to the temporary freezes that I'm getting now. But I don't know what sort of stuff I can disable to get these problems to go away.
I'm more than happy to post lists of current processes, start-up items, services and whatever else you need. Just let me know.
Thanks again for your help.