SQL SERVER – Troubleshooting High CPU

Today we are going to discuss Troubleshooting High CPU in SQL Server. This is one of the reasons why many hire me for Comprehensive Database Performance Health Check.

SQL SERVER - Troubleshooting High CPU highcpu-800x104

Step 1: Process Using CPU

It is quite possible that your SQL Server is installed on the machine where there are other windows applications are also installed and they are consuming your CPU. We can easily figure out which processes are using your CPU by just running the following query.

DECLARE @ms_ticks_now BIGINT
SELECT @ms_ticks_now = ms_ticks
FROM sys.dm_os_sys_info;
SELECT TOP 60 record_id
	,dateadd(ms, - 1 * (@ms_ticks_now - [timestamp]), GetDate()) AS EventTime
	,[SQLProcess (%)]
	,100 - SystemIdle - [SQLProcess (%)] AS [OtherProcess (%)]
	SELECT record.value('(./Record/@id)[1]', 'int') AS record_id
		,record.value('(./Record/SchedulerMonitorEvent/SystemHealth/SystemIdle)[1]', 'int') AS SystemIdle
		,record.value('(./Record/SchedulerMonitorEvent/SystemHealth/ProcessUtilization)[1]', 'int') AS [SQLProcess (%)]
			,convert(XML, record) AS record
		FROM sys.dm_os_ring_buffers
			AND record LIKE '%<SystemHealth>%'
		) AS x
	) AS y
ORDER BY record_id DESC

This query will give you a clear idea about if your SQL Server is using CPU or any other process. If your SQL Server is using the CPU, you should further continue the investigation in SQL Server otherwise, you should start looking for processes consuming your CPU in windows application.

Currently, this script gives you details about the last 60 minutes. You can further configure it for your desired interval.

Step 2: Current Queries Using CPU

Once you are certain that your SQL Server is using the maximum CPU, you can run the following script to identify which query is taking the maximum CPU. Please note that this query will only look into the currently running queries only.

	,st.TEXT AS batch_text
	,SUBSTRING(st.TEXT, statement_start_offset / 2 + 1, (
					WHEN r.statement_end_offset = - 1
						THEN (LEN(CONVERT(NVARCHAR(max), st.TEXT)) * 2)
					ELSE r.statement_end_offset
				) - r.statement_start_offset
			) / 2 + 1) AS statement_text
	,qp.query_plan AS 'XML Plan'
	,r.cpu_time, r.total_elapsed_time
	,r.logical_reads, r.writes, r.dop
FROM sys.dm_exec_requests r
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(r.sql_handle) AS st
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_query_plan(r.plan_handle) AS qp
ORDER BY cpu_time DESC

The query above is currently ordered by CPU Time, you can change the order if you prefer and if you want to retrieve additional details about the query, you can easily find more details from DMV dm_exec_requests which is aliased as r in the query above.

Step 3: Historical Queries Using CPU

I am often hired by clients to help them investigate the history of the SQL Server. They want to know why in the past their SQL Server was running very high. In that case, you can run the following script to identify which query was taking the most amount of the CPU in the past.

SELECT TOP(10) qs.execution_count AS [Execution Count],
	(qs.total_logical_reads)/1000.0 AS [Total Logical Reads in ms],
	(qs.total_logical_reads/qs.execution_count)/1000.0 AS [Avg Logical Reads in ms],
	(qs.total_worker_time)/1000.0 AS [Total Worker Time in ms],
	(qs.total_worker_time/qs.execution_count)/1000.0 AS [Avg Worker Time in ms],
	(qs.total_elapsed_time)/1000.0 AS [Total Elapsed Time in ms],
	(qs.total_elapsed_time/qs.execution_count)/1000.0 AS [Avg Elapsed Time in ms],
	qs.creation_time AS [Creation Time]
	,t.text AS [Complete Query Text], qp.query_plan AS [Query Plan]
FROM sys.dm_exec_query_stats AS qs WITH (NOLOCK)
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(plan_handle) AS t
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_query_plan(plan_handle) AS qp
WHERE t.dbid = DB_ID()
ORDER BY (qs.total_logical_reads/qs.execution_count) DESC;

The query above will retrieve data from your memory cache. This means if you clear your cache or if your server is restarted the data will be erased. You should not 100% depend on this for your investigation. However, from my experience, I have found that the result is pretty dependable.

Step 4: Fixing Query Performance

Once you identify which query is taking the maximum CPU you may consider tuning that query based on what you find offending in that query. You should focus on the following aspect, along with the execution plan operators when you are looking at query tuning exercise.

  • Wait statistics of the session
  • Scheduler workload
  • IO stalling queries
  • Memory grant for session
  • Blocking scenarios
  • Optional Max degree of parallelism for query
  • Execution plan operators consuming a lot of CPU
  • Ad-hoc workload of the server
  • Parameter sniffing configuration
  • etc.

Query tuning is not in the scope of this blog post, however, you are interested in this subject, you can watch my videos on YouTube about query tuning. If at any point in time, you are stuck or not able to move forward with your query tuning exercise, you can always reach out to me to help you. I usually answer very quickly to all the emails if I am not busy with Comprehensive Database Performance Health Check.

Let me know your thought about this blog post – Troubleshooting High CPU.

Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.SQLAuthority.com)

SQL CPU, SQL Scripts, SQL Server
Previous Post
SQL SERVER – Rebuilding Index with Compression
Next Post
SQL SERVER – CPU Scheduler Waiting On Disk

Related Posts

12 Comments. Leave new

  • Nice Post Pinal. Step 3 got me thinking about the Query Store. Maybe if we identify a query that runs often, maybe we could use the Query Store to find the most efficient query plan for that query and force the query to use that plan every time it runs. That way, hopefully it won’t take as much CPU when it runs. What do you think?

  • Hi Pinal, I need your help with index fragementations. I tried several solutions but didn’t work. right now I have to update each table indexes manually. is there any way we can rebuild all of them at once with simple query?


  • Another fantastic article! Question…Step 2: Current Queries Using CPU – how long should this take? I am already past 3 minutes…

  • Awesome read! Queries make diagnosing CPU issues and identifying the source much faster!

  • can you explain detail level isolation level am not understand even i gone through google

  • Excellent publication, very clear and useful !!!

  • Just to clarify, query in step 3 is ordered by average logical reads and it should be by average worker time, isn’t it?

  • Hi Pinal. I’ve noticed that your Step 1 script above sometimes produces negative numbers for the [OtherProcess (%)] field – e.g. [SQL Process (%)] = 20, [SystemIdle] = 87, [OtherProcess (%)] = -7. Is this an error? Harmless artifact?

  • I love your content Pinal,
    Just wanted to point out that I think you accidentally expressed the total_logical_reads value as a time (in milliseconds) rather than a count (of IOs) in your Step 3 query.

  • Hi Pinal,

    Have you ever faced that CPU usage of queries run say on SQL 2016 is 50% but as soon as we upgrade to SQL 2019 CPU usage for the same queries now goes to 90% and above.

  • Vincent C Peterson
    October 13, 2023 1:59 am

    SQL server 2019: When looking at the performance dashboard and system CPU utilization. I see SQL in blue and ‘other’ in yellow. How do I research the ‘Other’?


Leave a Reply