"System Idle Process"?

I’m looking in task manager (xp), and this “System Idle Process” is taking up >90% of my CPU. What is this thing, and why does it take so much effort? I know it’s only a 966 PIII, but… wow.

From here. Apparently it’s a Good Thing™

The system idle process is what your computer is doing when it’s doing nothing. If it has 90% of CPU, it means that your computer isn’t very busy. As long as the computer is turned on, the CPU has to be doing something, due to the way computers work, so the sum of all processes’ CPU usage will always be 100%.

No, it doesn’t. The CPU can be idle for any arbitrary length of time. Computers in DOS mode are idle most of the time, in fact.

ooooh. I was worried about the inadequacy of my processor.

That doesn’t sound right. Care to explain it a little more?

An “idle” processor is, in fact, doing something - probably sitting in a loop waiting for some event to happen. Those fancy HLT processes didn’t exist in the DOS days, when only one program was running at a time. A DOS program that appears to be “idle”, while waiting for a keypress, is merely burning CPU cycles in a loop.

Er, I should say, an idle processor is doing something unless it’s been put into a halt state by HLT. HLT causes the CPU clock to stop until an interrupt is received. Was HLT commonly used back in the day?

I don’t know for sure, but the HLT instruction has been a part of the 8086 instruction set from the beginning, AFAIK. I never much got into assembly language programming. It was my understanding that when the computer was at a DOS prompt, waiting for input that the processor was actually halted until you hit a key, which generated an interrupt.