A CPU monitor can tell you lots of information about how well a device is performing and can shine light on those devices that are struggling to keep up with the demands of the network.
Maintaining your devices adequately is dependent upon your ability to monitor your systems and make sure that excessive CPU usage isn’t slowing your productivity down to a crawl.
Here is our list of the best CPU monitoring tools:
- Atera EDITOR’S CHOICE A remote monitoring platform designed for MSPs that includes server monitoring functions. Start a 30-day free trial.
- SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset (FREE TRIAL) A collection of more than 60 tools for infrastructure monitoring that includes CPU monitoring for all connected equipment.
- Paessler PRTG Network Monitor (FREE TRIAL) An all-in-one network, server, and application monitoring system. Network device and server checks include CPU monitors.
- StackPath Server Density A cloud-based monitoring platform that includes server and network equipment CPU monitoring.
- ManageEngine OpManager A network performance monitor that checks on the CPU performance of all network devices. Runs on Windows Server and Linux.
- Monitis This tool focuses on maintaining websites. Its functions include server CPU monitoring.
- SysGauge A monitoring toolset that includes server and device CPU monitoring. Available in free and paid versions.
- AppDynamics An applications monitor that keeps track of server statuses, including CPU performance.
- Nagios XI A network monitor that includes server monitoring functions, such as live CPU utilization and capacity checks.
- Auvik A network infrastructure monitoring package that includes checks on the statuses of the CPUs in network devices.
- Connectwise Automate A highly customizable infrastructure monitoring package that includes scripts for task automation. The tool includes CPU checks for network devices and servers.
See also: Best CPU Temperature Monitors
The best CPU monitoring tools
CPU or central processing units need to be managed in the same way as any physical device in order to stay in operation. In this article we’re going to look at some of the best CPU monitoring software tools to see which is best for monitoring CPUs.
Atera is a software package that supports managed service providers (MSPs). The platform is a cloud service so the MSP doesn’t have to install the monitoring software on its site. However, the remote systems that are being monitored do need to have agent software installed on them.
The Atera system is an RMM. That stands for “remote monitoring and management.” The monitoring part of that suite of tools includes the supervision of activities and statuses for networks, servers, and applications. The server monitoring functions of Atera include comprehensive CPU monitoring. The service can watch the utilization of CPU and also keeps a record of the maximum CPU processing power that a server has.
The management functions of Atera include the ability to kill off abandoned processes that are chewing up CPU time. Other server maintenance utilities in Atera include the ability to clean disks, removing temporary files. It is also able to defrag disks. The service can create system restore points, back up servers, and restore saved files.
- Cloud-based monitoring lowers costs and avoids complicated onboarding
- The browser-based dashboard is accessible from virtually anywhere
- Offers additional features like PSA and RMM, making it a good fit for managed service providers
- Can group devices and monitoring reports to be filtered by client
- Atera offers a suite of RMM/PSA tools that can take time to fully explore and implement
The Atera platform is marketed as three editions: Pro, Growth, and Power. You can get a 30-day free trial of any of these versions to test it out.
Atera is our top choice. As Software-as-a-Service, Atera includes all of the software, processing, and storage facilities needed to run the platform. The service is charged for by subscription per technician per month. It is also possible to opt for a yearly subscription, which offers a lower rate. Start 30-day Free Trial: atera.com OS: Cloud-based
Atera is our top choice. As Software-as-a-Service, Atera includes all of the software, processing, and storage facilities needed to run the platform. The service is charged for by subscription per technician per month. It is also possible to opt for a yearly subscription, which offers a lower rate.
Start 30-day Free Trial: atera.com
First up on this list we have SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset which has its own CPU monitor and can monitor the maximum CPU load of connected devices. CPU load is displayed as graphs so that you can see if the CPU is declining over time. Graphs are particularly useful for seeing if there are viruses or any other issues that could be causing problems for a device.
To stop you from having to monitor everything yourself, SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset has its own alarms feature. Alarms raise alerts whenever the defined thresholds have been reached. You can set metric thresholds for CPU load, so that once the load goes over this figure an alert is sent to you by email or SMS. This keeps you in touch with everything going on and makes sure that you don’t miss out on anything.
SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset has its own autodiscovery feature which automatically discovers devices connected to your network. Once a device has been discovered you’re able to monitor its performance through metrics like CPU load and memory utilization. Using autodiscovery minimizes the amount of configuration time you need to spend configuring and updating the software.
- Provides passive and manual tools for CPU testing/monitoring
- Includes a suite of 60+ helpful tools, specifically designed for network administrators and on-site technicians
- Aids in device discovery and testing
- Can help verify network functionality for different devices
- Can easily export or import results from previous scans
- Designed specifically for sysadmin, not ideal for home users
No matter what size your organization, SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset is a tool that provides one of the best CPU monitor products on the market. SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset is available on Windows from a price of $1,495 (£1,146). You can also download a 14-day free trial.
Anyone familiar with Paessler PRTG Network Monitor will know that this tool offers one of the most complete CPU monitoring experiences on the market. With PRTG Network Monitor you can monitor Windows, Mac, and Linux devices for CPU performance issues. You can use this tool to measure key metrics like CPU utilization as a percentage and CPU utilization over time.
PRTG Network Monitor’s monitoring capabilities are driven by its sensors. There are many different sensors for CPU included within PRTG Network Monitor. These include the SNMP CPU Load Sensor, Windows CPU Load Sensor, Windows Process Sensor, SNMP Linux Load Average Sensor, and the SSH Load Average Sensor. The SNMP CPU load sensor shows the load of multiple CPUs as percentages over a time period of your choice (live, two days, 30 days, and 365 days).
You aren’t limited to tracking everything manually either. PRTG Network Monitor makes use of alerts to notify you by email and SMS once a threshold has been exceeded. So if CPU utilization exceeds the defined thresholds then you’ll be sent an alert to take action.
- Offers hardware monitoring as well as network and application monitoring
- Sensors are highly configurable, allowing for monitoring of custom-built devices
- The Freeware version supports 100 sensors, great for small businesses
- Pricing is based on sensors in use, making it a good fit for both small and large networks
- Autodiscovery makes mapping large networks with lots of devices fast and efficient
- Great options for companies looking to monitor all aspects of their IT system
- Is designed for network professionals, can take time to learn all features offered on the platform
The price of PRTG Network Monitor depends on how many sensors you need to use. This starts with a freeware version that provides you with up to 100 sensors free of charge. The paid versions of PRTG Network Monitor start from $1,600 (£1,227) for 500 sensors. You can download a 30-day free trial.
See also: Step-By-Step CPU Benchmark Test
4. StackPath Server Density
StackPath Server Density is a SaaS monitoring solution that has the ability to monitor CPU metrics like CPU load and CPU usage. Server Density provides you with the basic information needed to know when the CPU usage of a device is within acceptable parameters. This is easy to monitor from the perspective of the dashboard because of the simplicity of the design.
You can also define custom alert parameters. Server Density sends alerts via email, SMS, webhook, Slack, and Pagerduty. This ensures that no matter where you are, you don’t miss anything that could take a device down completely.
- Flexible cloud-based monitoring solution
- Covers both hardware and networking monitoring
- Alerting templates fit virtually any notification platform you wish to integrate into
- The interface is highly customizable, allowing users to build and save custom views
- Would like to see a longer trial period
Overall, Server Density is a product that is suitable for networks of all sizes. The price of Server Density depends on how many servers you want to monitor. If you only need to monitor one server then you can pay as little as $10 (£7.67) per month. The next price point is two servers for $20 (£15.34) a month. The largest public price is $250 (£191.73) a month for 25 servers. You can contact the company directly about quotes for 25 plus servers. You can download a 14-day free trial of Server Density.
5. ManageEngine OpManager
A “best of” CPU monitoring tool list wouldn’t be complete without ManageEngine OpManager. ManageEngine OpManager is a network monitoring platform that lends well to CPU monitoring devices. You can use this program to monitor key metrics like CPU, memory, and disk utilization. If a PC or server has disk utilization that is too high you’ll be able to know about it very quickly.
There is a range of CPU metrics that can be accessed with ManageEngine OpManager. These include CPU utilization, CPU socket, CPU clock speed, idle time, PSU redundancy, user time, processor queue, and privileged time. This provides you with an in-depth CPU monitoring experience that goes beyond the basic CPU monitoring experience offered by most other competitors.
To make sure that you stay up-to-speed with all CPU performance concerns there is a notifications feature. You can configure thresholds for metrics CPU utilization so that you’re notified once a metric exceeds the configured parameter. If you want to cut back on unnecessary notifications then you can specify the number of times the metric must be violated before an alert is triggered.
- Has a freeware version for testing and a smaller network to utilize
- Uses both SNMP and NetFlow for monitoring giving it more coverage options than other tools
- Can scale easily, Enterprise package supports up to 10,000 endpoints
- Utilizes automatic network discovery to create live inventories and network maps for administrators to track assets and network size
- Freeware and paid versions allow for both small and large size networks to effectively use this tool
- OpManager is dense with features, integrations, and settings, and may take time to fully learn
ManageEngine OpManager can be purchased as the Essential version or the Enterprise version on Windows and Linux. The Essential version costs $715 (£548) and can be used on up to 25 devices. The Enterprise version is available for $19,975 (£15,317) and can be used on up to 500 devices. There is also a 30-day free trial.
Monitis is primarily known as a web performance monitoring platform that can also monitor the CPU. Monitis monitors CPU utilization to assess the health of individual devices within your network. You can also monitor other elements like memory, drive, load, and disk I/O for further details.
On Monitis you can configure your own alerts based on CPU utilization. You can do this by going to the Smart Agent Controller (which can be downloaded for Windows and Linux). Here you can add the server or device that you want to monitor. You can then enter the trigger values you want in the User and Kernel boxes. Once these limits have been exceeded, an alert will be raised.
It is worth noting that Monitis has been designed to start up quickly. Monitis claims that you can have this program up and running in less than 3 minutes without any installation. Being able to access Monitis online means that you aren’t restricted to one device when monitoring your network.
- Can monitor a variety of devices, but specializes in server monitoring
- Agents available for Linux and Windows, good for diverse networks
- Can also measure bandwidth and network activity on a per device basis
- Detailed reporting features
- A bit more complicated than other tools, designed for sysadmins
- Could use a longer trial period
The pricing structure of Monitis is custom-made according to your requirements. The amount you’ll pay depends on a variety of factors like uptime monitoring, real user monitoring, full page load monitors, servers, application monitors, sub accounts, and security monitors. You can download a 15-day free trial of Monitis.
SysGauge is a program that offers a narrower approach to CPU monitoring. With this product, you can monitor the CPU and memory usage of connected devices. In fact, SysGauge has its own GUI module called the CPU monitor. The CPU monitor can monitor CPU usage, CPU interrupt time, CPU interrupt rate, and CPU frequency. This is a considerable degree of depth for a smaller monitoring product.
In addition, SysGauge has also added an alerts system of its own. Users can set their own alert parameters and receive email notifications once a threshold has been crossed. If desired, the user can also execute custom commands to respond to events as they occur. This makes SysGauge suitable for responding to CPU performance issues within a live network environment.
There are three versions of SysGauge available; Free, Pro, and Ultimate. The Free version of SysGauge offers up to 10 counters, monitors and profiles free of charge. The Pro version offers 50 counters, monitors and profiles for $50 (£38). The Ultimate version offers 100 counters, monitors and profiles for $125 (£95). The free version of this product is an excellent choice for SMB’s.
- Covers both system and hardware monitoring
- Simple and easy to navigate interface
- Built-in visual graphs are basic but insightful
- Only available for Windows
- Notification features could be easier to set up and implement
SysGauge is available on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows Server 2016. You can download SysGauge.
Anyone familiar with application performance monitoring is almost certain to know about AppDynamics. AppDynamics is also a formidable CPU monitoring tool in its own right. Right off the bat, AppDynamics separates itself from the crowd on account of its autodiscovery feature. AppDynamics can autodiscover devices and applications in your network automatically.
Once configured, you can use AppDynamics to monitor the CPU utilization of all discovered devices at the infrastructure level. At the application level, you can also view metrics on process-specific CPUs. This gives you the depth needed to view the CPU performance metrics of all devices in your network.
All of your usage is kept tabs on through the use of alert thresholds. AppDynamics’ alerts system makes use of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is used to determine when CPU usage is consistent with anomalous behavior. Putting your threshold-based alerts in the hands of the AI system is beneficial because it cuts down on unnecessary alert notifications that you are often subjected to when a device’s CPU peaks unexpectedly.
- Tailored for large-scale enterprise use
- Excellent dependency mapping and visualizations to help troubleshoot complex application systems
- Includes a free version
- Priced higher than similar tools on the market
- Can have a steep learning curve, could use more tutorials
- Deployment/onboarding can be complex
- Mobile app would benefit from updates
There are three versions of AppDynamics that you can purchase; APM Pro, APM Advanced and APM Peak. Each of these offers CPU monitoring, but you’ll have to contact the sales team in order to view the prices. You can evaluate AppDynamics as a free trial download.
9. Nagios XI
Nagios XI is another solid choice if you’re looking for a network monitor with CPU monitoring capabilities. Nagios XI is available on Linux and Microsoft (via VMware Workstation Player or Hyper-V). The GUI is completely customizable so you can build your monitoring experience according to your needs.
Nagios XI has over 30 different plugins related to monitoring CPU. Plugins include Check SNMP CPU Load, CPU Usage for Solaris, Linux and Windows, and Check CPU Load. All of these plugins offer their own CPU monitoring elements which can be added to expand your monitoring environment.
To keep up with CPU usage developments, Nagios XI has a notifications feature. You can configure email and text notifications to alert you when your CPU usage is reaching problematic levels. Alert preferences can be managed on separate user accounts, so that only the relevant users receive update information on CPU monitoring.
- Open-source transparent tool
- Simple, yet informative interface
- Flexible alerting options support SMS and email
- Available on both Windows and Linux operating systems
- Open-source version lacks quality support found in paid products
- Installation can be technical and complex
As a CPU monitoring tool, Nagios XI offers a passable CPU monitoring experience. Nagios XI is available from a price of $1,995 (£1,529) for the Standard Edition. This includes alerting, reporting, and configuration wizards. The Enterprise Edition costs $3,495 (£2,679) for SLA reports and scheduled reports. You can download Nagios XI on a free trial.
Auvik is a network monitoring product that is used by companies of all sizes to monitor the health of connected infrastructure. Auvik uses an automated inventory feature to find connected devices and add them to the software environment. This allows you to monitor the CPU utilization of your network infrastructure.
When a device’s CPU utilization gets too high, you can configure Auvik to send you an alert. Auvik’s Alerts are customizable so you can choose what thresholds trigger alerts to be sent. By default, Auvik is configured with over 50 alerts. Types of alerts for CPU include Hypervisor CPU module failed and Hypervisor CPU module degraded.
- Simple interface, easy to learn over time
- Leverages autodiscovery to accurately reflect live device inventories
- Can easily monitor CPU and set threshold-based alerts
- Open-source version lacks quality support found in paid products
- Installation can be technical and complex
Auvik offers a scalable pricing plan that changes based on the number of devices you wish to manage. However, you’ll need to contact Auvik directly to request a quote. That being said there is a $500 (£383) fee for onboarding Auvik and training members of staff. You can download Auvik on a free trial.
11. ConnectWise Automate
Finally, we have ConnectWise Automate. With ConnectWise Automate you can view the CPU usage for each process on a computer. You can gain complete visibility over a device’s CPU metrics via the Processes pane. Active programs are then classified based on their activity. Programs running without poor performance are denoted as a Good Program. Those with undesirable software are denoted as Grayware and those that are using processes matching malicious programs are considered to be a Virus or Spyware.
The installation process of ConnectWise Automate is three-pronged. First, you need to install the ConnectWise Automate server on a Windows Server that runs IIS and Oracle MySQL database server. Second, you need to install the ConnectWise Automate Control Center on your workstations. The final thing you need to do is install the software tool on Windows, Linux, or Mac.
- Remote management, inventory management, and reporting are all accessible from a single dashboard
- Interface templates can be used for individuals or entire teams
- Supports automation as well as remote troubleshooting without impacting the user session
- 100+ pre-configured commands and templates to use out-of-box.
- Prefer a longer trial period to explore all features
- The interface can be confusing, especially in the reporting and management areas
- The user chat function is clunky at times
- Onboarding can be cumbersome
ConnectWise Automate operates a customizable pricing structure. As a result, you need to contact the company directly in order to receive a quote. However, if you’d like to take ConnectWise Automate for a test run you can do so by downloading the free trial.
Choosing a CPU Monitoring Software Product
While all of the tools above provide a good CPU monitoring experience, SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolkit and Paessler PRTG Network Monitor provide the simplest packages on the market. SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolkit can autodiscover devices so that you can view how CPU usage varies over time. Monitoring your usage over time via the graphs improves your ability to detect performance degradation.
Likewise, the variety of CPU monitoring sensors offered by PRTG Network Monitor makes it one of the top choices for monitoring Windows and Linux devices. PRTG Network Monitor is particularly suited to smaller organizations because it offers a freeware version for those on a shoestring budget.
CPU Monitoring FAQs
Can CPU bottleneck cause damage to your network?
A CPU bottleneck is another way of saying that a CPU is overloaded and unable to process all of the requests that want its attention. A CPU bottleneck won’t cause physical damage to your network. However, if the CPU in question is in a switch, the excess demand on the processor will initially cause packets to be queued for processing and once the queue is full, no further packets can be dealt with and so will just be dropped. This situation causes a high degree of packet loss on the network. If the overloaded CPU is on a server, it can actually help the network because the limited capabilities of the processor slow down the amount of data that can be passed to the network. In this instance, increasing CPU capacity on a server could end up overloading a switch and just move the bottleneck to some other part of the system.
How much CPU usage is normal?
CPUs can run at 100 percent capacity without damage. However, this situation means that the CPU might not be able to process all of the demand required of it. If your CPU is always at 100 percent capacity, it is probable that much of the time, there is software that is forced into a wait state – hanging – because it can’t get any processor time. Aim for a CPU usage rate of about 70 to 75 percent during normal operations. This makes good use of your processors, delivering value for money but also allows spare capacity for surges in processing demand. Don’t worry if CPU utilization pops above 95 percent periodically.
Is monitoring CPU fan speed important?
Fan speed monitoring is important and it should be performed in conjunction with temperature monitoring both within the server and in the server room. Key statuses to look out for are if the fan speed is zero over a long time because that would mean that your fan is broken. If CPU temperature rises while your fan is running at full speed then you have a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Look at server room temperature at the same time because a high temperature in the surrounding environment means that the fan is just blowing hot air over the CPU.