Term: idle

Idle is the term used to characterize the time when a computer’s processor – its CPU – has nothing to do.

An idle state is very similar to that of an automobile: the engine is still running, but it’s not moving the vehicle.

In a computer, the CPU is typically always running, even when it has nothing to do. Depending on the hardware involved, the CPU can enter a “sleep” or low-power state (not to be confused with putting your entire computer to sleep or hibernation). For fractions of a second, the CPU can slow down dramatically or even halt, until it has something to do.

This idle state is often reflected in process monitoring utilities as a faux “Idle” process which reflects the fact that the CPU is doing nothing.

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