Navigating SQL Server CPU and Memory Usage Woes

by Nov 16, 2023


This blog post was authored by Pinal Dave from SQLAuthority.


Microsoft SQL Server is a powerful database management system, but like any robust software, it can encounter performance issues related to CPU and memory usage. In this post, we’ll navigate through common CPU and memory usage problems, provide native solutions to avoid bottlenecks and deadlocks and showcase how SQL Diagnostic Manager (SQL DM) outshines with its superior alert system and real-time monitoring capabilities.

Common CPU and Memory Usage Issues

CPU bottlenecks are common and occur when SQL Server operations demand more CPU resources than available. This can be due to inefficient queries, inadequate hardware, or competing processes on the server. A real-world scenario is when a data analyst runs a complex query during peak business hours, causing a CPU bottleneck that slows all other operations on the server. This can significantly impact business processes, leading to delays in decision-making and potential loss of revenue.

Memory pressure is another prevalent issue. SQL Server is designed to use as much memory as possible to improve performance, but when other processes require memory or SQL Server requests more memory than available, it can lead to memory pressure. This can degrade SQL Server’s performance and sometimes even lead to application failures. For instance, consider an e-commerce business during a flash sale. The increased traffic and concurrent transactions can cause memory pressure, leading to slow response times or even downtime, damaging customer relations and business reputation.

Built-in SQL Solutions

SQL Server provides several native tools to diagnose and resolve CPU and memory usage issues.

CPU Bottlenecks

One powerful tool is the Dynamic Management View (DMV). For example, to identify the top 5 CPU-consuming queries, you can use a query like this:

SELECT TOP 5 sql_text.text, stats.total_worker_time
FROM sys.dm_exec_query_stats AS stats
CROSS APPLY sys.dm_exec_sql_text(stats.sql_handle) AS sql_text
ORDER BY stats.total_worker_time DESC;

By identifying the most resource-intensive queries, you can optimize them or schedule them during off-peak hours to minimize their impact on overall server performance.

Memory Pressure

For memory usage, you can use the DBCC MEMORYSTATUS command to get detailed information about SQL Server’s memory usage:
This command returns information about the allocation of memory resources, helping you to identify areas of memory pressure, such as buffer pool usage, procedure cache, or system overhead.

Profiler and Extended Events

SQL Server Profiler and Extended Events are also invaluable tools. Profiler traces can be used to monitor and troubleshoot SQL Server performance, while Extended Events can capture a wide range of system and user events with minimal performance impact. Using these tools, you can identify the cause of CPU and memory issues and devise solutions – such as optimizing indexes, rewriting inefficient queries, or adding hardware resources.

Resource Governor

The Resource Governor, another vital native tool, allows you to specify limits on the amount of CPU, memory, and I/O resources that incoming application requests can use. By effectively managing resource usage, you can prevent any single application or log-in from monopolizing the resources and causing performance issues.

SQL DM: Superior Monitoring and Alerting Capabilities

While SQL Server’s native tools are helpful, SQL DM takes a step further by providing a more user-friendly and comprehensive solution.
SQL DM provides real-time CPU and memory usage monitoring. It presents an easy-to-understand graphical view of SQL Server’s resource utilization, making it easier to spot and diagnose problems.
Moreover, SQL DM offers a superior alert system. You can set up customizable alerts based on your needs. For instance, you can set an alert for when CPU usage reaches a certain threshold, helping you proactively manage CPU bottlenecks.
SQL DM also provides deadlock monitoring. Deadlocks, a situation where two or more tasks permanently block each other by each locking a resource the other tasks are trying to lock, can be a severe issue in databases. SQL DM’s real-time deadlock monitoring can help you promptly identify and resolve these issues.
In addition, SQL DM’s memory usage monitoring feature offers insights into SQL Server’s buffer cache and page life expectancy, helping you better manage memory pressure.


Navigating through CPU and memory usage woes in SQL Server can be challenging. However, with SQL Server’s native tools and SQL Diagnostic Manager’s superior real-time monitoring and alerting capabilities, you can proactively manage these issues, ensuring the optimal performance of your SQL Server. Remember, prompt diagnosis and resolution are key to maintaining a healthy and efficient SQL Server environment. Overcoming these challenges ensures smooth database operations and contributes to overall business efficiency, customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Experience for yourself how SQL DM can help you navigate SQL Server CPU and memory usage woes by downloading a free, 14-day trial (a credit card is not required).

About the Author

Pinal Dave is an SQL Server Performance Tuning Expert and independent consultant with over 21 years of hands-on experience. He holds a Masters of Science degree and numerous database certifications. Pinal has authored 13 SQL Server database books and 53 Pluralsight courses. To freely share his knowledge and help others build their expertise, Pinal has also written more than 5,600 database tech articles on his blog at SQLAuthority.