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Bizarre image of CPU usage in Task Manager

By Wysocki ·
I have a computer that has almost nothing loaded on it which I actually use just to run a DOS app (I need Windows for networking). Lately it's be running rather slow so I checked the antivirus status and ran a malware scan, but then I noticed a very weird thing when I went to the task manager and looked at the CPU usage graph.
See it here:

It shows a cyclical oscillation of CPU usage in a pattern that looks like a complex series of sine waves. Usage varies up and down, but in a most unusual pattern. Looking at the tasks, the culprit was SYSTEM and I watched its CPU use go up and down cyclically. Has anyone ever seen this kind of pattern? What could cause it? How do I debug what SYSTEM is actually doing?

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