How do I use the Task Manager in Windows XP?

Question

How do I use the Task Manager in Windows XP?

- Buck

Answer

This question was answered on March 12, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Prior to "multi-tasking" operating systems (Windows), computers could only do one thing at a time

But since we all live in a multi-tasking world, we need a way to manage the various processes and tasks that are running; hence the Windows XP Task Manager.

There is not enough room in this column to cover everything it can do, so I will cover the basics

The Task Manager does not "fix" anything; it is simply a tool to help you track down potential performance hogging programs and processes.

There are two ways to launch the program:

1 Right-click on any blank part of the Task Bar (the gray bar at the bottom) then select "Task Manager" OR

2 Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete

The first screen that you will see is for "Applications" which are the actual programs that you are currently running If this screen is blank, then nothing is running If your system stops responding, this screen will show you which program is "Not Responding".

This is very handy when your computer "freezes up" as you can identify the program that is causing the problem Any program that has a Status of ˜Not Responding" can be forced to close by selecting it then pressing the "End Task" button.

The next tab is for "Processes" This screen is much more technical, but can provide insight into which programs are grabbing most of your memory and processing power.

The "CPU" column shows what percentage of the CPU is being used by each program and the "Mem Usage" shows how much memory a program is using DO NOT randomly select a process, then press the "End Process" button on this screen unless you know exactly what that process does Many of them are core components of Windows.

The next window, "Performance" is very helpful when your computer seems to be running very slow The first graph displays CPU Usage as a percentage If this graph is very high, then a "Process" is running that is keeping your systems "brain" busy, which slows everything else down.

You can go back to the "Processes" screen to see which program is hogging the processor

The "PF Usage" graph shows the amount of the "Page File" or "Virtual Memory" (also commonly referred to as the "Swap File") that is in use by Windows Windows uses empty hard disk space as additional memory when it runs out of active memory space known as RAM (Random Access Memory)

Information is "swapped" from the slower Page File to the faster RAM as it is needed The more it has to use the PF, the slower the system will run.

If your PF Usage graph is running very high, you should consider increasing the size of your "Paging File" or adding more RAM to your system Exactly how high you should set the Virtual Memory is the topic of much debate You can find many opinions on how to determine what is best for you by doing a Google search for "Windows XP virtual memory settings".

Adding RAM is usually the "best bang for the buck" upgrade that can be performed on Windows-based systems and the Task Manager can help you determine if you need more!

You can learn much more about all the features of the Task Manger by going to the "Help" screen when you bring it up

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on March 12, 2004