Using Windows Task Manager

Windows Task Manager pops up in response to the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift+Esc. (You can also press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and then choose Start Task Manager.) Task Manager's instant accessibility is one of its more endearing traits, especially when something appears to have gone awry. Its executable file, Taskmgr. exe, runs at a Base Priority of High, allowing it to kick into action even when another program running at Normal priority is refusing to surrender control. If you need to stop an application (or process) that doesn't respond to the usual measures, or if your system suddenly slows down and you want to know who's eating your processor cycles, Windows Task Manager is your best friend.

The Performance tab of Windows Task Manager, shown in Figure 20-3, gives you a quick overview of CPU and memory usage. The bar graphs at the left report current data—the percentage of your CPU's capacity and the amount of physical memory (in gigabytes) in use—while the line graphs to the right show (by default) one minute's worth of data, with updates at one-second intervals. In Figure 20-3, for example, the Memory bar graph shows that 1 . 20 GB are currently in use, while the Physical Memory item in the status bar at the bottom of the window reports that 60 percent of the system's available RAM is in use . The CPU Usage History and Physical Memory Usage History line graphs, meanwhile, make it clear that we have opened several large applications in rapid succession within the last minute .

Figure 20-3 The Performance tab of Windows Task Manager gives you a big-picture view of CPU and memory usage.

Figure 20-3 The Performance tab of Windows Task Manager gives you a big-picture view of CPU and memory usage.

Numbers below the graphs amplify the graphical presentation . (For a detailed explanation of what these numbers mean, see "Basic Strategies for Improving Performance" on page 721 .)

To change the update speed (and therefore the duration of the line graphs), choose View, Update Speed. The Normal option on this menu updates the display once per second; High switches to double that pace, and Low changes the display to update every 4 seconds . Use this command's Paused option to freeze all the Performance graphs . If the Task Manager display is paused, you can force an update at any time (without resuming continuous updating) by choosing View, Refresh Now or by pressing F5 .

If you have a multiprocessor system (one using a dual-core or quad-core CPU, for example), you can choose between seeing a single line graph that represents all processors or separate graphs for each . Use commands on the View, CPU History submenu to switch between these alternatives.

By default, Windows Task Manager stays on top of other open windows even when another window has the focus . Choose Options, Always On Top to toggle that behavior on or off. Regardless of what settings you choose on the View menu, Windows Task Manager displays, in the notification area, a miniature version of the CPU Usage bar graph . You can minimize Windows Task Manager and still keep an eye on CPU usage by glancing over at the notification area as you work. (Be aware, though, that continuous monitoring of your system performance by means of Windows Task Manager—or any other real-time tracking tool—will itself consume some of your processor time .)

In its default view, the Processes tab lists programs and services that are directly accessible to the user. Note that in the example shown here 64 processes are currently running (as evidenced by the value in the lower left corner of the status bar at the bottom of the dialog box). So why does the list display only 20 entries?

Fife Options View Help

Applications | Processes ["services | Performance | Networking | Users |_

Fife Options View Help

Applications | Processes ["services | Performance | Networking | Users |_

Image Name

pid"

User Name

CPU

Memory (...

Description

lexplore.exe

332

Ed Bott

00

2,744 K

Internet ...

csrss.exe

476

00

16,128 K

wlnlogon.exe

600

00

536 K

SnagltEdltor.exe

892

Ed Bott

00

9,548 K

Snaglt Edl...

taskhost.exe

2544

Ed Bott

00

756 K

Host Proc...

tasknigr.exe

2584

Ed Bott

00

1,744K

Windows ...

dwm.exe

2624

Ed Bott

00

500 K

Desktop ...

explorer.exe

2648

Ed Bott

00

48,544 K

Windows ...

ZuneLauncher...

2764

Ed Bott

00

204 K

Zune Aut...

wmdc.exe

2780

Ed Bott

00

224 K

Windows ...

sldebar.exe

2792

Ed Bott

00

11,452K

Windows ...

ehshell.exe

3020

Ed Bott

00

89,584 K

Windows ...

Snaglt32.exe

3084

Ed Bott

00

4,964 K

Snaglt

Zune.exe

3220

Ed Bott

00

61,452K

Microsoft ...

ehtray.exe

4576

Ed Bott

00

760 K

Windows ...

wmplayer.exe

4728

Ed Bott

00

8,056 K

Windows ...

SnagPrlv.exe

5044

Ed Bott

00

148 K

Snaglt RP...

rhaphlpr.exe

5152

Ed Bott

00

864 K

Rhapsody...

lexplore.exe

5404

Ed Bott

00

10,952 K

Internet ...

TscHelp.exe

6016

Ed Bott

00

212 K

TechSmlt...

| Show processes Prom all users | | End Process |

| Show processes Prom all users | | End Process |

Processes: 64 CPU Usage: 5% Physical Memory: 58%

The short list shows only processes that were started by and can be directly controlled by the current user account. If you click Show Processes From All Users (and if necessary provide the required administrative credentials), the list expands to include all currently running processes . In the example shown here, the entries in the User Name column now include the currently logged-on user (running Internet Explorer) as well as a Media Center Extender account (its automatically generated account name begins with Mcx) and the built-in System, Network Service, and Local Service accounts:

Fife Options View Help

Applications | Processes ["services | Performance | Networking | Users |_

Image Name

User Name

CPU

Memory...

Description

-

System Idle P...

SYSTEM

88

24 K

Percentage of time th...

System

SYSTEM

02

68 K

NT Kernel & System

taskhost.exe

Mcx5-MC410

00

468 K

Host Process for Wind...

-

smss.exe

SYSTEM

00

80 K

Windows Session Man...

iexplore.exe

Ed Bott

01

2,988 K

Internet Explorer

csrss.exe

SYSTEM

00

744 K

Client Server Runtime ...

wininit.exe

SYSTEM

00

144 K

Windows Start-Up App...

csrss.exe

SYSTEM

01

16,128 K

Client Server Runtime ...

services.exe

SYSTEM

00

2,640 K

Services and Controlle...

lsass.exe

SYSTEM

00

4,824 K

Local Security Authorit...

Ism.exe

SYSTEM

00

924 K

Local Session Manager...

winlogon.exe

SYSTEM

00

536 K

Windows Logon Applic...

svchost.exe

SYSTEM

00

1,676K

Host Process for Wind...

svchost.exe

NETWORK SERVICE

00

4,384 K

Host Process for Wind...

svchost.exe

LOCAL SERVICE

00

7,248 K

Host Process for Wind...

svchost.exe

SYSTEM

00

42,260 K

Host Process for Wind...

svchost.exe

SYSTEM

00

22,700 K

Host Process for Wind...

svchost.exe

LOCAL SERVICE

00

9,284 K

Host Process for Wind...

svchost.exe

NETWORK SERVICE

00

5,324 K

Host Process for Wind...

WUDFHost.exe

LOCAL SERVICE wir™

nüH v

Windows Driver Found...

-

V show processes from all users I process

Processes: 62

CPU Usage: 11%

Physical Memory: 55%

On a system running a 64-bit version of Windows 7, the Image Name column includes 32-bit and 64-bit processes . Each 32-bit process on such a system is identified by the *32 label at the end of its entry in the Image Name column .

For each process, Windows Task Manager includes the following information by default:

• Image Name The name of the executable file for the process

• User Name The name of the user account that started the process

• CPU The percentage of total CPU capacity that the process is currently using

Memory (Private Working Set) The amount of memory that is currently dedicated to the process and is not available for other applications to use

For more details about how to analyze memory usage, see "Ensuring That You Have Adequate RAM" on page 721 .

Description A descriptive name for the process, taken from the value stored in the File Description field of the executable file

NJ O

INSIDE OUT

MMJIL/I_ UU I Get more details about a process

Windows Task Manager separates its display of what's running on your computer into two tabs . The Applications tab lists each running program by name; the Processes tab is a much longer list that shows every executable file that's running, including child processes, services, and processes that run in the background.

In Windows XP, you can right-click on any item in the Applications list and choose Go To Process from the shortcut menu. But once you reach the Processes tab, you're at a dead end . If a process is sucking the life out of your CPU, or if you find a mysterious process that you can't identify that you think might be associated with malware, you're on your own. You have to use search tools to find the file responsible for that process and then figure out what it is .

Windows 7 (like Windows Vista) simplifies this process . When you right-click any item in the Processes list, you'll see several new choices on its shortcut menu:

• Click Open File Location to open Windows Explorer and see the file responsible for the running process . Often, just knowing which folder it appears in is enough to help ease your mind about a process with a mysterious name.

• The Properties menu choice, also new in Windows Vista and Windows 7, leads directly to the properties dialog box for the associated file, where a greatly expanded Details tab includes copyright information and other relevant text drawn from the file itself. That information can help you decide whether a file is legitimate or needs further investigation.

• Finally, for processes that are running as Windows services, you can click the Go To Service(s) option, which takes you to the Services tab and highlights all of the individual services associated with that process. For an instance of Svchost.exe, the list might number a dozen individual services .

Processes are sorted initially by the order in which they were started, with the most recent entries at the top . You can sort by any column by clicking the column heading (click a second time to reverse the sort order). Clicking the Memory or CPU heading to sort in descending order is a good way to identify processes that are using more than their fair share of memory or CPU time

With a modest amount of work, you can customize the Processes tab so that it shows far more information about each running process than the lean default view. To change the columns displayed on this tab, choose View, Select Columns, and then add or remove entries from the dialog box shown here:

Select Process Page Columns K

Select the columns that will appear on the Process page of Task Manager.

Select Process Page Columns K

Select the columns that will appear on the Process page of Task Manager.

[7] PID (Process Identifier)

*

[3 User Name

□ Session ID

0 CPU Usage

□ CPU Time

] Memory - Working Set

] Memory - Peak Working Set

] Memory - Working Set Delta

Ul

V] Memory - Private Working Set

] Memory - Commit Size

] Memory - Paged Pool

] Memory - Non-paged Pool

□ Page Faults

□ Page Fault Delta

□ Ease Priority

OK I Cancel

Most of these columns correspond to entries available in Resource Monitor (which we cover in detail in the next section). After selecting the columns you want to see, click OK. You can then rearrange the display by dragging column headings to the left or right and dragging the border of any column heading to change its width . If necessary, resize the Task Manager window to see more data .

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