Windows Task Manager: A Troubleshooting Tool Slow PC problems?

Don't be so quick to reboot--you might be able to cure what ai ls you with some Windows Task Manager tricks. Here's how Hold on. Don't just reboot your Windows 7 PC. I realize that rebooting is the go -to solution when a program won't shut down, or the system starts dragging or ac ting wonky, but there is another way. The Task Manager is a powerful tool for tr oubleshooting and resolving issues in Windows 7. Task Manager lets you view the programs, processes, and services currently runni ng on the PC. You can use Task Manager to monitor your computer's performance, a nd to close a program that is not responding, view network status, and see which users are connected to the PC. You can have many applications open at once in Windows 7--limited only by the av ailable memory and processor capacity of the PC. But what you see is a little li ke watching a duck on a pond. On the surface it seems to calmly glide along, whi le under the water its feet are furiously paddling away. Generally, Windows does an awesome job of prioritizing and managing all of the underlying processes and services, but every so often something goes awry. That is when you need to dive into Task Manager. Starting Task Manager Figure 1: When you open Task Manager, it displays the Applications tab by defa ult.To begin with, you have to open up Task Manager. You have a few different wa ys to do this. Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del, and then select Start Task Manager. Click Start, type "task manager" in search bar and press Enter. Right-click anywhere on the task bar and select Start Task Manager. Use any of the above techniques, and you will open up the Task Manager console. Vital Information at a Glance At the bottom of the Task Manager window--no matter which tab you happen to be v iewing--is a sort of dashboard view that displays the current number of running processes, the percentage of the processor capacity being used, and the percenta ge of physical memory. Figure 2: The bottom of the Task Manager has a dashboard displaying vital infor mation.The information displayed here can instantly let you know if a process or application is consuming all of the CPU or memory resources, which is your firs t clue for troubleshooting a problem. Task Manager Tabs Figure 3: The Task Manager console window has six tabs. Across the top of the main window in the Task Manager console are a number of di fferent tabs: Applications, Processes, Services, Performance, Networking, and Us ers (Figure 3). We will dive into detail on the use of Applications, Processes, and Services, but the other three won't be covered comprehensively in this artic le because they are not as directly related to troubleshooting and resolving iss ues. Here is a brief summary of the last three tabs: Figure 4: The Performance tab displays real-time usage of processor and memory resources. Performance. The Performance tab displays a real-time graph depictin g processor usage (split to show the separate cores available for dual- or quadcore processors), and a real-time graph of the memory in use along with various details such as the amount of time the PC has been up and running, and the amoun t of virtual memory available to Windows. You can already see the overall proces sor and memory usage on the dashboard bar at the bottom of the Task Manager; how ever, by reviewing the usage graphs on this tab you can identify whether there i s an issue with a specific core or cores within the processor. For example, if t here is significant activity on one processor core, while the other is flatlined , you may have a defective CPU. Networking. This tab displays real-time usage of active network connections. A p ane at the bottom of the console lists the various available network connections , the percent of the network capacity being used, the maximum speed the network connection is capable of, and its current state.

Generally. and the Task Manager itself is also absent. Either of these symptoms could mean you have malware on your machine. the Users tab will show o nly the actual owner or primary user. That's when you swi tch to the Processes tab. and Description (a more understandable d escription of what the process is). This lets you know whether a program is running properly or not. but minimized to the S ystem Tray--like Microsoft System Essentials and Yammer--will not appear on this list. or to sort based on CPU or Memory to identify the processes t . or that an intruder has gained acc ess somehow. Applications that a re frozen or hung up will show "Not Responding. Memory (the amount of system RAM being used by that process). or dig dee per into the Processes tab (discussed on the next page) to try to determine whic h process might be responsible. you run into an application that won't quit after the first try--or the second. or the third. it is difficult to identify exactly what is going on. you w ill want either to sort the processes alphabetically to make it easier to find a specific process. Applications Tab Figure 7: The Applications tab shows the currently running applications--but n ot the ones minimized to the systray running in the background. This tab has the most use ful information when it comes to troubleshooting and identifying issues. or network activity on adapters that you aren't actively using. Programs that are running. let's go over the information that is displayed on the Pr ocesses tab. It shows five columns of information by default: Image Name (the pr ocess). let's dive deeper into using Task Manager to identify and resolve problems on your Windows PC using the other three tabs. Figure 8: The Processes tab contains the most useful information of all the Ta sk Manager tabs. though. and it provides the most effective tools for resolving those issues.First. Without a network sniffer of some sort. If you want to quit an application from this menu. CPU (the percentage of the processor being used by that process).When you first op en Task Manager. or you can send a message--perhaps to let t hem know you're about to forcibly disconnect them. Users. the proce sses will be sorted alphabetically (or reverse alphabetically). such as high network bandwidth usage when you aren't active ly downloading a file or streaming a movie. User Name (the user account context the process is running in). You will most likely get a pop-up window confirming that you want to terminate t he "Not Responding" application. this tab will display all of the currently c onnected users. you obviously have an issue . In those instances. the Applications tab is the default tab displayed. like the Bluetooth adapter. but you can run a malware scan of your PC. But the most important aspect of the Applications tab is the Status column. select the problem applica tion and click the End Task button. Occasionally. You can use the buttons at the bottom of this console to forcibl y disconnect or log off other users. Processes Tab The Processes tab is really the heart of Task Manager. Now that we have covered the basics of those three tabs. Figure 6: The Users tab offers little function for most PCs because usually on ly one user is connected. You can sort the processes using any of the columns--simply click the column tha t you want to use as the primary sort filter. You can forcibly boot the intruder from your PC. On a system that has shared resources or a llows external connections. just select the item under th e Tasks list and click End Task. For most desktop PCs.Figure 5: The Network tab displays real-time information regarding activity on network connections. This tab sho ws a list of the currently active applications--but only applications that are o pen on the taskbar (Figure 7). If you do see other users con nected on a system that isn't intended to be shared." Odds are fair that if the progr am status is "Not Responding" in Task Manager.You can use this tab to determine if there is any suspiciou s activity going on. then perform a malware scan t o try to determine how the user was able to gain access to your system. you also won't be able to interac t with it or shut it down by normal means such as clicking the "X" in the upper right corner to close the window. If you click Image Name.

Each service will have a status of either "stopped" or "running. but all of the programs on the Applications tab appear to be running fine. H owever. The CPU and Memory columns are the most useful ways to identify problem processe s. if your PC is slow and unresponsive. Figure 9: Something doesn't add up--the total of CPU usage in the displayed pr ocesses is different from the usage shown at the bottom. a description in more understandable language of what the service is or does. This tab lists the service name.hat are hogging system resources." but the other options are grayed out because you can't stop a service tha t isn't running to begin with. memory. the current status of t he service. and click the End Process button at the bottom of the Processes tab. You might also be able to identify suspicious or malicious activity If you find processor or memory resources being consumed b y processes that you don't recognize or can't make out which application they be long to. though." you can stop it. Figure 11: The PID column helps you identify the specific process the service is linked to. or some other dyna mic column that changes frequently. End Process is typica lly much more effective than End Task--even for tenacious processes. Figure 10: You can customize the Processes tab with a wide variety of informat ion. One custom column I highly recommend adding is process ID--or PID. the Print Spooler service can be used by various applications to queue item s to be printed. the PID. A service is a program that is designed to perform a funct ion and that can be called by other programs without user intervention. and stopped processes aren't connected with any r unning processes. you will most likely no tice that adding up the numbers of the processor percentage in use by the displa yed processes does not match the CPU usage reported in the dashboard at the bott om of the Task Manager.First. click the checkbox at the bottom of the Processes tab next to "Show processes from all us ers. Services Tab The Services tab is essentially a scaled-down version of the Services management console. You should first sort the Processes ta b based on PID (after you have followed the instructions under the Processes tab section to add the PID column) so that the processes are listed in numeric orde . or help you locate where malware executables might be hidden on your system. select it. For example. you will see that there are really onl y three things you can do with it. and you also have an op tion to "Go to Process. and its group--assuming it's in one. This column lists the p ath to the location of the executable for the process in question. and only one or two of the choices is availab le at a given time." but the "Start Service" option is grayed out because th e service is already on. Click Vi ew at the top of Task Manager. the processes will likely be bouncing around too much for you to really use this tab. Sort based on the CPU or Memor y column to find the process hogging the system resources. if your Processes tab is sorted by CPU usage.Another very handy column to add is Image Path Name. and choose Select Columns to see a list of all of the other information you can display in the Processes tab columns. something you can access by clicking the Services button at the bottom of the Services tab. Clicking "Go to Process" takes you to the associated PID on the Processes tab. If it is "running. If the service is not running. That's because the Processes tab displays only the tabs running in the logged-in user's context by default--so system processes and proc esses from other users aren't shown unless you click this checkbox. It will come in handy wh en trying to work with the Services tab because the Services can be filtered bas ed on the associated PID to make it easier to match the processes and services t hat go together. This can help you determine what the actual application is that is behind an errant process." I f you right-click on any of the services. you can click "Start Ser vice. The Processes tab also offers more customizability than the other tabs. you can sort the Processes tab base d on the CPU or Memory column to see if a particular process is using up a huge chunk of the available resources." If you sort the Processes based on the CPU column. especially if you have already tried End Task on the Applications tab and fou nd that the program is too stubborn to shut down. For exam ple.

or simply uninstall it to resolve the problem. you can use the Image Pat h Name column on the Processes tab to help you identify the actual application c ausing the problem. Once you isolate the problem service. you can check with the developer to see if there is a patch or workaround for the issue you are having. If you sort the Services tab based on PID. you can click the Services button to open the full services management console where you can access the pr operties for the service and either disable it or change it to only start manual ly so you can see if that leaving that service off resolves your problem. Open it up and check it out. RAMPUP . Once you've found a particularly problematic service. It lets you troubleshoot and resolve issues. and try stoppin g each service one at a time to isolate the problem without killing the process and impacting all of the associated services. The Task Manager in Windows 7 is a powerful tool. and terminate stubborn software w ithout rebooting. Using the two tabs together. though. Ending the process will im pact all of the services connected to that process. It lets you monitor and optimize system and network performance . then monitor the Processes tab to see if the is sue is resolved. or find an alternative program that doesn't have those issues. Then. Poke around and see what Task Manager has to offer. and we have really only scratc hed the surface. you can find the services related to a problem process. Stop each service one at a time.r. you will see that a number of service s can be associated with a single PID simultaneously.