Using Task Manager

How to use Task Manager to tweak Windows performance.

Windows performance monitoring tools have been improved with the release of Windows 2000 over what they could do in Windows NT. This tip, excerpted from InformIT, discusses the capabilities of Task Manager, and how you can use them to improve performance of servers and workstations.


Performance Monitor helps you track problems over time, but what can you do about problem processes in real time? Task Manager provides mechanisms to monitor in real time and to resolve performance problems. For example, say you have a hunch that cpustres.exe is your system's CPU hog. To activate Task Manager, press Ctrl+Alt+Del and click Task Manager. Alternatively, you can run taskmgr.exe from the command line. After you start this tool, you can view numerous columns of performance data on the Processes tab. The amount of data available on Win2K's Task Manager Processes tab is much greater than on NT 4.0's Task Manager Processes tab--particularly finer-grain I/O information is available on a per-process basis (such as I/O reads, I/O writes). Within the Processes view, you can quickly determine what amount of CPU, memory, and disk resources each process is consuming. The Applications tab lets you see which processes or applications are not responding.

To find out whether cpustres.exe is your system's CPU hog, select the Processes image name column to place the process list in alphabetical order. This action simplifies finding cpustres.exe. After you find the filename, highlight it by clicking it, and then right-click it. Task Manager presents you with several system control options, which the table defines. You can lower cpustres.exe's priority by selecting Set Priority, BelowNormal.

Task manager System Control Options

End Process
If the process isn't crucial, you can select this option and stop the process. This action might let another critical process get CPU time and operate properly.
End Process Tree
Some processes have multiple threads that might act independently. You can select this option to bring your system under control.
Set Priority
You can select this option if you don't want to kill the process, but you want it to have less CPU time. Lowering a process's priority level lowers its access to CPU cycles.
Set Affinity
This option is available only on multi-CPU systems. You can select this option to bind an application to a specific CPU or set of CPUs to manage CPU usage. For example, if you have four CPUs, and one application is hogging all four CPUs, you can restrict the application to only one CPU so that other applications can use the freed resources.

In the unlikely event that an application has gone astray and you must terminate it, some applications won't terminate when you select this Task Manager option, even if you have administrator privileges. In this situation, you can use the Microsoft Windows 2000 Resource Kit kill.exe f process ID command to terminate the application. You can add the process ID column that corresponds to the application that you want to kill to Task Manager. However, this command is powerful and can crash your system.


To read the article from which this tip is excerpted, click over to InformIT. You have to register there, but registration is free.


This was first published in December 2001

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