|Brien M. Posey|
For most of us, the Task Manager is something that we dread using because it's often the only way of terminating an application that has become unresponsive. However, the Task Manager can actually be used as a performance-enhancing mechanism.
If you open the Task Manager and select the Processes tab, you can see a list of all of the processes that are running on the machine. By default the list shows the process ID, the amount of CPU time that the process is using and the amount of memory that's being used. The trick is that not every process that you see is absolutely necessary. You can give your system a boost by getting rid of the processes that are unnecessary.
As you can imagine, it can be a tedious job tracking down what a process does. Therefore, before you waste your time on processes that have very little overhead, I recommend watching the CPU and memory usage for a while to see what really uses system resources. You can also use the Select Columns command on the Task Manager's View menu to display other useful information, such as a process's disk IO usage or thread count.
Once you've tracked down a process that you suspect may be useless, but that's consuming system resources, you can often determine the true nature of the process by searching the registry for it.
Always use caution when editing the registry, as making a mistake can disable Windows and/or your applications. If you feel comfortable using the Registry Editor, you can use the Find command on the Registry Editor's Edit menu to locate the registry key that calls the process. Sometimes by looking at this key, you can gain clues as to the process's purpose.
If you locate the call for the process in the registry, and you're ABSOLUTELY sure that the process is unnecessary, you can delete the registry key that calls the process. In other situations, I recommend right-clicking on the process in the Task Manager and selecting the End Process command to terminate the process until the next time that the system is rebooted. This will give you a chance to determine the effect of disabling the process.
If you discover that a process is required, but feel that it's simply consuming too much CPU time, another option is to lower the process's priority. You can do that by right-clicking on the process and using the Set Priority command on the resulting context menu to lower the process's priority. Keep in mind that some processes are protected against this operation.
Oct. 7, 2002 -- R. Goodgroves:
Hi, good tip but overly complex. Take the work out of finding what you don't need by looking here:
Great resource for identifying unnecessary processes.
How to open Task Manager -- by Rod Trent, desktop expert:
There are three ways...
1. Hit Ctrl-Alt-Del on the keyboard, and then click the Task Manager
2. Right-click on the Task Bar and choose Task Manager.
3. Click on the START button and choose Run. In the space provided, type in 'Taskman.exe' and click OK.
Task Manager is only for NT/2K/XP. For Windows 9x, you'll need a third-party tool. Here's one: http://www.niresoft.com/tm.asp
Oct. 7, 2002 -- S. Sisak:
Rod Trent left out my favorite (and the most efficient) way of launching Task Manager: ctrl+shift+esc. Fast, friendly and fingerable. Is that a word? If not don't steal it; I will coin it as my own. Have a nice day!
This was first published in May 2002