Today at Geek School we will teach you how to control your computer with the built-in tools provided by Windows, Task Manager and Resource Monitor.
Keeping track of resources on your computer is one of the proud geek traditions that will probably never die — instead it has spread to smartphones and tablets, with task manager utilities being among the most popular apps for a long time.
The biggest problem with Windows is that when you’re trying to monitor resources, there are too many utilities to choose from. So, today we are going to look at some of the useful features of Task Manager and Resource Monitor.
It’s worth noting that if you haven’t already read our series on using SysInternals tools, this would be a great time to do so. Process Explorer is an extremely powerful tool that can help you manage tasks and see what’s going on.
Everyone knows how to use the Task Manager, including people who know next to nothing about Windows. They press CTRL + ALT + DEL and then select Task Manager from the list because they don’t know that you should use CTRL + SHIFT + ESC instead to launch it immediately. And then they close any process that Windows says is hanging.
Luckily, Microsoft has greatly expanded the Task Manager with many new and useful features to help you take better control of your PC.
If you double-click on the left side of the window, where all the little graphs are, the task manager will turn into a great little system monitor that you can install on one of your monitors to keep an eye on what’s going on.
If you double-click on the right side of the screen instead, you can expand the particular graph you were looking at and use it as a monitor. In this case, we have selected the CPU Monitor, which shows a graph like this.
Tip: You can use the Options -> Always on Top option to keep the Task Manager on top of all other windows, which is very useful when displayed as a mini graph.
The Application History tab shows the resource usage of applications over time, whether they are currently running or not. This can be very useful for troubleshooting problems that may have occurred while you were not in front of your computer.
The only problem is that by default, the Application Log tab only shows processes related to Windows Metro apps, which doesn’t make sense when you consider that you have to use the Task Manager on your desktop to see this tab in the first place. .
Luckily, you can go to Settings -> Show history of all processes and then you will see everything listed, including regular Windows apps.
Much has been written about how Microsoft has added the ability to manage their startup apps in Task Manager, and the Startup tab is pretty easy to use. So today we’ll just note that the «Startup Impact» column is important for understanding what’s slowing your system to boot, and when you’re watching your PC or anyone else, you should take a look at that.
Analyze the wait chain
One of the new options added to the Task Manager in recent versions was the «Analyze Wait Chain» option when right-clicking on a task in the Details view. This allows you to see which processes are waiting for a resource that is being used by another process.
This means that if you have an application hanging for some reason, you can analyze the wait chain to see if it is waiting for something that is being used.
For example, we printed from Word and then used this option during the printing process to see what would happen. In this case, Word was waiting for splwow64.exe, which handles printing from 32-bit applications.
It’s worth noting that because Word is written correctly, the GUI doesn’t actually hang while another process is waiting.
When Task Manager just isn’t enough to keep track of CPU, memory, disk or network usage, you’ll probably want to turn to Resource Monitor, which is the best tool to keep track of all these things in a simple and concise way.
The initial view shows an overview with separate sections for CPU, Memory, Disk, Network, with sortable columns so you can see very quickly what is using your resources. You can also use the tabs to drill down into one of the resources if you need to.
While the charts on the right side are fun, they’re often a waste of space on a smaller screen, so you can hide them with the round arrow button if needed.
If you want to really dive in, you can use the checkboxes to the left of the list to select a process, and then everything else in the interface will display resource usage for that process only. So if you are running a heavy process on the command line and have cmd.exe selected as the process, the other panels will only show the resource usage for that process.