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8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do In Windows 7′s Task Manager

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The Windows Task Manager is often used for troubleshooting – perhaps closing an application that isn’t working properly or monitoring system resource usage. However, there’s a lot more you can do with Windows 7’s Task Manager.

To quickly open the Task Manager, right-click your taskbar and select Start Task Manager. You can also press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to quickly launch the Task Manager with a keyboard shortcut. Windows 8 may have a great new task manager, but Windows 7’s is still useful.

Send a Message To Another Logged In User

From the Users tab in the Task Manager, you can see which users are currently logged into your computer. These can be either remote connections or locked local sessions.

You can also send a message to another logged in user from here – just select the user and click Send Message. If the user is currently using the computer, a message box with your message will pop up on their desktop.

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Arrange and Manage Windows

The Applications tab in the Windows Task Manager shows your open program windows. You can double-click one to switch to it, or right-click one and select Minimize or Maximize to show or hide it.

You can also select multiple windows (hold Ctrl as you click each window in the list), right-click them, and tile them horizontally or vertically.

Read More: Stupid Geek Tricks: Tile or Cascade Multiple Windows in Windows 7

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See Which Applications Have Used Your CPU The Most

The Processes tab shows which processes are currently using CPU on your computer, but that’s only a small part of the picture. To see which processes have been using the most CPU on your computer, you can use the CPU Time column, which is hidden by default.

To show it, click the View menu, click Select Columns, and enable the CPU Time option.

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Click the CPU Time column to sort your processes by CPU Time – the processes with the most CPU time have used the most CPU resources.

Note that this only shows the CPU resources used by running programs – if a program isn’t running anymore, you won’t see how much CPU it’s used.

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Manage Process Priorities

Windows processes each have a priority setting – a high-priority process is first in line to use the CPU when it has something to do, while a low priority process will have to wait at the end of the line.

If an application should be allocated more CPU resources – or less CPU resources – you can change its priority in the Task Manager. Just right-click a process, point to Set Priority, and select a priority.

(You can right-click an application on the Applications tab and select Go to Process to quickly select the application’s process.)

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Restrict Applications to Specific Processors

If you use a multi-core CPU – or a CPU with hyperthreading – Windows gives each process the ability to use all your CPUs. However, some programs – particularly older games — may not work properly if they’re able to run on all CPU cores.

To restrict an application to a specific CPU, right-click its process and select Set Affinity. In the Processor Affinity window, select the CPUs that should be allowed to run the process.

Read More: Start an Application Assigned to a Specific CPU in Windows 7, 8, or Vista

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Change Compatibility Settings

If you have a problem with an application, you can change its compatibility settings right from the Task Manager. Just select a process, right-click it, and select Properties. Use the options on the Compatibility tab to modify the program’s compatibility settings.

Read More: Using Program Compatibility Mode in Windows 7

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If you need to do something else with a program’s .exe file, you can right-click its process and select Open File Location to quickly open its folder in Windows Explorer.

View Linked Processes and Services

Have you ever wondered just what “svchost.exe” actually is? If you click the Show processes from all users button, you’ll see multiple svchost.exe processes using different amounts of memory and CPU.

Svchost.exe is actually a Windows process that runs Windows services – if you want to see exactly which services a svchost.exe process is running, right-click it and select Got to Service(s).

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This will take you to the Services tab, with the services your process is linked to highlighted.

You can also right-click a service on the Services tab and select Go to Process to view its linked process.

Read More: What is svchost.exe And Why Is It Running?

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Monitor CPU Usage

The Task Manager includes a system tray icon, so it can be used to monitor CPU usage.

Its system tray icon is likely hidden by default – you’ll have to click the arrow next to your system tray and drag and drop the icon to your notification area. After you do, you’ll have a constantly updating CPU meter on your screen when the Task Manager is open.

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Do you have any Task Manager tips to share? Leave a comment!

For a Task Manager with even more features, check out Sysinternals Process Explorer.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 09/11/12

Comments (26)

  1. POC

    I have one more that is quite useful. You can use the task manager to control you connection speed. You can know your current download speed while getting multiple files (by checking data received/sent per interval in networking tab) measured in KB/s.

  2. suomi

    Prio http://www.prnwatch.com/prio.html is a nice plus to the task manager.

  3. r

    nope,…knew all that. It’s what I always use to kill unruly processes

  4. Spotpuff

    Hey, you run a mumble server!

  5. rKiller

    I knew all except CPU usege Timer!!

  6. Oh THAT Brian

    Yep, knew about most of those, others (such as sending a message to another user) never really came up.

    I’ve used the trick to restrict a program to one core – in particular when my virus scan is running. It can often overcome the PC. I can’t change the priority – most AVs know that trick and bump themselves back up and log the fact that they’ve been messed with. BUT – restricting it to one core – they don’t catch that one, and it is an instant remedy for an overzealous realtime scan!

  7. trm96

    I knew all of this as well.

  8. Danny

    Reconfigure the network tab and you can get it to show your download rate, upload rate, and total bytes uploaded and downloaded.
    Very useful.

  9. ss005

    CPU time usage is nice. Thanks..

  10. Arston

    I personally think you guys should avoid titles like “…You Didn’t Know About”.

    I know lots of your articles are aimed at computer novices but at the end of the day it’s How To Geek – it’s expected to have some tech-savvy people around, isn’t it?

  11. Ajax

    @Arston

    I think you should just keep ya mouth shut if you don’t have anything worthwhile to say rather than show everyone your Ego as a “Tech Savvy” wannabe. Weather or not these articles help you don’t mean dick….they do help someone. sheesh…..some people. You want just straight out NERD info…go to hackAday.

  12. Suparious

    Guys don’t bother posting “I knew that”, what are you trying to achieve there?

    I didn’t know about the Processor Affinity, this is really helpful.

    @Arston, you comment defeats the purpose of the “You didn’t know about” series, feel free to ignore the posts that aren’t relevant / don’t apply to you.

  13. Dave B

    Hey it was all news to me… Thanks

  14. max

    Do you have to restart a program once you change its Compatibility Settings?

  15. gary

    I agree with Ajax about his statement to Arston; being a novice I enjoy reading articles about how to keep my computer running better and faster. I use my computer to make my living and it’s a very important tool. So having said that, “Geeks, keep up the good work”

  16. spike

    @max: yep. NBD though

  17. Rusty Gates

    Is there a way to tile the applications in Windows 8?

  18. W4R10CK F4RR3LL

    Can anyone of u tell me about the how to take the remote desktop of administrator by the user?

  19. Akoolo

    Tks for this piece on the uses of the windows task manager, i only use it to close applications that are not working properly, havent explored the more options explained, I like How-to Geek
    .Keep up
    Sam

  20. Dic

    Chris Hoffman/HTG, if you call in, I’ll shout you a glass or two, for you have put me on track to solving a problem I’ve had with my copy of Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. I followed this path:

    > SOED > R.click > Properties > Compatibility (tab) > uncheck ‘Run in 256 colours’.

    I can’t tell you how delighted I was to see the UI appear as normal, rather than in the false bright-pink and bad definition I had struggled with for so long.

    Oxford (Australia – I’m in New Zealand) hadn’t bothered to reply to my request for a possible solution.

  21. AndyR

    @Arston

    No! If the readers were all tech savvy geeks they wouldn’t need the sight. It’s the writers that are the geeks not the readers.

    @Ajax

    Better now?

  22. Marty the Fly

    Yeah, see. We all knew that. All of it, see. Yeah. Now Rocky’s mad, see. Yeah.

    *blink, blink*

  23. rsm

    knew some of them was very usefull

  24. Echike

    Hey thanks for the post, it was very helpful. i can always rely on this site

  25. ILOK7777

    I wrestle with a process (syswow64) when I try to run a favorite program. If I end the process fast enough, the program runs smoothly but if if not the program freezes up and is useless. Does anyone know how I can prevent the process from running or at least increase the amount of time I’ll have to end the process. Thanks you guys (and gals).

  26. Billdata

    Keep up the good work! We don’t always know everything (!), that’s why we read this material!
    Weather (sic) you like this sight (sic)… Oh, really, it seems some of those adverse comments were written by some very illiterate ‘geeks”.
    Thanks for all the interesting information, whether I know it or not, I’ll keep coming back to this site!

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