Do you want your computer to automatically run a program, remind you about something, or even automatically send emails? Use the Task Scheduler included with Windows — its interface can be a bit intimidating, but it’s easy to use.

The Task Scheduler has a wide variety of uses — anything you want your computer to do automatically, you can configure here. For example, you could use the task scheduler to automatically wake your computer at a specific time.

Creating a Basic Task

To launch the Task Scheduler, click Start, type Task Scheduler, and click the Task Scheduler shortcut (or press Enter).

Click the Create Basic Task link at the right side of the Task Scheduler window. This link opens an easy-to-use wizard that will walk you through the process of creating a task. If you want more advanced options, click Create Task instead.

Provide a name and description for the task. These will help you remember what the task does later.

Select when you want the task to “trigger,” or start. You can have the task run daily, week, monthly, or only once. In addition, you can have the task run when the computer starts or when you log on. You can also have the task start in response to an event ID in the Windows event log.

If you selected daily, weekly, monthly, or one time, you’ll be prompted to specify a specific time for the event to occur.

You can have Windows start a program, send an email, or display a message in response to the trigger you specific earlier.

If you want to run a program, click the Browse button and locate the program’s .exe file on your hard disk — most programs will be located under Program Files on your C: drive. Select a program and it will launch automatically at your scheduled time — for example, if you always use a certain program at 1pm, you can have Windows automatically open the program at 1pm every weekday so you don’t forget.

You can also add optional arguments, which some programs support — for example you can specify the /AUTO argument with CCleaner to automatically run CCleaner on a schedule. (The exact arguments supported will differ between programs.)

If you want to display a message or send an email, you’ll be asked to specify the details of the message or email you want to create.

You’re now almost done — Windows will display the details of the task you created. Click the Finish button and your task will be created.

If you want to disable a task you scheduled, locate the task in the list, right-click it, and select Disable or Delete.

Advanced Task Settings

To edit more advanced task options, right-click a task you’ve already created and select Properties. You can also click the Create Task link in the sidebar to create a new task in the advanced interface, skipping the wizard.

From this interface, you can adjust quite a few settings that are hidden in the basic wizard interface, if you really want to customize your task.

For example, you can set other types of triggers — you can run a command when your computer locks or unlocks, or when your computer becomes idle — this is ideal for maintenance tasks that shouldn’t be run while someone is using the computer.

You can also specify multiple triggers and actions — for example, you could have Windows display a reminder and launch an application at the same time.

While there are a lot of options here, they won’t be necessary for most tasks you want to create — you shouldn’t even need to open this interface if you don’t want to.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
Read Full Bio »