How-To Geek

How to Automatically Run Programs and Set Reminders With the Windows Task Scheduler


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.

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 08/31/12

Comments (9)

  1. Rich

    There is no annual schedule so it is no good for setting birthday reminders. Too bad. I am also curious how much overhead is involved here… if I set a few hundred events will that detract from system performance?

  2. Barbarosa

    This article shows how to set a weekly task. In the sample window you can choose any or all days of the week for the task.
    Likewise, if you were to create a monthly task, you could choose any individual month to run the task. There’s your annual schedule!

  3. roy

    will this enable the pc to ´wake-up´ after sleep?

  4. roy

    O.K., I have just re-read the article and my question is answered, thanks for this info

  5. Dan

    What do I enter en SMTP server? I entered since my account is for Gmail, but the email did not arrived…
    I have a gmail account and try to send myself an email for testing purpose.

  6. Geoff

    my version of Task Scheduler (1.0) is corrupted. Any ideas for a reinstall?

  7. KatMcCon

    I also have Task Scheduler 1.0. I get error messages with no number for info.

    When I first opened Task Scheduler I got message: “The selected task “0” no longer exists. To see the current tasks click refresh.”

    When I clicked OK to do refresh, another box came up. “Task scheduler service is not available. Task scheduler will attempt to connect to it.” When I clicked OK, the previous message came up again.

    Tried to delete some scheduled tasks, they did not delete. Tried to disable them and it said “specified account name is not valid.

    When I tried to resolve these issues with the “help” button and went through some steps, I now get “catastrophic failure” message.

    When I click “Create a basic task”, I get “Task Scheduler service is not available or the Folder does not exist. Verify that service is running.

    And now my list of previous tasks (that I never entered and never knew were there) will not open and I get the message: “Task Scheduler service is not available. Verify that service is running.

    I’m at a loss.
    While I have never used this task scheduler before, now I don’t know if creating these error messages in trying to fix it, has corrupted any other programs.

  8. Rich

    I think you missed the point. A birthday reminder is set a annual. You set a date, and every year you trigger the event you set up – say an email or a notification. I don’t think this is possible. You can schedule an event for a specific date for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 etc but each has to be scheduled separately. Unless I’m missing something!


  9. Rich

    Oh I see what you mean, Barabarosa. Yes indeed I was missing something! Yes it should work for annual like you said :-)

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!