Windows 7

Speed Up System Performance with the Task Manager

This humble tool does more than show you which applications are running; it can help juice up your PC's performance as well.

As you may know, the Task Manager shows you all programs and processes running on your system and lets you shut down any you don't want to run any longer. But it can do much more than that; it can also help fine-tune system performance.

There are five common ways to run the Task Manager:

  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
  • Right-click the taskbar on the Desktop, and choose Task Manager.
  • Type Task Manager at the Start screen, and then click the Task Manager icon that appears.
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Del, and then choose Task Manager from the screen that appears.
  • Right-click the lower left portion of your screen and select Task Manager.

In Windows 8, unlike in previous versions of Windows, the Task Manager has two interfaces: A stripped-down simplified one and a much more detailed robust one, which you use for troubleshooting and improving system performance. To switch between them, click the "More details" down arrow when you're in the simplified version, or click the "Fewer details" up arrow when you're in the more detailed version.

The robust, detailed version of Task Manager has seven tabs, but you'll generally use the App History, Processes, and Performance tabs to help improve system performance. In this tip, I will cover how to use the detailed version of the Task Manager.

The Task Manager is also a great tool for speeding up system startup and stopping unnecessary programs from launching at startup. Before you can learn how to use the Task Manager to improve performance, you'll need some background about the tabs you'll use most: Processes, Performance, Users, and App history.

Processes Tab

The Processes tab reports on every process running on your computer, as well as a variety of services run by the operating system and currently running apps. It reports on the percentage of the CPU that each process uses, as well as how much memory, disk capacity, and network resources each process uses.

When you right-click any app, service, or process, you get a menu of choices that allow you to manage it in a variety of ways, including ending it along with any related processes (if there are any).

When you right-click an application, a menu of choices lets you manage the application in several ways; you can switch to it, move it to the front, minimize it, maximize it, or end it. The Go To Process option takes you to the application's process on the Processes tab. You can get more information about the application this way.

Performance Tab

The Performance tab shows a variety of performance measurements, including CPU, Memory, Disk, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi use.

You'll use this tab more than any other when tracking system performance and unstopping bottlenecks. The Performance tab has thumbnail graphs on the left showing high-level details about the performance of each measurement it tracks. Click any thumbnail, and the right-side portion of the screen shows a larger, more detailed graph and additional information. For example, click Memory, and you'll get information about your total memory, how much is in use, how much is available, how much is cached, and so on.

There are multiple ways to use this tab to help improve system performance. Look at the thumbnail graphs and see if utilization is too high on any of them. If you've got high CPU use of more than 80 percent or more, you might be experiencing system slowdowns. As I will explain later in this tip, you can then track down which apps are using too much CPU and close them down. Similarly, if you see high memory use, you'll want to track down which apps are using too much memory, and close them down as well-and I'll show you how to do that later in this tip, too. And you can do the same thing with the other thumbnails. Wi-Fi shows you your bandwidth speed, among other details, for example, so that you can tell whether you've got connection problems.

Task Manager updates its data every two seconds, and each vertical line on the graphs represents a two-second interval. To change the update time, choose View?Update Speed, and select High or Low. When you select High, updates take place twice a second. When you select Low, updates take place once every four seconds. To stop updating altogether, select Pause. To do an immediate update, select "Refresh now" or press F5.

App History Tab

If you're familiar with the pre-Windows 8 Task Manager, you'll see a big difference between this tab and the old Applications tab in previous versions of the Task Manager. The old Applications tab displayed a list of every application currently running on your PC, like Word, Excel, Windows 8 native apps, or any other application. It also reported on the status of each application.

In the Windows 8 Task Manager, you check the Processes tab to get that kind of information. The Windows 8 App history tab serves a very different purpose-to provide information about Windows 8 native apps, and see the ways in which they've been used over time. It doesn't give information about Desktop apps.

For each app, the tab shows the total CPU time it's taken up, the total amount of network bandwidth it's used, the total metered bandwidth it's used and the total amount of data used by the apps' tile updates.

How can this tab help you? Perhaps its greatest use is in tracking down network bandwidth hogs. Check the Network, "Metered network, "and "Tile updates" columns to see each app's bandwidth use. You'd expect a network-centric app like Internet Explorer to use a lot of bandwidth, so don't be surprised if it's your biggest bandwidth consumer. But if you see an app whose operation is not Internet-centric or networkcentric taking up gobs of bandwidth, you might have a problem.

Similarly, if you notice that an app that you rarely run takes up what seems to be an inordinate amount of CPU time, you've probably found a CPU hog.
What to do in those cases? Consider uninstalling the app or finding an alternative to it.

Users Tab

This tab displays the currently logged-on users of your machine and shows how much CPU, memory, disk, and network resources the currently logged-on user is consuming. If you see any currently logged-on user taking up too many resources, consider switching to that account and logging the user off.

You can also see details about the apps, resources, and services for each user by clicking the triangle next to that user. From there, you can identify any apps, resources and services that take up too much CPU, memory, disk, or network resources. You may be able to close down those apps, resources, and services as a way to ease the stress on your system.

Monitor CPU Use

Today's microprocessors can handle most tasks easily, but CPU-intensive software or tasks such as computer-aided design (CAD) programs, CD burning, and games can slow down a system significantly. So can multitasking many apps simultaneously. A common cause of CPU slowdown is that one or more programs or processes take up too much of the CPU's attention. You can use the Task Manager to monitor your CPU use and, based on what you find, take steps to help your system run faster.

Monitor your CPU usage using the Performance tab of the Task Manager. If you find a problem, head over to the Processes tab. On that tab, check the percentage of the CPU that any individual program uses. To make it easier, click the CPU column; it will show the apps, services, and processes that take up the most CPU time at the top. The topmost listed takes up the most, the second listed takes up the second most, and so on. Once you determine which one you want to close, right-click it, and select End Task. (For an app, though, you'll be better off if you instead switch to it and close it down from the app interface. That way, you won't lose any files or data associated with it.) Your system will get a quick performance boost. If you need to run that application, close any other applications that take up too much CPU attention.

It's probably not a good idea to close down Windows 8 native apps from the Task Manager. Windows 8 does a very good job of monitoring them, and closes or pauses them when you no longer need them, except for background tasks like updating its tile or fetching new mail.

Tracking CPU usage in real time

If your CPU regularly uses a high percentage of its capacity, it means there's a bottleneck. You should upgrade the CPU, buy a new computer, or run fewer programs. But how can you know whether your CPU has a bottleneck? Check your CPU use. Run Task Manager, and make sure Options?Hide When Minimized is selected. Now, whenever you minimize the Task Manager, it will sit in the Taskbar's System Tray area. The first time you minimize Task Manager like this on Windows 8, you should drag it from that area and place it next to the icons for the Action Center, Power, Network, and Sound.

Now, minimize the Task Manager. It will appear as a small bar graph in the System Tray that lights up green as you use your CPU. To see your current CPU usage, hold your mouse cursor over the Task Manager's icon in the System Tray. Try running different combinations of programs, and monitor your CPU use with each combination. If you find your CPU is overburdened on a regular basis, it's time for an upgraded CPU or a new computer.

Give Program and Processes More of Your CPU's Attention

Windows gives a base priority to every program and process running on your PC; the base priority determines the relative amount of CPU power the program or process gets, compared to other programs. Here are the priorities Windows assigns:

  • Low
  • Below Normal
  • Normal
  • Above Normal
  • High
  • Real Time

Most programs and processes are assigned a Normal priority. But you might want to give a program like a CAD or graphics program more of your CPU's attention. That way, the program will get the CPU power it needs and run more smoothly and quickly. If there are programs or processes that normally run in the background or rarely need your CPU, you can give them less of your CPU's attention.

You can use the Task Manager to change the priorities assigned to any process or program. The Low, Below Normal, Normal, Above Normal, and High priorities are selfexplanatory, but Real Time may be unfamiliar. Real Time devotes an exceedingly high number of CPU cycles to the given task-so much so that even the Task Manager might not be able to interrupt any program or process assigned that priority. So don't assign a Real Time priority to any program or task unless it will be the sole program or task running on the PC. Of course, if it's the only program or task running, you really don't need to give it a high priority, because it already has your CPU's complete attention.

To change the priority of a running program or process, use the Details tab. On that tab, right-click the program or process whose priority you want to change, highlight Set Priority, and choose a priority.

Be careful when using this feature, because it can have unintended consequences and lead to system instability. If you find it causes problems, stop using it.

Keep in mind that when you assign a new priority to a process or program, that new priority sticks only as long as the program or process is running. Once the program or process ends and you restart it, it defaults to the priority assigned to it by Windows.

Windows 8 Keyboard Shortcuts

Want to be more productive when using Windows 8? Use these keyboard shortcuts instead of mousing around.
Think of all the time you spend in Windows 8 using your mouse to accomplish simple actions-opening the Charms bar, opening a new window in Internet Explorer, showing the Desktop. It's plenty of time and plenty of movement.

It doesn't have to be that way. You can get a lot done just using your keyboard. Use out the following tables for keyboard shortcuts, and you'll save miles of mouse movements, and plenty of time as well.

Windows Key Shortcuts

Windows key 		Goes to Start screen or toggles between the Start screen and 
			your current action
Windows key+C 		Open Charms bar
Windows key+D 		Show the Desktop
Windows key+E 		Open Windows Explorer
Windows key+F 		Go to Files in the Search charm
Windows key+H 		Go to the Share charm
Windows key+I 		Go to the Settings charm
Windows key+K 		Go to the Devices charm
Windows key+L 		Locks your PC
Windows key+M 		Minimize all windows (only on the Desktop)
Windows key+O 		Lock the screen orientation
Windows key+P 		Open Projection Mode pane
Windows key+Q 		Go to the Search charm
Windows key+R 		Launch the Run box
Windows key+T 		Put the focus on the Taskbar and cycle through your 
                        running Desktop apps
Windows key+U 		Open the Ease of Access Center
Windows key+V 		Cycle through your notifications
Windows key+W 		Go to Settings in the Search charm
Windows key+X 		Open the power user menu
Windows key+Z 		Go to the app bar
Windows key+1 		through 9 Go to the app on the corresponding position on the 
			Taskbar (Desktop only)
Windows key++ 		Zoom in (when using Magnifier)
Windows key+? 		Zoom out (when using Magnifier)
Windows key+, 		Peek at the Desktop (on Desktop only)
Windows key+. 		Snap a Windows 8 native app to the right (Windows key+Shift+. 
			snaps it to the left)
Windows key+Enter 	Opens the Narrator
Windows key+Spacebar 	Switches the input language and keyboard layout
Windows key+Tab 	Cycle through the Windows 8 native app history
Windows key+Esc 	Exit the magnifier
Windows key+Home 	Minimize non-active desktop windows
Windows key+Page 	Up Move Start screen or any Windows 8 native app to 
                        left monitor
Windows key+Page 	Down Move Start screen or any Windows 8 native app to 
                        right monitor
Windows key+Break 	Open System Properties
Windows key+Left arrow 	Snap desktop window to the left
Windows key+Right arrow Snap desktop window to the right
Windows key+Up arrow 	Maximize desktop window
Windows key+Down arrow 	Restore/minimize desktop window
Windows key+F1 		Run Windows Help and Support

Other Keyboard Shortcuts

Ctrl+A 			Select all
Ctrl+C 			Copy
Ctrl+E or F4 		Select the Search box in Internet Explorer 
                        (Select Address Bar in Desktop version)
Ctrl+N 			Open new window in Internet Explorer (Desktop version only)
Ctrl+R or F5 		Refresh
Ctrl+V 			Paste
Ctrl +X 		Cut
Ctrl+Y 			Redo
Ctrl+Z 			Undo
Ctrl+Tab 		Cycle through the Windows 8 native app history
Ctrl+Esc 		Go to the Start screen
Ctrl+Ins 		Copy
Ctrl+F4 		Close the active document (closes the current tab in 
                        Internet Explorer)
Ctrl+click 		Select multiple items in File Explorer
Ctrl+Shift 		Select a group of contiguous items in File Explorer
Ctrl+W or Ctrl+F4 	Close the current window in Internet Explorer 
                        (Desktop version)
Ctrl+Shift +Esc 	Run the Task Manager
Ctrl+Shift+N 		Create a new folder in Windows Explorer
Ctrl+Alt+D 		Dock the Magnifier at the top of the screen
Ctrl+Alt+L 		Put Magnifier into lens mode
Ctrl+Alt+I 		Invert the Magnifier's colors
PrtScn 			Take a screenshot and place it on the Clipboard

Using Windows 8 Gestures

Got a tablet or touchscreen device? Here's the lowdown on gestures you can use.
Windows 8 is the first Microsoft operating system designed from the ground up to run using a touchscreen with a feature called multitouch, Obviously, this feature is mostly intended for tablets, but you'll find plenty of desktops and laptops with touchscreens as well.

But touchscreen gestures aren't always intuitive, and there are some you may not know about. So use the following table of touchscreen gestures to get up close and personal with your Windows 8 device.

Not all of these gestures work in all places and apps on Windows 8, so you may need to test some. Typically, they don't work on Desktop apps.

Windows 8 Gestures

Tap 			Opens an item. It's the equivalent of clicking with a mouse.

Tap and hold 		Pops up a menu to display more information about the item.

Slide and drag 		Tap and hold an item, then drag it to a new location. 
			It's the equivalent of dragging an item with a mouse.

Pinch with two fingers 	Zooms out. 
                        Used in apps such as Maps, where you commonly zoom in
                        and out.

Spread with two fingers Zooms in. 
                        Used in apps such as Maps, where you commonly 
			zoom in and out.

Rotate with two fingers Rotates the display in the direction you move your fingers. 
			Very few apps use this gesture.

Swipe horizontally 	Scroll sideways through a screen, such as through the Start 
			screen to see apps off the side of the screen.

Swipe vertically 	Scroll up or down.

Short downward 		Selects an item and shows additional options,
swipe on an item        often in an app bar.

Swipe in from the 	Activates the app bar
upper edge or lower 
edge of the screen in 
a Windows 8 native app 
or the Start screen

Swipe in from the 	Displays the Charms bar
left edge of the 
screen to the right

Swipe in from left 	Displays a thumbnail of the previously run app
edge of the screen

Swipe slowly in 	Displays a second app side-by-side with the current app 
from the left edge 	on your screen.
of the screen

Swipe quickly in 	Displays thumbnails of all your running apps.
from the left edge of 
the screen, then swipe 
quickly back

Pull down from the top	Close an app

Swipe left or right 	Go forward or back
in Internet Explorer 
(Windows 8 native app only)
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