If you use Windows, you should know about Task Manager. This essential system utility allows you to keep track of which programs are running, kill a program or process that has stopped responding, monitor your system’s performance, and keep track of how your system is using memory. The Task Manager utility has been a part of various Windows versions for years, but the version included in Windows XP does more tricks than any of its predecessors. In fact, this week’s tips will focus exclusively on Task Manager functions.
To start Task Manager, press Ctrl+Shift+Escape. (If you use the default settings for Windows XP with Fast User Switching enabled and your computer is not logged on to a domain, you can start Task Manager with the simpler Ctrl+Alt+Delete sequence.)
The Task Manager interface consists of four tabs (a fifth tab, Users, is visible if Fast User Switching is enabled). The Applications tab, shown here, lists every running program that appears as a Taskbar button. It also includes items that run as programs but hide their taskbar buttons and appear only as tray icons when minimized.
I don’t know anyone who uses Task Manager to actually manage programs, even though the various buttons and menu items available here offer a full range of options for doing just that: The Switch To button makes the selected program active, for instance, minimizing the Task Manager window. Click Windows, Bring To Front if you want to surface a program or Explorer window that’s currently hiding behind other windows while still leaving Task Manager in the foreground.
The most important use for the Applications tab is to kill a program that isn’t responding. The Status column normally displays “Running” for every program in the list. If you see “Not Responding,” that’s a clue that the program might have hung. (Some programs fail to respond to requests about their status when they’re busy with a CPU-intensive task, so be sure to wait before concluding that the program is hung.) With very rare exceptions, you should be able to kill any program by selecting its entry in the list on the Applications tab and clicking End Task.
Tomorrow: Using Task Manager to monitor performance.