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Windows XP Task Manager : A Guide

by Canuck
January 9, 2006

Canuck is an administrator at Help2Go. Much of his computer knowledge has been acquired since joining Help2Go, from research, to learning from the wealth of knowledge of its members. He lives by the credo 'there is no such thing as a dumb question'.

We have all at one time used the Task Manager, most probably to "End Task" to some program that’s "Not Responding".  Just key in Ctrl+Alt+Delete and in the Task Manager Window highlight the problem program. Then click End Task in the Applications Tab ( for those who are lucky enough to have avoided this feature so far).  But Windows XP Task Manager offers more...

Applications Tab

The Applications tab shows you which full-fledged applications are running on your system. These are just the big ones - Web Browsers, Email, Office, etc. The small utilities that often suck up a computer's resources are not usually listed here.

At the bottom of the tab, you will see how much your computer processor (CPU) is being used at the moment. It also shows you the number of processes (programs) that are currently loaded and running on your computer. 

Task Manager screenshot


Processes Tab

Did you know, if you right click on any of the programs listed in the Applications Tab and select Go to Process the Manager will take you to that entry in the Processes Tab.  There you are able to see how many resources the program is taking up in the Mem Usage column, as well as the other programs that are running in the background.

If you are running out of Memory, you can highlight a particular process and click End Process.  This will effectively shut down the program.  While some of these processes are very important to the running of Windows and should never be stopped, there are some memory hogs like Adobe Acrobat Tray, QuickTime, and Real Player to name a few that are constantly checking for updates and 'on stand by' should you need them. 

You can easily end these processes to free up Memory (you can also remove them from your Configuration Start Up which will permanently stop them from running in the background). Neither of these options will delete them, and the programs are available to be opened through Start -> All Programs when you want them.  You can do a Google search on the different processes to see what they are/do or you can ask our members in the Computer Help Forum for advice.  Note, if you’re not sure of a process, do not end it.

Task Manager screenshot 

You can also set priorities to these programs so that more resources are given to the one you’re working on.  You just right click an entry, choose Set Priority, and then select the importance of that particular process.

Performance Tab

The Performance Tab shows graphically the CPU and Page File Usages over a period of time.  CPU Usage lets you know how much of the computer’s memory (RAM) is being used at the moment while the Page File Usage lets you know how much Virtual Memory is being used (Virtual Memory is space on your hard drive that is used as memory when there is not enough available RAM).  Note that in your taskbar, next to the time, you will see a green box.  If you hover your cursor over this you will get the CPU % Usage. 

Try minimizing ( - ) the Windows Task Manager window, then open a couple of programs .. note how much Memory they use. Shut one down and see how much memory you gain .. to keep your programs running well, consider if you need to have so many programs running at the same time. This is a great way to check which ones are the resource hogs and are better used as single applications if need be.

Task Manager screenshot 


Networking Tab

The Networking Tab lets you track the usage of your network as well as the Internet.  The lower window lists the various network adapters and connections you may have.

Users Tab

The Users Tab is obvious.  It lets you know which Users are logged in on your PC as well as those connected via a network with whom you share folders and files.


The menu bar at the top of the Window has various options you can use.  The Shut Down option allows you to select various shutdown options instead of going through Start (kind of an oxymoron .. having to go to Start in order to Stop!!).  In View you are able to change the speed of reporting and in Options you are able to select the placing of the Task Manager.

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