The Windows Task Manager can be a useful information gathering tool when troubleshooting a system. In this video, you’ll learn about Task Manager’s view of services, processes, performance metrics, and more.
The Windows Task Manager allows you to view real time information about the performance of your operating system. You can view CPU utilization, memory usage, disk utilization, and many other statistics. There are a number of different ways to start Task Manager. You could hit Control-Alt-Delete, and choose the option for Task Manager. You could right mouse click in the taskbar of Windows and select Task Manager. Or you could use my favorite shortcut, which is Control-Shift-escape which immediately launches Task Manager.
Once Task Manager starts, there are a number of tabs across the top that can provide you access to different types of information. We’ll start our tour of Task Manager on the far right side with the Services tab. Services in Windows are applications that run in the background that don’t have a user interface or a front end that you can modify. There are hundreds of background processes running in Windows, and when you click the Services tab, you’ll get a view of exactly what is running on your system.
Since there’s no user interface to these services, we rely on this service’s view to be able to manage this service. If you right mouse click any of these services, you’ll see the option to start, stop, restart, or manage other aspects of that service. So if you were having problems with the print spooler, you can select the print spooler in the Task Manager, right mouse click, and choose restart to try to get that print spooler working again.
Another useful tab, especially if you’re trying to troubleshoot something during the boot process, is the startup tab. From the startup, tab you’ll get a list of all of the applications that start when you log into Windows. These will also show you whether that particular application has been enabled or, disabled. And it can give you an idea of the impact that application has during the startup process.
You can right mouse click any of these status options and change one of these applications from enabled to disabled. This certainly helps when you’re troubleshooting startup issues, and you’re not quite certain which application is causing the problem. You can disable a large number of applications and slowly add them back into the startup process all from the startup tab of the Task Manager.
The default view for Task Manager when it starts up is the tab on the left side called processes. This shows you the applications and background processes that are currently being used on your system, and you can view all of the metrics associated with that particular application. By default, this will show all of the processes specific to your account. But if you have multiple users on this device, you can tell Task Manager to show you all of the processes running for this entire Windows system.
This view is also customizable. So if you would like to add or remove any metrics that are shown on Task Manager, you can easily right mouse click at any time and make those modifications. This makes it very easy to find information quickly when you’re troubleshooting. For example, if you wanted to see which applications using the most amount of memory, you can click on the memory column, and it will sort these in order. And if you find an application that is using too much memory or CPU, and you would like to administratively stop that application, you can use end task option at the bottom of the screen.
Showing text information is good, but often you need a trend to be able to understand how a system has been performing over time. Under the Performance tab, you can view CPU, memory, storage, and network information over time. This might be able to show you if the CPU has been in heavy use, or whether this is something that is occurring over a shorter period of time. This performance tab on the most recent versions of Windows provides extensive details. And if you’re trying to troubleshoot something very quickly, you can visually see how it’s performing from that performance tab.
In previous versions of Windows, we had a separate tab just for networking. But in current versions of Task Manager, the networking piece is included in the Performance tab itself. This allows you to view utilization, link speeds, and other metrics associated with the network performance. If somebody is having a problem with response time or sluggishness across the network, you may be able to visually see how much traffic is being transferred from this performance tab.
Windows is a multi-user operating system, which means there could be multiple users logged into a device performing different applications all simultaneously. To be able to view exactly what each individual user is doing, you can click on the Users tab. This will break out for you every individual user connected to this system, and you can see exactly which applications that user is running. From this view, you also have the ability to disconnect a user from the system or modify some of the account settings that are associated with that particular user.