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Start programs with the right priority

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Several programs can be running at once in Windows, such as a word processor, music player and web browser. Even when nothing is running at all, there's actually quite a lot running behind the scenes, like anti virus, firewall, network connections, and so on. To keep all these different tasks running smoothly, one program is given a little bit of processor time and then the next program is given some processor time, then the next and so on. Each program gets a bit of processor time in order to do some work. This task switching is so fast that programs seem to run without interruption. The amount of time that is allocated to a program is determined by its priority. High priority programs get more processor time and low priority programs get less time. You can manually set a program's priority so that it gets more time and runs faster, or less time and runs more slowly, therefore letting other programs get more processor time and prevent them from slowing down. You may have seen this priority setting in anti virus programs and sometimes they have a high/low priority scan setting. You can manually set any program you like to whatever priority you want and therefore speed up Windows.

There are two ways to do this and the first is to use the start command (it's nothing to do with the Start button or menu). Click Start, All programs, Accessories, Command prompt. You can run Windows programs from the command prompt using the start command like this: start notepad.exe. What's interesting and potentially useful is that we can set the priority of the program we're starting like this: start /low notepad.exe, which starts Notepad and runs it with a low priority, which means it gets the minimum amount of processor time. You might want to do this if some other processor-intensive application is running, such as a video editor, and you don't want to slow it down as it's rendering a movie.

On the other hand, you could start the video editor, or any application, with a high priority to ensure it runs at maximum speed like this: start /high notepad.exe. OK, it's not going to have any effect on Notepad because it's such a simple application that it hardly taxes the processor anyway. But that video editor might run better with a boost. You can use these priorities with the start command: /low, /belownormal, /normal, /abovenormal, or /high.

Task ManagerStarting Notepad is easy because Windows knows its location on the hard disk drive because it's part of Windows. It might not be able to start every program just from its name, so you might need to ether change the current directory to the one containing the program or enter the full path to the program.

An easy way to do this is to type cd then drag the folder containg the program from an Explorer window and drop it on the command prompt window. The full path is automatically entered for you and yo just hit Enter to change to it. You can now type start /high program.exe where program.exe is the na,e of the program.

An alternative to all this command line stuff is to run the program as normal and then adjust the priority afterwards using Task Manager. Right click the taskbar and select Start Task Manager. Find the program you want to change the priority of in the list on the Processes tab, right click it and then choose the priority from the Set Priority menu.

There are lots of items on the Processes tab and you should only change the programs you run and not all the other processes.