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Windows XP hints and tips

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Explore Task Manager's processes

Task Manager is a very useful utility in Windows XP and it offers more features than in previous versions of the operating system. Press the Alt+Ctrl+Del keys all at the same time to display it and on the Processes tab you can see all the programs that are running. The list includes not only the ones that you can see on the screen, but also ones running in the background too.

Spyware, adware and other unwanted programs will appear in this list and you can disable them by right clicking and selecting End Process. It's sometimes necessary to do this when cleaning up an infected computer.

Click View, Select Columns and you can choose from a wide variety of information to display about each process. Some of the items are pretty advanced, so you may not understand them all. Items like CPU usage, CPU Time, and Memory Usage are useful and easy to understand. Page Faults is another useful one and it is the number of times an item wasn't found in memory and had to be loaded from the page file. A high value is a good indication that the PC is short of memory.

A process can be right clicked to display a menu and you have the option to set the priority. This is the amount of time the processor spends on running it. (Processors constantly switch their attention from process to process giving each a little time.) Setting the priority to Above Normal or High will enable a program to run faster. Setting it to Below Normal or Low will cause it to run more slowly. It can be useful to set background tasks, such as anti virus scanning to a low priority so that it runs quietly in the background and lets you get on with other tasks on the computer.

You can also end a process and this is useful if it has locked up. If a program won't work, you can select the process and end it.

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