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Adding, Removing, and Managing Programs in Windows 7

Managing Running Programs and Processes with Windows Task Manager

Windows Task Manager is a tool that serves two essential purposes. You can use it to track aspects of your system’s performance, and you can use it to see what programs and processes are running and terminate items when the normal shutdown methods aren’t working.

The easiest way to run Task Manager is by means of its keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Figure 5-9 shows the Applications tab and Processes tab of Task Manager.

Figure 5-9

Figure 5-9 Task Manager is useful for terminating recalcitrant applications and processes, as well as for monitoring system performance.

In Task Manager, the Applications tab lists all running programs that have corresponding taskbar buttons. Each entry in the Task column consists of descriptive text identical to the text displayed in the program’s title bar.

The Applications tab also includes a Status column. Most of the time, the entries in this list will read Running. If an application hangs or freezes for any reason, you will see the words Not Responding in this column instead. In that case, you can attempt to shut down the misbehaving program by selecting its entry and clicking End Task. Don’t be too quick on the trigger, however; Not Responding doesn’t necessarily mean that an application is irredeemably lost. If the program is using every bit of resources to handle a different task, it might simply be too busy to communicate with Task Manager. Before you decide to end the program, give it a chance to finish whatever it’s doing. How long should you wait? That depends on the task. If the operation involves a large data file (performing a global search and replace in a large Microsoft Access database, for instance), it’s appropriate to wait several minutes, especially if you can hear the hard disk chattering or see the disk activity light flickering. But if the task in question normally completes in a few seconds, you needn’t wait more than a minute.

The items listed on the Applications tab represent only a portion of the total number of programs and services running on a Windows computer at any given time. To see the entire list of running processes and gain access to a broader selection of tools for managing them, click the Processes tab.

Initially, the Processes tab lists programs and services that are directly accessible to the current user. To see everything, including processes running under system accounts and the accounts of other logged-on users (if you use Fast User Switching), click Show Processes From All Users.

For each process, Task Manager includes the following information by default: Image Name (the name of the process), User Name (which user started the process), CPU (the percentage of the CPU’s capacity that the process is currently using), Memory (Private Working Set) (the amount of memory the process requires to perform its regular functions), and Description (a text field identifying the process). To display additional information for each process, open the View menu and choose Select Columns.

If you need to shut down a process, select it and click End Process.