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How to troubleshoot PC problems with Windows Task Manager

Troubleshoot problems in Windows 7

Slow PC problems? Don't be so quick to reboot - you might be able to cure what ails you with some Windows Task Manager tricks. Here's how.

Task Manager tabs

Across the top of the main window in the Task Manager console are a number of different tabs: Applications, Processes, Services, Performance, Networking, and Users. We will dive into detail on the use of Applications, Processes, and Services, but the other three won't be covered comprehensively in this article because they are not as directly related to troubleshooting and resolving issues. Here is a brief summary of the last three tabs:

Performance
The Performance tab displays a real-time graph depicting processor usage (split to show the separate cores available for dual- or quad-core processors), and a real-time graph of the memory in use along with various details such as the amount of time the PC has been up and running, and the amount of virtual memory available to Windows. You can already see the overall processor and memory usage on the dashboard bar at the bottom of the Task Manager; however, by reviewing the usage graphs on this tab you can identify whether there is an issue with a specific core or cores within the processor. For example, if there is significant activity on one processor core, while the other is flatlined, you may have a defective CPU.

Networking
This tab displays real-time usage of active network connections. A pane at the bottom of the console lists the various available network connections, the percent of the network capacity being used, the maximum speed the network connection is capable of, and its current state.

You can use this tab to determine if there is any suspicious activity going on, such as high network bandwidth usage when you aren't actively downloading a file or streaming a movie, or network activity on adapters that you aren't actively using, like the Bluetooth adapter. Either of these symptoms could mean you have malware on your machine, or that an intruder has gained access somehow. Without a network sniffer of some sort, it is difficult to identify exactly what is going on, but you can run a malware scan of your PC, or dig deeper into the Processes tab to try to determine which process might be responsible.

Users
For most desktop PCs, the Users tab will show only the actual owner or primary user. On a system that has shared resources or allows external connections, though, this tab will display all of the currently connected users. You can use the buttons at the bottom of this console to forcibly disconnect or log off other users, or you can send a message - perhaps to let them know you're about to forcibly disconnect them. If you do see other users connected on a system that isn't intended to be shared, you obviously have an issue. You can forcibly boot the intruder from your PC, then perform a malware scan to try to determine how the user was able to gain access to your system.

Now that we have covered the basics of those three tabs, let's dive deeper into using Task Manager to identify and resolve problems on your Windows PC using the other three tabs.

NEXT PAGE: Applications tab

  1. Use Task Manager rather than rebooting
  2. Task Manager tabs
  3. Applications tab
  4. Processes tab
  5. Services tab

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