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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

Processes tab

The Processes tab is really the heart of Task Manager. This tab has the most useful information when it comes to troubleshooting and identifying issues, and it provides the most effective tools for resolving those issues.

First, let's go over the information that is displayed on the Processes tab. It shows five columns of information by default: Image Name (the process), User Name (the user account context the process is running in), CPU (the percentage of the processor being used by that process), Memory (the amount of system RAM being used by that process), and Description (a more understandable description of what the process is).

You can sort the processes using any of the columns - simply click the column that you want to use as the primary sort filter. If you click Image Name, the processes will be sorted alphabetically (or reverse alphabetically). Generally, you will want either to sort the processes alphabetically to make it easier to find a specific process, or to sort based on CPU or Memory to identify the processes that are hogging system resources.

For example, if your PC is slow and unresponsive, but all of the programs on the Applications tab appear to be running fine, you can sort the Processes tab based on the CPU or Memory column to see if a particular process is using up a huge chunk of the available resources. You might also be able to identify suspicious or malicious activity. If you find processor or memory resources being consumed by processes that you don't recognise or can't make out which application they belong to.

First, though, click the checkbox at the bottom of the Processes tab next to 'Show processes from all users'. If you sort the Processes based on the CPU column, you will most likely notice that adding up the numbers of the processor percentage in use by the displayed processes does not match the CPU usage reported in the dashboard at the bottom of the Task Manager. That's because the Processes tab displays only the tabs running in the logged-in user's context by default - so system processes and processes from other users aren't shown unless you click this checkbox.

The CPU and Memory columns are the most useful ways to identify problem processes, especially if you have already tried End Task on the Applications tab and found that the program is too stubborn to shut down. Sort based on the CPU or Memory column to find the process hogging the system resources, select it, and click the End Process button at the bottom of the Processes tab. End Process is typically much more effective than End Task - even for tenacious processes.

The Processes tab also offers more customisability than the other tabs. Click View at the top of Task Manager, and choose Select Columns to see a list of all of the other information you can display in the Processes tab columns. One custom column I highly recommend adding is process ID - or PID. It will come in handy when trying to work with the Services tab because the Services can be filtered based on the associated PID to make it easier to match the processes and services that go together.

Another very handy column to add is Image Path Name. This column lists the path to the location of the executable for the process in question. This can help you determine what the actual application is that is behind an errant process, or help you locate where malware executables might be hidden on your system.

NEXT PAGE: Services 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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