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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

Services tab

The Services tab is essentially a scaled-down version of the Services management console, something you can access by clicking the Services button at the bottom of the Services tab. A service is a program that is designed to perform a function and that can be called by other programs without user intervention. For example, the Print Spooler service can be used by various applications to queue items to be printed. This tab lists the service name, the PID, a description in more understandable language of what the service is or does, the current status of the service, and its group - assuming it's in one.

Each service will have a status of either 'stopped' or 'running'. If you right-click on any of the services, you will see that there are really only three things you can do with it, and only one or two of the choices is available at a given time. If it is 'running', you can stop it, and you also have an option to 'Go to Process', but the 'Start Service' option is grayed out because the service is already on. If the service is not running, you can click 'Start Service', but the other options are grayed out because you can't stop a service that isn't running to begin with, and stopped processes aren't connected with any running processes.

Clicking 'Go to Process' takes you to the associated PID on the Processes tab. However, if your Processes tab is sorted by CPU usage, memory, or some other dynamic column that changes frequently, the processes will likely be bouncing around too much for you to really use this tab. You should first sort the Processes tab based on PID (after you have followed the instructions under the Processes tab section to add the PID column) so that the processes are listed in numeric order.

If you sort the Services tab based on PID, you will see that a number of services can be associated with a single PID simultaneously. Ending the process will impact all of the services connected to that process. Using the two tabs together, though, you can find the services related to a problem process, and try stopping each service one at a time to isolate the problem without killing the process and impacting all of the associated services.

Stop each service one at a time, then monitor the Processes tab to see if the issue is resolved. Once you isolate the problem service, you can use the Image Path Name column on the Processes tab to help you identify the actual application causing the problem. Then, you can check with the developer to see if there is a patch or workaround for the issue you are having, or find an alternative program that doesn't have those issues, or simply uninstall it to resolve the problem.

Once you've found a particularly problematic service, you can click the Services button to open the full services management console where you can access the properties for the service and either disable it or change it to only start manually so you can see if that leaving that service off resolves your problem.

The Task Manager in Windows 7 is a powerful tool, and we have really only scratched the surface. It lets you monitor and optimise system and network performance. It lets you troubleshoot and resolve issues, and terminate stubborn software without rebooting.

Open it up and check it out. Poke around and see what Task Manager has to offer.

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