From the Kenosha News on 2-19-06

See what is running on your computer right now

My February 5 article discussed how to manage which programs start up when your computer boots up. This week’s article will help you to determine what is running at any given moment. These instructions apply to WindowsXP and 2000.

A reader wrote me that “it often seems that my computer is ‘thinking’ about other things while I'm working on the checkbook, or typing a letter, etc.” You may also notice that your hard drive light flashes or you can hear it “grinding.” While occasional hard drive access is normal while you’re typing, it shouldn’t be happening too often. Sometimes, your computer just slows down when it you’re only doing one or two things.

To find out what is happening on your computer at the time, press Ctrl-Alt-Del. That means: hold down the Ctrl key, press and hold the Alt key, and then press the Delete key. This will bring up a menu with several options; click the Task List button to show what tasks are running.

The Applications tab shows programs you have launched. These should correspond to the rectangles on your taskbar at the bottom of the screen. If a program that you are using ever freezes, you can kill it by clicking on it in the Applications window list and then clicking the “End Task” button. This is less harmful to your computer than shutting it down because one program is frozen.

The Processes tab shows ALL of the processes that are currently running. There will be quite a few; I have 59. Among these, you will see the actual application names of the programs listed under Applications – i.e. Winword.exe (MS Word), iexplore.exe (Internet Explorer.) You will also see the items listed in MSCONFIG – i.e. WeatherBug, vptray and ccapp, etc. Some processes will list SYSTEM under the User name. These are Windows processes that shouldn’t be stopped.

Look at how much CPU and how much memory are being used by your processes. For most users, no process should be using much more than 20% of your system resources, except when it launches. Yesterday, I had a specific session of Iexplore.exe that was using 99% and slowing my computer way down. I used the End Process button to kill it. The bottom item – System Idle Process – should have a very high percentage, showing you how much of your processor is UNUSED. (This shows why you only rarely need a computer with a faster processor!)

The Memory column shows how much RAM each process uses. The total used by all processes is listed as “commit charge” at the bottom of the window. Mine shows 404Mb in use, and my computer has 760MB of RAM (check by right-clicking on My Computer and going to Properties.) If the number in use exceeds the amount of RAM you have, then your hard drive will work regularly, “swapping” programs from RAM to hard drive and back as needed, slowing the computer down.

If you see an unidentified process, use to look it up. If you still can’t identify it, look in the Add/Remove programs Control Panel to see if it is something installed there. Next week, I’ll explain how to uninstall unwanted programs.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 2-19-06