3 Finger Salute in Windows XP
By: Scott Hendison   ·   Originally Published: January 2003

In Windows XP, hitting CTRL–ALT-DEL brings up a window similar to the one in Windows 98, but it is much more functional now. It’s called the “Task Manager” and for good reason. From here, you can usually figure out what’s slowing down your computer.


Upon opening it with the 3 finger salute, you’ll see five tabs to choose from. These tabs are Applications, Processes, Performance, Networking and Users. This article deals with the Applications and Processes tabs.


The first tab; Applications; is similar to Windows 98. It shows a list of software that is open, and if anything is not responding, you can highlight it, and choose to “end task”.

This area is limited to software that you’ve opened.


The next tab; Processes; is the important tab. From here, you’ll see every process that is running at any given time, as well as how it started, and how much memory it is using.


While in the Processes tab, you can see four columns, Image name, User name, CPU and Mem usage. Clicking on any of these names will sort the information by that column in ascending or descending order.


The image name column just shows the name of the application or file that is running.

When looking at the names of all these processes most people will not recognize what is running. Names like lsass.exe and svchost.exe are cryptic to even the most seasoned computer user. If you care, go look it up on http://www.google.com, which will probably take you here http://www.liutilities.com/products/wintaskspro/processlibrary/


The “user name” column shows the name of user that has started the process. These user names will usually be either “system”, “service”, or the actual name of a user. The ones showing your name came from programs that you’ve knowingly (or unknowingly) installed, whereas the others are usually just a part of Windows.


The CPU column shows how much of a load these programs are putting on your CPU at that time. Usually though, this load is minimal, and this column will usually just show all zeros.


The last column though is the money column. This is where you can find the offending culprit that is dragging down your performance. Look at the “mem usage” column. By sorting this way, you can see which of these programs are taking up the most memory on your system.


If my computer is being sluggish, I go to the processes tab, and sort by mem usage.

At a glance, I can see which offending application is sucking up all of my memory and slowing me to a crawl. Usually, at bootup with nothing open, only explorer.exe and svchost.exe should taking up much memory, at about 15,000k each. Everything else is pretty minor. Therefore, if a program is showing as taking up 25,000k, 45,000k, or even over 100,000k of memory, I can highlight it, and choose “end process” generally returning my computer to a more useable state.


If one of these processes appears that I don’t recognize, I make it a point to look it up and see what it is, then I am able to better control what is happening on my computer, making sure it is a process that came with Windows. Usually, it turns out to be spyware from a “free” download somewhere.


The Task Manager will help you manage the operation of your computer, and keep it running much faster. I guarantee it.


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Scott Hendison is the owner/operator of Portland Technology Consultants, providing businesses in Portland Oregon with computer consulting services. Those services include (East Side) Portland computer repair, Oregon web hosting & web design, search engine optimization, POS Point of Sale systems and  more to small businesses.


Scott is on the Board of Directors for the Oregon Computer Consultants Association,  and on the Board of Directors for Lents Little League. He is also on the Boards of both the Gateway Area Business Association and the Midway Business Association. He will not be joining any more Boards of Directors any time soon. He also an active member of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, and the Parkrose Business Association.


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