Archive for July, 2011
The Performance Monitor tab can be particularly helpful when trying to assess CPU usage. The Performance Monitor is found under the Performance tab and provides a graphical display of CP usage history and physical memory usage history. The CPU usage will vary quite a bit over time, depending upon what the computer is doing. The physical memory shouldn’t vary too much if no applications are running. If you’re running applications, the physical memory monitor will show how much available memory is being consumed in real time.
The Performance Monitor also gives you access to the Resource Monitor, which will show you the CPU usage, over the last 60 seconds, the I/O speed for the hard disk, the network utilization and the number of hard faults per second that are recorded by the system. This information can be useful, especially if one application is registering a significant number of faults.
Within the Resource Monitor are tabs that will provide additional information about processes, disk usage, network activity, memory usage and CPU usage. This information can be invaluable when trying to determine the source of a fault, or slow computer performance.
The Networking tab of the Task manager can show you the status of your network connection, and whether or not your computer is connected to a LAN or a wireless network. This can also help you troubleshoot slow computer problems that are related to your network connection.
The last tab in the Task Manager is the Users tab. With Windows computers, it’s important to remember that they can act as servers on a network. If other computers are allowed to attach to your computer, your computer may slow down as a result. Depending upon how your computer is set up, you may not realize that other users are attached. The Users tab can show you which other computers on the network are attached to yours, and give you the ability to disconnect other users, or log yourself off. You can also send a message directly to selected attached users via the Task Manager.
The Task Manager can provide you with a wealth of information about your computer, what it’s doing at any given moment and what resources are being used. Knowing what the Task Manager can show you can help you troubleshoot a slow computer.
After the Applications and Processes tabs, you’ll find a tab labeled “Services.” What is a service and how is it different than an application or a process? Well, applications are programs like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. They help you perform a specific task like word processing or game-playing. A process operates at a more basic level. The Task Manager is a process. Explorer is a process, and so is the Windows Desktop Manager. Processes, more often than not, are executables that have specific operating system-related functions. They allow the computer to control the audio, and other system-level tasks.
Services operate at an even more basic level. They provide support for certain functions like Internet access, Bluetooth support, system security, event logging, mobile device recognition, network communications between devices, and remote access. You can usually find several dozen services running at any given time on your computer.
The Task Manager will show you whether a service is running or stopped. It will also give you an idea of how much physical memory and CPU time are being consumed by services. Select a service from the list of services and click the Services button at the bottom of the panel. This will open the list of services, tell you how the services are set to start up, and tell you whether the service is currently running or not. You can start, stop and restart services here. If a service is consuming a lot of system resources, stop it and restart it. If that doesn’t solve your problem, you may want to restart the computer to see if you can resolve any performance issues.
The services panel should give you a good description of what the service is doing (or supposed to do) on your computer. Generally, you don’t need to change the settings on a service, especially those that are set to start up automatically. Occasionally you can eke a little more performance here, but what you really want to keep your eye on is services that are consuming a lot of resources unnecessarily.
In my next post, I’ll go over the Performance Monitor, the Networking Tab and the Users tab.
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Eliminate and Move On
The basic approach to troubleshooting is “divide and conquer” or “eliminate and move on.” You need to localize the problem to whatever extent possible, and you need to be sure you’re on the right track before you start making changes or removing things.
If your computer was fine the last time you used it, and now it’s not, that gives you a little information. Did you do something to the computer? Change settings, add a program, make configuration changes? If so, you’ll need to consider these things as reasonably likely suspects, but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to undo everything you did just yet.
If you didn’t make any significant changes to your computer, and it’s now suddenly unresponsive, you’ll want more information about what’s happening to your computer before you jump to conclusions. First, take note of what applications you’re running. Shut them down and see if that improves your computer’s performance. If not, open up the Task Manager, by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del. The Task Manager will tell you what other processes are running, and how much CPU time they’re taking up.
When you open the Task Manager, you’ll see a set of tabs. The first one, Applications, will show you what applications are running. If you manually shut down all of your apps, this tab shouldn’t have anything in it. If it does, you can select the app by highlighting it in the list and shutting it down. The Task Manager can be a useful option when an application has stopped responding to keyboard input, and for whatever reason, can’t shut down normally.
The next tab is the Processes tab, and will show the processes that are running. If you don’t recognize a process, don’t immediately shut it down. Instead, do a little research and find out what it is. Your system runs a lot of processes, so if something is running, there’s a better-than-even chance that your system needs it. Even so, check out the processes you don’t recognize. The Process tab will also tell you how much CPU time the process is consuming. If a process is consuming a lot of your CPU time, and you’re not doing anything in particular on your computer, this may signal that the process has gone rogue and you may want to shut down the process or restart your computer.
In the next post, I’ll talk about the rest of the Task Manager, and how you can use it to determine the source of problems on your slow computer.
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Services v. Applications
What’s the difference you ask? A service is part of the operating system. It could include your network, the ability to log into a computer remotely, audio features, etc. These services are functions of the operating system. Programs may use them, or they may support features in applications, but they’re not applications by themselves.
Services do take up some system memory and they can be a little bit of a drain, but that’s not really where you’re going to get the speed boost from when you disable services. The speed increase comes from not having to load the darned thing in the first place, and not having to wait while the service performs its trick or times out.
There are good reasons other than speeding up computer performance for disabling services. Sometimes, services are just unnecessary and it’s good practice to disable those things you don’t need. Services can conflict with other services, so disabling an unneeded service may reduce the possibility that a conflict will occur. Further, some services aren’t very secure, and can be used by hackers to gain access to or control of your computer.
After you’ve disabled the unnecessary services, you can reconfigure applications that start automatically to wait for a manual start instead. Little utility applications, freebies, toolbars and other similar apps are big offenders in the auto-startup category. Shutting these pests down can give you an immediate performance boost.
To examine your startup items, type msconfig into the search bar and select it from the results. This is the System Configuration tool. The Startup Tab will provide a list of all of the applications that are configured to start at boot time. You can select the apps you don’t want to start automatically by unchecking the box to the left of the application’s name. You can also disable all startup items, but this is normally reserved for troubleshooting since there are a bunch of things you’ll want access to!
Once you’ve reconfigured your startup items, restart your computer and see if you’ve improved your situation. You may also get a significant performance boost from using a registry cleaner, like SpeedUpMyPC 2011, which runs in two minutes and can really give your PC a lift.
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Know What You Need
You can start your Services tour by going to the Services program. When you open it, you see a list of services that are available on the computer, a little description of what the service does, whether or not it’s running, how the service is started and what authority level it has.
The description should give you some information about the service, and what it does. Some services are installed and enabled automatically by the vendor when it performs the initial software installation on the computer. Not every service that is initially configured for startup needs to be run.
It would be nice to provide you with a little list of services that you don’t need, but since every person uses their computers differently, you might need something I don’t think is necessary. I’ll provide the next best thing – a set of rules to follow when you determine what to keep and what to stop.
Generally, if you don’t know what a service does and you can’t tell from the description, do a little research on it before you turn it off. Once you’ve determined the nature of the service, then you can determine whether you need it running or not. An intermediate option is to switch the service to a Manual start. Stopping or disabling a service doesn’t remove it, so you can always go back in and set the service back to its former setting if you find that something has stopped working. If you do your research thoroughly, however, you shouldn’t have too many problems when it comes to locating and disabling services you don’t need.
You should be especially careful about turning off services that Microsoft has built. Likewise, services that are made by your computer manufacturer are probably there for a reason. Services that are more likely targets include those that are associated with applications. If you’ve never heard of the application or have seen it on the computer but don’t use it, it’s probably safe to disable the service. As I said, whatever you disable you can re-enable later if you find that your favorite ___ has stopped working.
Periodically check the Services application to see if any new services have been installed on your computer and decide whether they’re worth the performance hit.
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