|November 29, 2003
Ever wonder how much CPU
time is being used on your computer? Want to know if your computer
is idle or maybe maxed out crunching data? Most people check if their
computer is busy by looking at the hard disk LED and seeing if it is blinking
like crazy. Sometimes this works since the hard disk activity involves
processor usage. But many times, the opposite is not true, i.e. the
CPU load does not always correlate with hard disk activity.
It would be cool to have
a little meter on the screen telling you if the CPU is busy or not, wouldn't
it? Well there's an easy way to do this for computers running Windows
2000 or XP. Windows 2000 and XP have a Task Manager (taskmgr.exe)
which also functions as a CPU usage meter. All we have to do is set
it up so we can have the meter automatically start and hide itself in the
system tray when Windows boots up.
I have the CPU usage meter
setup on all my computers and it is very useful. I can see if the
computer is busy doing something or if it is hung (100% usage with no drop).
I can see how much processor power is required to play a MP3 or scan a
photo. It may not sound like much, but having a CPU usage meter allows
me to be in tune with my computer. Kinda like a tachometer on a car.
For you system freaks out
there, yes, having taskmgr.exe monitoring your system all the time does
require more CPU usage than if it were turned off, but the amount of CPU
time it uses is so small that I'd doubt you'd even notice.
Let's get started!
Start --> Search --> For
Files or Folders
Search for "taskmgr.exe".
Click "Search". You'll see these results or something similar.
Right click on the "taskmgr"
that is located in "C:\WINDOWS\system32".
Then choose "Send to" -->
"Desktop (create shortcut)"
You'll now have "Shortcut
to taskmgr" on your desktop.
Now using Windows Explorer,
C:\Document and Settings\All
Drag the "Shortcut to taskmgr"
icon from the desktop into this "Startup" directory
Right-click on the "Shortcut
to taskmgr" icon and select "Properties".
At the "Run" line, change
the selection from "Normal window" to "Minimized". Click "OK".
Now go navigate on the start
Start --> Programs --> Start
Up --> Shortcut to taskmgr.
Taskmgr will start
In the "Options" menu:
Uncheck "Always On Top"
Check "Minimize On Use"
Check "Hide When Minimized"
Now click on the minimize
button of the task manager to hide it. Don't click on the "X" which
will close the program. When you minimize the taskmgr, you will see
a CPU meter in the system tray.
Make sure there is not a
"Windows Task Manager" button on the bottom of the screen on the toolbar.
If there is, then you need to make sure "Hide When Minimized" is checked.
Having the Task Manager in
the system tray is very useful. Besides viewing the CPU usage, you
can get a lot of useful information from the Task Manager.
Let's take a look.
Double-click on the minimized
Task Manager to maximize it.
Go to the "Applications"
tab. Here you see which applications are running. If the program
is fine, it will have a "Running" in the Status column. However,
if you have a hung program, it will say "Not Responding". You can
then simply click on the program and click "End Task" to kill the program.
Go to the "Processes" tab.
Here you see all the processes running on your computer.
This is a good place to see
if your computer has spyware on it. If you find a process that looks
suspicious, a very easy way to check if it is spyware is to type the process
name into Google and
see what turns up.
Actually, I think the CPU
column is actually more interesting. You can see how much CPU time
each process is using individually. If your CPU meter stays maxed
out at 100%, you can come here and see which process is causing the problem.
At the "Performance" tab
you see the CPU and memory usage. If you have 2 CPU's or a processor
with HyperThreading enabled, you'll see two graphs in the "CPU Usage History".
It is also good to check how much free RAM you have. If you're always
maxed out, you should increase the amount of RAM you have.
The "Networking" tab shows
the network utilization of your network card. If you have 2
network cards in your computer, you'll have 2 graphs. It's kinda
fun to see the graph change as you transfer data across the network.
Okay, I guess that's just me.
Now you know a little more
about Task Manager and how to use it to see how much CPU time is being
used on your computer. It's always good to know more about your system.
Yeah, I know, it's nerdy, but hey..
Note: For some reason, this
trick doesn't work on some of the computers I've tried it on. For
those computers, the cpu meter never appears in the system tray.
I don't know what causes this, but sometimes the meter just won't show.
But this is the rare exception.