If you’re unfamiliar with Task Manager, it’s a simple-to-use set of tools for monitoring and controlling everything from network activity to system services. It can let you control what processes auto start on you Surface and even keep track of how often you use installed applications.
So, in this two-part post, I’m going to show you how to use the various tools Task Manager offers.
In the first half we’ll cover the following:
- Starting Task Manager
- The Processes tab
- The Performance tab
- The App History tab
The second half will cover the remainder:
- The Startup tab
- The Users tab
- The Details tab
- The Services tab
OK, Let’s get started by covering how to start Task Manager on your Surface…
Windows 8 Task Manager: Starting Task Manager
On a mouse and keyboard Windows 8 computer, I’d just tell you to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del and pick Task Manager from the list but from a Surface, it’s just a little more involved since it’s not guaranteed that you have a keyboard attached (though, if you do, Ctrl-Al-Del works just fine to start Task Manager).
- Bring up the Search Charm and search for Task Manager. You might get several results depending on your search scope. Look for the one with the icon like the example to the left.
- Tap on the Task Manager icon. It will kick you over into desktop mode because Task Manager is a desktop application (You can click on the picture for a better view.)
Now that you have Task Manager up and running, did you know you can start new programs from within Task Manager? To do so, just tap on File then Run New Task.
It will bring up the familiar “Run” dialog where you can type in the name of the program you want to run. This was handy in previous versions of Windows for those occasions where the Explorer process would crash and prevent you from being able to get to the start menu. That’s not really a concern with Windows 8 but there may still be situations when being able to do this might be handy.
Now let’s look at each of the tabs and what you can do with them. We’ll go from left to right starting with Processes.
Windows 8 Task Manager: Processes Tab
A few months back, I wrote a post on troubleshooting slowness issues on your Surface. In that post, I mentioned using Performance Manger to help figure out what programs or processes may be causing you some issues but I didn’t really talk about Task Manager then, mainly so I could write a more in-depth post now.
When you click on the Processes tab you’ll see a screen a lot like this one:
From here, you can see how much CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network each process is taking up. As you might imagine, this is extremely handy if you’re trying to track down why your machine is running slowly.
You can sort the entries by tapping on the headers (Name, Status, CPU, Memory, Disk, Network). For example, if you tap on the CPU header you can sort the processes using the most CPU to the top or bottom of the list. As you might imagine, this is pretty handy for finding out what process might be slowing down your machine.
All of the features below are accessed by doing a Tap and Hold (or right-clicking) on one of the process entries.
- Kill processes by selecting End Task. This is really handy for tracking down and killing “rogue” processes that are causing problems with your Surface.
- Search for information about a process by selecting Search Online. This will start a web browser and do an internet search for information about a process. Do this to figure out what a process does and whether or not you want to kill it.
- If you tap on Open file location. Your Surface will open a window showing you where that file is located on your computer.
Of course there are a couple of other things you can do under the Processes tab but these are probably the most useful ones. Now let’s move on to the Performance tab.
Windows 8 Task Manager: Performance Tab
The Performance tab gives you graphical information about what’s going on with your Surface hardware. It has information on the CPU, Memory, Disk, Ethernet (if connected), Bluetooth (if connected) and, Wi-Fi. Simply tap on each of the entries to the left to show more information about that section.
In the example screenshots below, you will see the type of details you can glean from the CPU and Wi-Fi sections.
As you can see, it’s a pretty easy way to see what your Surface is doing. I use it all the time to see what’s eating up all of my CPU’s time or to see how fast my network connection is running.
Also, notice that you can start Performance Monitor for a more in depth look at what your Surface is doing by tapping the link at the bottom of the window.
Next, the App History tab…
Windows 8 Task Manager: App History
App History is a new addition to Task Manager with Windows 8. It let’s you see information on how much you’ve been using an application and how much data that application has moved over the network.
This information can be useful if you are trying to free-up space on your Surface and want to figure out which programs you really use and which ones you just installed and barely touch.
If you’re concerned about people looking at what you’ve been doing on your Surface (why are you so paranoid? – wink), you can delete your application usage history with a quick tap. In addition, you can launch or switch to any application installed on your Surface with a simple Tap and Hold.
That’s it for this half of the post. We’ll cover the rest of the tabs next time. As always, if you have any questions, please let me know.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.