July 18, 2004

Tips to Identify Your PC's Tasks & Processes

Welcome to Trick or Treat, a new category at LawTech Guru with useful tips, tricks, and other tidbits to make our techno.lives a little easier.

If your PC is acting strange, slow, or if you're just curious as to what's running under the hood (or taken over your PC) here are a couple of easy things you can do:

  1. Check your Windows Task List:

    In Windows, press CTRL-AT-DEL. In Windows 9x, you'll get to the Close Program dialog. In Windows NT/2000/XP, you can then click on the Task Manager button -- you'll have separate tabs for programs, processes, and computer resources (CPU and memory utilization, etc.).

    From here, you can see most items running on your PC (I say "most", because some stealthy programs are designed not to appear in these lists). IMPORTANT: End-tasking various programs and processes can sometimes help, but can also cause problems, so err on side of being extra cautious here. The main goal here is to see what's running on your PC. The problem is that it's fairly usual for programs and processes to be listed with very cryptic names and no description.

  2. De-Mystifying the Task List:

    This is where sites like TaskList.org come in. TaskList.org is a site which maintains a comprehensive list of processes running in your computer. At present it boasts 4276 tasks catalogued, which includes good things (normal system and program files) as well as various malware components. The tasks are indexed alphabetically and there's a search feature as well.

    Also check a similarly focused resource at AnswersThatWork.com. I really like the fact this latter site has extra columns for each item, for identifying the program and manufacturer. What's more, most items include a detailed explanation of what it does, along with a recommendation for keeping or disabling it. Incredibly useful when you're trying to identify and determine whether it's a good idea to disable or remove an item on your PC.

I've often found the above provides a nudge in the right direction when you need to know what's running live on your PC, and it might help you when talking with tech support on a problem.

Topic(s):   Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard
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