For as long as I've used and supported Windows machines, I've had to accept the unfortunate fact that as time goes by Windows machines slow down. While some of the degradation can be attributed to memory fragmentation, the chief culprit is Windows' tendency to become increasingly bloated and inefficient. As more and more programs are installed, the number of processes Windows runs in the background increases. These background tasks consume system resources and can, if enough are running, significantly degrade system performance.
You can't just open Windows Task Manager and begin randomly ending processes. If you tried that strategy, you could crash the system by inadvertently removing processes required to keep Windows running. What you need is a simple way to tell which background tasks are necessary and which are not. Then you need an easy way to control these background tasks—even the invisible ones. This is where the WinTasks Professional Windows optimization utility from LIUtilities can help.
Download a 15-day trial copy
You can download a 15-day trial version of WinTasks Professional or purchase the software from Download.com. See the LIUtilities site for multilicense pricing.
WinTasks Professional’s primary function is to help you to identify the processes running on your system and help you optimize the system based on this knowledge. For example, you can use the software to track CPU and memory usage over a period of time on a process-by-process basis. This allows you to identify the processes that consume the most resources. When you identify a process that is consuming excessive resources, you can lower that process's priority or disable that process completely.
Of course Windows allows you to adjust a process's priority via Task Manager, but WinTasks Professional takes this concept a few steps further. You can permanently modify a process's priority and even control the priority of, or disable, invisible processes. If you look at Figure A, you can see how WinTasks shows you both visible and invisible processes.
|You can monitor and modify both visible and invisible processes.|
This is exceptionally handy if you frequently run a high-demand application. For example, I frequently convert my home movies into DVDs. Even on a fast system, it takes hours to encode a two-hour DVD. With WinTasks Professional however, it would be possible to lower the priority for every nonessential process and boost the DVD software’s priority—even if the software wasn’t designed to have its priority changed. This would allow the DVD authoring process to complete more quickly.
WinTasks Professional is also excellent for spotting memory leaks. Since it tracks memory usage on a per process basis for up to 24 hours, you can look at the graph for any application with steadily increasing memory usage. Such a condition would indicate a memory leak. If you remove or repair the leaky process, the system will perform better. Figure B shows an example of such a graph.
|You can track memory and CPU usage for a process.|
I really liked WinTasks Professional's system cleaning features. Even if you are meticulous with applying security patches, it is possible for a rogue application or Web site to place spyware, adware, a Trojan, or a virus onto your system. While WinTasks Professional certainly doesn’t replace your antivirus software, it can help you to track down malicious processes and remove them from your system.
WinTasks Professional is designed to show you every process that’s running on your system, even the invisible ones. You can also rename processes to names that are more easily understandable. For example, you could change the name of the IEXPLORER.EXE process to Internet Explorer. By doing so, you can quickly identify and flag all well-known processes. In fact, the software will automatically identify processes belonging to Windows. Although you will still see the actual process name, a description field at the bottom of the screen will show you what the process is. For example, when you select SPOOLSV.EXE, you will see: Windows Spooler (Printer Job Handling) (Cannot be modified in NT/2000/XP, Owned by the system).
On many systems, it’s likely that you will have some more obscure processes running. The software assists you in identifying the more obscure processes by showing you the full path and executable file associated with the process. Often times you can look at a process’s path and determine the process's function or at least what application it belongs to. The software will even point out any DLL files that belong to a process. If you determine that a process is hostile, you can block it from running and can then remove the associated executable and any DLL files that might belong to it.
Another feature that I really like is that you can create a system restore point. For example, suppose that you have your system well optimized, but plan on downloading a bunch of freeware applications or visiting some questionable Web sites. You can create a restore point that makes note of which processes are currently running and their current priority. If any additional processes are installed or if existing processes are tampered with, you can revert to the saved state and the damage is instantly undone.
Perhaps the most advanced feature of WinTasks Professional is its scripting ability. Scripting allows you to monitor system resource usage and to automatically start and stop processes as necessary. For example, suppose that you have a user that spends more time on an unauthorized Web site than doing her job. You could actually create a script that loses Internet Explorer any time that Web site is visited.
You could also create a script that starts or stops multiple processes upon a specific condition. For example, suppose that you have a job that requires you to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and Front Page simultaneously. You could create a script that automatically launches Word and Excel any time that Front Page is opened. Likewise, if you frequently burn CDs, you could create a script that automatically terminates all nonessential processes when you open the CD burning software.