Windows

Better troubleshooting with the Windows 8 Task Manager Performance tab

The Windows 8 Task Manager Performance tab has many new features and provides users with more detailed information than ever.

Back in October 2011, I wrote an article titled "Explore the Advanced Features of the New Windows 8 Task Manager," in which I provided you with an overview of all the Task Manager features in the Windows 8 Developers Preview. Well, now here we are eight months later and working with the Release Preview edition of Windows 8, and at this point in time Task Manager should be feature complete. Therefore, I have decided to spend some time taking a detailed look at the information and features on the various tabs.

Now you might think that I would want to start with the Processes tab because of all the impressive new features found there, but I'm not. Instead, I'm going to start with the Performance tab because I've discovered that by dividing the tab into separate sections for CPU, Memory, Disks, and Ethernet, as shown in Figure A, Microsoft has really packed a lot of information into this tab and I don't want that fact to be overlooked. (I've combined the graphs into a composite image, so that at a glance you can see that each section on the tab is packed with information.)

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll delve into Task Manager's Performance tab and take a close look at all the new features and detailed information displayed on each section of the Performance tab.

Figure A

The Performance tab shows data and graphs of the CPU, Memory, Disks, and Ethernet.

Before I get started, there is one outward change that I noticed right away and that is that the title bar for this tool used to read Windows Task Manager and now the title bar just reads Task Manager. Not sure how significant that change is or even if it is permanent, but, nonetheless, there it is.

Editor's note: To refresh your memory, in Windows 8 you can get to the Task Manager by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL, selecting Task Manager, and clicking the More Details button.

CPU

On the CPU section of the Performance tab, the actual CPU is now specifically identified in detail with the brand, the model number, the speed, as well as the number of sockets, cores, and logical processors being prominently displayed, as shown in Figure B. You can tell at a glance whether processor's hardware Virtualization technology is enabled. (An operation that not too long ago was difficult to perform and raised all sorts of confusion when it was required to run Windows XP Mode in Windows 7.) You can even find information about the CPU caches.

Figure B

The CPU section of the Performance tab now identifies the CPU in detail.

The graph displays the percentage of your CPU's utilization on a scale of 0 to 100 over a 60-second time frame. The Utilization number below the graph shows the percentage at any one point in time. On the next line down, you can find some of the information from the older Task Manager: Processes, Threads, and Handles and below that you'll find the Up Time.

Handles and threads are actually sub-objects of processes. The Handles value shows the number of object identifiers, or handles, that are currently in use by all the running processes. The Threads value actually refers to the number of sub processes running inside larger processes. The Processes value, of course, represents the number of currently running processes.

By default the CPU section displays a single graph showing overall utilization. If you want to see a graph for each logical processor, just right-click and select Logical Processors. If you want the graph to display kernel times, right-click on the graph and select Show Kernel Times. The composite image shown in Figure C shows both of these right-click menus. (I'll cover some of the features found on the right-click menu in a moment.)

Figure C

You can reconfigure the graph to display all logical processors and to show kernel times.

Memory

On the Memory section of the Performance tab, the total amount of memory is prominently displayed along with the memory type, as shown in Figure D. You can also see the chip speed, the number of memory slots being used, and the form factor.

How many times have you sat down at an unfamiliar PC and wanted to know that level of detail about the memory in the system? Well, now it's right here in Task Manager. You can even see the amount of memory that is reserved for hardware.

Figure D

The Memory section of the Performance tab provides you with detailed information about memory usage.

As you can see, there are two graphs in the Memory section. The first graph shows memory usage on a scale of 0 to the total amount of memory over a 60-second time frame. The second graph, titled Memory Composition, shows the memory used by processes, drivers, or the operating system.

Below the graph you'll find the familiar measurements, such as the amount of memory in use and the amount of available memory. The Committed value is a simple measurement that shows Page File usage. Here, the first number indicates the total amount of physical and virtual memory currently in use, while the second number indicates the total amount of physical and virtual memory available on your computer.

The Cached value indicates the amount of physical memory used recently for system resources. (This memory will remain in the cache in case the system resources are needed again, but it's available should other operations need it.)

The Paged Pool value indicates the amount of physical memory used by the operating system to store objects that can be written to disk when they are not being used. The Non-Paged Pool value indicates the amount of physical memory used by the operating system to store objects that cannot be written to disk but must remain in physical memory as long as they are allocated.

Disk

On the Disk section of the Performance tab, the model number of the drive and the type of drive are prominently displayed at the top of the section, as shown in Figure E. (No need to go to Device Manager to find that information any more). You can also see the disk capacity, how much of it is formatted, whether it is the system disk, and whether it contains a page file.

Figure E

The Disk section of the Performance tab contains two graphs.

As you can see, there are two graphs in the Disk section. The first graph is titled Active Time and shows the percentage of your disk's utilization (the percentage of time the disk is processing read or write requests) on a scale of 0 to 100 over a 60-second time frame. The second graph is titled Disk Transfer Rate and shows you the transfer rates between the hard disk and the system over a 60-second time frame.

Below the graph you'll find the Active Time value, which indicates the percentage of use at any one point in time. The Average Response Time value indicates the amount of time it takes the drive to actually transfer data to the system. Of course the Read and Write Speed values indicate how fast the disk is performing I/O operations.

Ethernet

On the Ethernet section of the Performance tab, the name of the network card is prominently displayed at the top of the section, as shown in Figure F. You'll also see the adapter name, the DNS name, and both the IPv4 and IPv6 IP addresses.

Figure F

On the Ethernet section of the Performance tab, the name of the network card is prominently displayed at the top of the section.
The graphs show overall send and receive activity on a scale of 0 to 100 Kbps over a 60-second time frame while the Send and Receive values below the graph show the type of activity at any one point in time. If you right-click anywhere on the Ethernet section and select View Network Details, you'll see a second window full of detailed information, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Select View Network Details and you'll see a second window full of detailed information.

Changing the window display

There are a number of ways that you can change the display of Task Manager's window. If you right-click in the left side of the window, you'll see the Summary View and the Hide Graphs commands. Selecting Summary View removes all the details and leaves the graph thumbnails and selecting Hide Graphs replaces the graphs with bullet points, as illustrated in Figure H.

Figure H

Using Summary View and Hide Graphs, you can change the display of Task Manager's window.
If you right-click on any of the main graphs and select the Graph Summary View command, only the graph will be displayed. The composite image in Figure I shows each of the graphs in the Graph Summary View.

Figure I

This composite image shows each of the graphs in the Graph Summary View.

You'll also see two other commands on the menu: View and Copy. When you select View, you'll see a submenu that allows you to switch between the CPU, Memory, Disks, and Ethernet sections. If you select the Copy command, any of the text-based details on the screen will be copied to the clipboard where you can easily paste them into Notepad or an email message.

What's your take?

Do you think that there is enough detail information on the Performance tab in Task Manager to warrant your consideration? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

6 comments
danwat1234
danwat1234

The only thing I don't like about the new Task Manager is that on the "Processes" tab (the tab with the heat map), the memory values in the memory column is of "Memory (Private Working Set)", not "Working Set: (Memory)". So, in the processes tab, you don't see the true amount of RAM some process is using, usually it is slighter larger and sometimes a much larger value in real life. You can see the true value in the Details tab if you have the "Working Set: (Memory)" column. 1 other little gripe is that the new task manager is a bit bloated, needs a bit of code refinement. It takes about 1 seconds to load up on a 3GHZ Core 2 duo machine even if cached in memory (not hard drive bottleneck). About 3 seconds if not in RAM yet. The Windows 7 Task Manager was a lot smaller program. All in all I like the new task manager, it adds a lot of usefulness and the slowality really is a big deal since I’m a speed freak and my next computer will probably have 3x the single core performance so it’ll be super fast again. Windows 8; Just disable Metro with Start8 and there you go, a nice efficient OS.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

This is Microsoft finally integrating Process Explorer into task manager and a little more dress up with some info missing. They bought the sysinternals company and after many years are finally integrating it into Windows as default. For you Windows 7 and Win XP folks just download Process Explorer and stick with your current version if this is one of the things you might be upgrading for.

Astringent
Astringent

I'm sorry but this 2D interface is such a turnoff. After all of these years of Microsoft making Windows appear pleasing to the eye they are now throwing it all away. I know - what does it have to do with troubleshooting capability? Nothing except it is another reason for me to stick with Windows 7 and live without these improvements. While Windows 7 is wonderful, it could have had this and much more added as improvements without offending the eyes. I'll stick with Windows 7 thank you. I could troubleshoot just fine. Someday when I find use for a tablet maybe I can begin to appreciate Windows 8 but not on the desktop.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

In the Memory picture: - Which numbers added together equal the "[b]In use[/b]" value (1.2 GB)? - Why doesn't the memory summary (1.3 GB) match the "[b]Committed[/b]" (1.5 GB) or "[b]In use[/b]" (1.2 GB) values?

GreeneConsulting
GreeneConsulting

The new Task Manager look great but i think it had too much in it.. some of the service and more need to be serrated. They seem to have added everything but Task Scheduler .

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

Agreed. IMO, Process Explorer is excellent. It has a lot more functions/options than Task Manager. It's free too.