How to use Windows XP Task Manager to find system bottleneck

Posted on 2009-12-24
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-10
How can I use  the task manager in Windows XP?

Mostly concerned with the performance tab and what each value indicates and how to use that information to determine the bottleneck in my system.

I have never had much luck using task manager to determine if the bottleneck is a slow hard drive, insufficient or slow speed ram, hard drive dying, etc...

Asking for a  link to a good tutorial or some advice on how to use task manager.

Should the kernel memory be all non paged?

Should the commit charge be below the amount of physical memory?

Can I tell if my page file is too small or large by using task manager? Currently my page file is set to 1500 mb initial and maximum.

I would really like to master the use of the task manager.

Is task manager a good troubleshooting tool?

My laptop is a Sony Vaio Pent 4 2.80ghz processor with 512 ddr sdram and sometimes it is painfully slow.

I have had advice to upgrade to 1gb of ram and maybe get a faster hard drive.

Does task manager show that?
Question by:Dragon0x40
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Accepted Solution

KCTS earned 400 total points
ID: 26121133
The task manager is just one tool, it has its uses, but the performance monitor is much more useful
see http://www.computerperformance.co.uk/ezine/BestPractice/BestPractice16.htm

Expert Comment

ID: 26121380
Hello Drag,  I think your RAM memory problem actually solved by removing the running unnecessary programs in system backend, If you want something more feel free to comment
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Assisted Solution

LMiller7 earned 400 total points
ID: 26121499
Should the kernel memory be all non paged?
No. In kernel terminology paged means data that could be paged to disk if necessary. It doesn't mean that it actually is.

Should the commit charge be below the amount of physical memory?
It is often said that when commit charge exceeds physical memory then performance will suffer. Actually it isn't that simple.

If your pagefile is 1.5GB it is almost certainly large enough. A larger than necessary pagefile normally will not cause any problems.

Task Manager can be very useful as a diagnostic tool. Unfortunately, these numbers will not really mean very much unless you have a good understanding of how Windows managers memory. That knowledge is not easily come by. It takes a lot of hard work. There are many articles on the internet, but unfortunately most of them contain serious errors. Some are basically nonsense.

I am working on an article that describes the Task Manager performance tab but it probably won't be ready until January. But it won't explain Windows memory management except at a very basic level.

If you really want to understand Windows memory management get a copy of "Inside Windows 2000", available from Amazon and elsewhere quite cheaply. There is no more authoritative source for Windows internals. But it is not easy reading.

If you were to post a screenshot of the performance tab I could probably tell if your problems were memory related.
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Expert Comment

ID: 26121522
I noticed your screenshot. There is nothing that really indicates a problem. The System Cache seems low but there are a wide variety of possible explanations for this. It is probably normal under the circumstances the screenshot was taken.
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Assisted Solution

by:Ravi Agrawal
Ravi Agrawal earned 400 total points
ID: 26121641

Assisted Solution

Bitbull earned 400 total points
ID: 26122174
In fact, I agree with all of the above posts: windows task manager is not the ideal tool to find out where your system's bottleneck is situated. For this task, you can use process explorer from the sysinternals suite: it indicates/estimates when the memory usage of a certain process is abnormally high (you could first give it a try with the task manager: if there is/are svchost.exe entries consuming high amounts of memory, it is likely that some (background) services are eating much memory).
Another thing you can verify is your harddrive's caching setting: right-click your harddrive, go to hardware and then policy settings and choose optimize for best perfomance (if possible - not every device driver allows this) - it can speed up your built-in harddisk dramatically (preferably not use with external harddrives).
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Assisted Solution

akahan earned 400 total points
ID: 26122715
I agree with the posts above.  However, I think it's fairly clear that 512MB of RAM, while you can certainly run XP with that little, will cause a bottleneck as soon as you start loading applications.   There are always ways to spend more money and make your system faster, but in your particular case, and regardless of anything else that might be going on, I expect that you would get your biggest "bang for the buck" by investing in another 512MB of RAM.   Memory is cheap, and the jump from 512MB to 1GB will make a significant performance difference.

You may also notice some improvement if you select "System managed size" for your paging file, rather than setting it to a fixed size.

Author Comment

ID: 26122831
thanks KCTS:, RANJINAP:, LMiller7: grtraders:, Bitbull:and akahan:,

I will spend some time reading the links and looking at the programs suggested.

I used to do desktop support and as stated above it is difficult to use task manager to isolate problems.

Think I will order that extra RAM (my laptop only supports to 1GB)

I will also try the suggested settings and report back.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31669877
I was hoping for an easy way to understand and use task manager but I don't think there is. Thanks for all the help and I will add more RAM.
LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:Ravi Agrawal
ID: 26177747
To the author of the question-

Firstly, thank you for the points. Second as per your closing comment-
"I was hoping for an easy way to understand and use task manager but I don't think there is."

No offense to be undertaken-

I don't think so, You must have a pretty good idea of Processes, File Handles, System Memory Management, etc working at the CPU level which is a very advanced subject.

As per the posts of above experts, you may try to get a book on the above subject and have a good read at it.

But the links I gave you, should pretty much help you overcome a typical situation when you feel your PC to be sluggish due to heavy Processor and Virtual Memory Usage.


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