How to monitor system resources in Windows, using the Task Manager

The Task Manager has always been a quick first stop for technicians trying to diagnose performance issues on Windows computers and devices. That’s because Task Manager has always provided useful information about the performance of our Windows computers. In Windows 10 and in Windows 8.1, the Task Manager offers you detailed graphs and charts that you can use to see precisely what resources are being taxed, and which apps are bogging your computer down. This makes diagnosis much easier and faster, as you’ll see in this guide:

NOTE: The Task Managerworks the same in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. To keep things simple, the screenshots used in this guide were taken in Windows 10.

How to access the Performance tab in Task Manager

To get a look at the resource graphs for yourself, you’ll first have to launch the Task Manager. There are many ways to do that and you can read about all of them here: 10 Ways to start the Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. While the decision for the best method is yours, for speed and ease we recommend the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl+Shift+Esc”.

Once the Task Manager opens, select the Performance tab to see what all this is about. If you don’t see a Performance tab, don’t worry. Your Task Managerisn’t broken. You’re likely seeing the compact view. Go ahead and click or tap "More Details" to expand the full view.

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Then, simply click or tap on the Performance tab to open it.

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How to monitor various system resources in the Task Manager

You’ll notice the Performance tab gives you the ability to monitor four major resources: CPU, Memory, Disk and Ethernet. You’ll start with CPU, but you can switch to another option by selecting your resource of choice from the list.

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You can also swap from one resource to another with a right click or long press on the background of the Performance tab. In the right click menu, hover over View and click or tap on the option you want.

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How to get a Summary View of a resource usage

If you’d rather get a quick view of all your resources usage, you can right click or long-press the list of resources and click or tap "Summary View".

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The Task Manager window will be shrunk down to show you each resource and its percentage of total usage, making it easier to monitor without taking up too much screen real estate.

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Right click or long press the list once again and select "Show graphs" to include a graph with each resource on the list.

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This provides a visual representation of your usage over time, letting you monitor spikes you might miss if you aren’t watching the percentages closely.

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How to monitor the processor usage in the Performance tab of the Task Manager

Selecting CPU in the Performance tab will provide you with detailed information about your processor’s resource use. The graph shows the percentage of utilization over a 60 second period of time. Notice that in the upper right corner of the resource view you’ll find the exact model of your hardware. This is consistent throughout all of the various resources.

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Below the graph you’ll notice a chart that includes detailed information including the current utilization and speed as well as information about your processor including cache values, cores and top speed.

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How to monitor all the logical processors separately in the Task Manager

By default you will see one graph for each physical processor in your machine. While that makes sense, it may not be what power users are looking for. To get a better picture of how your processor is getting used, try breaking the graph up into logical processors. Right-click or long-press the CPU graph, select "Change graph to" and then "Logical processors."

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You’ll now see a graph for each of your logical processors. For our octacore processor, we get eight graphs.

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You may see more or less depending on your computer’s processor.

How to include kernel times in the processor graphs

If you want more information about how your CPU cycles are being allotted, you might want to try enabling kernel times in your graphs. This shows how much of the your CPU cycles are being used by the kernel, which is responsible for internal system functions, and how much is getting used by user processes. To enable kernel times, right-click or long-press the CPU graph and click or tap "Show kernel times."

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You’ll notice the darker area of the graph represents kernel time, while the lighter areas represent other usage.

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You will notice that the system eats up quite a lot of your CPU, especially in normal computing situations.

How to view performance graphs in a Summary View

If you plan to monitor resource usage over a long period of time, you may want to minimize the amount of information displayed in the Task Manager window. After all, you can’t minimize the window and watch it at the same time. To preserve screen space, the new task manager offers a graph summary view that shows only the current graphs and nothing else. To try it out, right-click or long-press the CPU graph and click or tap "Graph summary view."

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The resulting window is smaller and less cluttered.

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Like what you see? This graph summary view can be applied to any resource you need to monitor.

How to use the Task Manager to monitor memory usage

Another resource you’ll want to keep a close eye on during slowdowns is your RAM or random access memory. You can view RAM usage by selecting Memory from the list of resources on the Performance tab.

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The Memory section shows you two graphs. The top graph displays your percentage of memory used over a 60 second period. The lower graph shows how your memory is allocated. Hover your mouse over each section of the lower graph to see what is what.

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You’ll see four usage types:

  • In Use - Memory currently being used by programs, drivers or Windows itself.
  • Modified - Memory whose contents must be written to disk before it can be used for other purposes.
  • Standby - Memory that contains cached data and code that is not currently in use.
  • Free - Memory that is not currently in use.

Below the graphs you’ll find more detailed information about your memory including used memory, available memory, your paged and nonpaged memory pool sizes (these are pools of memory that are either guaranteed to reside in physical memory or can be swapped back and forth to disk as needed), your total memory used for cache and total committed memory. The amount of data displayed will also depend on your computer’s configuration.

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How to monitor disk usage in the Performance tab of the Task Manager

The next resource you may need to monitor is Disk usage. This sections allows you to see how active your hard drive has been. The top graph displays disk usage over the past 60 seconds while the bottom graph displays how fast your data is getting transferred.

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Below the graphs you’ll find more information, including the percentage of time your disk has been active, the average speed with which it responds to requests, your average read and write speeds and your drive capacity.

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You’ll notice that each disk on your system is given its own tab - including external disks - allowing you to monitor them separately. The first disk listed is always the one on which your operating system - Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 - is installed.

Task Manager, Windows, resources, performance

How to monitor network usage in the Performance tab of the Task Manager

To monitor your network usage, you’ll need to select your network interface from the resource list. You’ll see Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections listed separately, along with virtual network adapters you might use for virtual machines and Bluetooth adapters. Choose whichever interface you’re interested in monitoring.

Your network usage graph displays the total usage for the last minute. The chart below displays such information as your send and receive speed, the connection type and your IP address. You’ll also notice that under each network adapter in the list of resources you’ll see the average send and receive speeds.

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If you want much more detailed information about your network usage, right-click or long-press the graph and click or tap "View network details."

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The resulting window displays tons of useful information for the discerning network technician including the total network utilization, links state and speed, bytes sent/received and the number of unicast and non unicast packets sent and received.

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Home users likely won’t find much to interest them here.

How to copy and paste information from the Performance tab

Now that you know how to view all of this useful information about your system’s resources, you may find that you want to record some of the data. While you could take a screenshot, you’d only end up with an image, which isn’t useful if you need to work with the information in any way. Luckily, you have the ability to copy and paste the important data you need. Right-click or long-press the data chart from any resource and click or tap "Copy."

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Open a word processor or spreadsheet application and paste the data for a well-formatted info dump that you can use for presentations or records.

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Conclusion

You’ll find that this new Performance tab is very useful and user-friendly. The data charts for each resource give you more information at a glance than you’ve ever had before, and both techs and home users alike will appreciate the data they can gather from the Performance tab in Task Manager. If you have any questions on this subject, don’t hesitate to write a comment below.