The Task Scheduler is a tool that was introduced in the Windows environment more than 20 years ago and it has seen little change since its introduction. It does what its name suggests: it schedules tasks that execute apps, commands, and scripts based on specific times or events in Windows. In this guide, we share the basics about browsing the library of active scheduled tasks, so that you learn more about them, what they do and when they are triggered. This way you can see what kind of tasks are created by your installed apps, Windows, or by other users of your Windows PC or device:
NOTE: This guide applies to Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.
What is the Task Scheduler in Windows
Task Scheduler automates tasks and it provides Windows and the apps installed with the ability to react and adapt to changes. It allows you as well, as a user, to create and manage tasks so that Windows does things you want when specific conditions are met. Its user interface shows its age, but the tool is competent and it does its job well. The application allows you to navigate between the tasks created by you, the operating system, and the apps installed, with the use of a library for all scheduled tasks. A large number of details about each task are available, giving the information you need to manage it.
For a better understanding of how Task Scheduler works, you must be familiar with two terms: triggers and actions. A trigger is the cause/event which can make a task run. The computer starting up or entering an idle state, the user logging on - all these are possible triggers. An action is the work performed when the task is triggered. Different actions can be performed: running a program, sending an email, executing a file, or displaying a message. For example, you can schedule a disk cleanup every week or you can send an email each time you log into Windows. Both triggers and actions can be defined by you and the possible combinations are endless.
In this guide, we focus on learning how to navigate and understand the Task Scheduler interface. For a guide on creating your own tasks, read: How to create basic tasks with Task Scheduler, in 5 steps.
Opening the Task Scheduler for the first time
A simple way to start Task Scheduler is to search for it in Windows. Type "task scheduler" in the search box and then click or tap Task Scheduler in the list of results.
If you would like more ways to start the Task Scheduler, read this guide: 9 ways to start the Task Scheduler in Windows (all versions).
Understanding the Task Scheduler user interface
When you open Task Scheduler you see three panels:
- Task Scheduler Library - helps you navigate among all the tasks.
- Task Scheduler Summary - shows information about the most recent tasks that were executed.
- Actions - allows you create, import or delete a task, to run, disable, enable and set properties to a specific task.
All three are shown in the screenshot below.
In this article, we present the Task Scheduler Library and Task Scheduler Summary.
How to use the Task Scheduler summary
When the Task Scheduler (Local) is selected in the first column, the column in the middle is split into three panes: Overview of Task Scheduler, Task Status, and Active Tasks.
The first pane shows a bit of information on what you can do with the Task Scheduler.
The Task Status pane shares the list of tasks that have started in the last 24 hours and their status. Click or tap the drop-down list on the right side of the pane to select a different time period: Last hour, Last 24 hours, Last 7 days or Last 30 days. The default value is Last 24 hours.
If any tasks are listed, click or tap the + sign near a task's name to see more details about it: the run result, when it started, when it ended and what triggered it.
This pane may not contain any information because by default the task history is disabled to save space. If you want to see this information, check the last column in Task Scheduler, the one for Actions, and click or tap Enable All Tasks History.
In the Active Tasks pane, you have the list of tasks that are currently enabled and have not expired. For each task, you can see its name, Next Run Time specified by date and time, the Triggers and Location. If you want to update the data displayed in the Task Scheduler Summary, click or tap the Refresh button on the bottom.
How to use the Task Scheduler library
On the left-hand side of the Task Scheduler window, you will see the Task Scheduler Library. Click or tap the arrow to see its contents or double-click Task Scheduler Library. Click or tap a folder's name to see the tasks found inside and its subfolders.
The tasks belonging to any selected folder or subfolder are displayed in the second column - the one in the middle of the Task Scheduler window.
For each task, you can see its Name, Status, Triggers, the Next Run Time and Last Run Time date and time, the Last Run Result, Author and the date and time when it was Created. Click on one of the existing tasks to see more information about it, in the panels below the list of tasks.
The information about any task is split into six tabs, which display data that cannot be modified, only read. The first tab is named General. It displays the following information: the name of the selected task, its location, author, a short description and several security options (the account for which to run the task, when to run the task depending on the user being logged in or not, if the task is hidden, etc).
The second tab is named Triggers. It displays the list of conditions that trigger the task, details about each trigger and the status of each trigger.
The third tab is Actions. It displays the action that will occur when the task starts and details this action. For example, if the action is Start a program, in the Details column you will see the program that will start.
The fourth tab is named Conditions. It shares the conditions that must be true in order for the task to run. These conditions are things like whether the computer is idle or not, or whether it is on AC power or battery power.
The sixth tab is named Settings. It displays additional settings that affect the behavior of the task. It includes things like whether the task can be run on demand or not, what to do if the task fails or whether to stop the task if it runs longer than a specified time.
The seventh and last tab is named History. This tab may not contain any information. This is affected by the same setting as the Task Status pane in Task Scheduler Summary. If you want to see this information, check the last column in Task Scheduler, the one for Actions, and click or tap Enable All Tasks History.
Keep in mind that the information starts to populate after you enable the history. The History tab begins to show data after the next run of the task.
Which task would you like to have on your computer?
Do not hesitate to read the other articles recommended on the Task Scheduler to learn how to use it to manage tasks on your Windows computer or device. Now that you know how to browse your library of scheduled tasks, let us know which task would you like to have on your computer. Do not hesitate to leave a comment below.