7 ways to keep tabs on your system performance with the Task Manager

Have you ever wanted to know how much of your processor’s power is being used at a particular time? Or maybe how much free RAM was left for your favorite game to use? How about how much your video card is used? All these are essential system resources without which apps and games cannot run well. If you want to see statistics as well as real-time information about system resources on your Windows device, you should consider using the Task Manager. Here’s how to learn how much your hardware resources are utilized in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1:

NOTE: This guide is created for Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. If you use Windows 7, we recommend reading this tutorial: Less Known Tricks about Using the Task Manager in Windows 7.

How to access the Performance tab from the Task Manager

To get a look at resource consumption, you must 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. While the decision for the best method is yours, for speed and ease we recommend using the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl + Shift + Esc.”

Once the Task Manager opens, click or tap the Performance tab to see what all this is about. If you do not see a Performance tab, do not worry. Your Task Manager is not broken. You likely see the compact view. Go ahead and click or tap on “More Details” to expand the full view.

Then, click or tap on the Performance tab to open it. It should look more or less like in the screenshot below. Its looks and contents depend on the version of Windows that you use and the hardware you have.

Now let’s see how to use this tab from the Task Manager to monitor the performance of the essential hardware components in your computer or device.

1. Monitor processor performance with the Task Manager

By default, the Performance tab of the Task Manager first shows you the usage of CPU, otherwise known as the processor. If it is not already selected, you can do so manually by clicking or tapping on CPU on the left side of the window.

You can also choose to view the CPU usage by right-clicking anywhere inside the window and choosing “View -> CPU.”

Once you have selected the processor section, on the right side of the window, you can see a graph that shows the percentage of utilization over a 60 second period. Notice that in the upper right corner of the resource view, you find the exact model of your system’s processor.

Below the graph, there is 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.

By default, you get a graph for each physical processor in your device. That makes sense, but it may not be what power users are looking for. To get a more detailed picture of how your processor is used, try breaking the graph up into logical processors. Right-click or long-press on the CPU graph, hover over “Change graph to” and then click or tap on “Logical processors.”

You will now see a graph for each of your logical processors. For our Intel Core i7 processor, we get eight charts, one for each logical processor. You may see more or less depending on your computer’s processor.

If you want to see even more information about how CPU cycles are being allotted, you might want to consider showing kernel times. They show how much of 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.”

The darker areas of the graph represent kernel time, while the lighter areas represent other types of usage.

2. Monitor RAM use in the Task Manager

Another resource that you probably want to keep a close eye on, especially during slowdowns, is your RAM or random access memory. You can view RAM usage by choosing Memory from the list of resources on the left side of the Performance tab.

To switch to the Memory graph, you can also right-click or tap and hold anywhere inside the window and go to “View -> Memory.”

The Memory section displays 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.

The RAM usage is split into four usage types:

  • In Use - Memory currently being used by apps, 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 and free for use.

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

3. Monitor your video card usage with the Task Manager

In Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, we can also check the usage of the graphics card(s). Note that this feature is not present in older versions of Windows 10, nor in older versions of Windows, period. You can monitor the performance of all your graphic cards by selecting them from the list on the left side of the Task Manager window. Note that if you have more than one video card installed on your device, you will have an entry for each of them.

Once you select the video card that you want to monitor, the right side of the window fills up with graphs and information about what it does. Depending on the type of video card you select, you can see graphs for how much of its power is spent on 3D, Copy, Video Decode, Video Processing, Video Decode, Engine 5, Legacy Overlay, GDI Render, Video Processing and so on, depending on the actual features offered by that video card.

By default, the Task Manager has enough room to display four different graphs, and for a regular dedicated video card, those are showing the performance for 3D, Copy, Video Encode and Video Decode. However, if you want to change one of them and monitor some other feature, you can click or tap on the small arrow button on the top-left corner of a graph and select what to watch.

Under the four feature graphs, the Task Manager also shows how the video memory is used. You should have a graph for the “Shared GPU memory usage” and, if your video card also has its memory, you should also have one called “Dedicated GPU memory usage.” On the top-right corner of each graph, you can find out the total amount of video memory available on your system.

Below the graphs, there is plenty of other information. You can see the total Utilization percentage of your video card, the amount of GPU Memory used and the amount available, as well as the Dedicated GPU memory and the Shared GPU memory used and the amounts available. There are also details about the driver version used, the driver date, DirectX version, the amount of Hardware reserved memory if any, and the Physical location, which shows you the PCI bus to which the video card is connected inside your computer.

4. Monitor the network usage with the Task Manager

To monitor your network usage, you need to select which network interface you want to monitor, from the resource list on the left side of the Performance tab in Task Manager. If you prefer, you can also right-click or tap and hold anywhere in the Performance tab and choose “View -> Network.”

The Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections are listed separately, along with virtual network adapters you might use for virtual machines and Bluetooth adapters. Choose the interface that you want to monitor. The graph displays the total usage for the last minute, and the chart below it shows information about the data sending and receiving speeds, the connection type, and the IP address. Under each network adapter, you can also see the average send and receive speeds.

For a greater level of details about your network usage, right-click or long-press the graph and click or tap on “View network details.”

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

5. Monitor real-time storage use using the Task Manager

Another resource that you may want to monitor is Disk usage. You can get to it by selecting it in the list from the left of the Performance tab in Task Manager. Or, if you prefer, right-click (or tap and hold) somewhere inside the window and go to “View -> Disk.”

This section allows you to see how active your hard drives or solid state drives have been. The top graph displays disk usage over the past 60 seconds while the bottom graph displays how fast your data is getting transferred.

Below the graphs, there is more information, including the percentage of time your disks have been active, the average speed with which they respond to requests, the average read and write speeds and the drives’ capacities.

6. View a summary for each of your resources (processor, graphics, memory, network or storage)

If you plan to monitor resource usage over an extended period, you may want to minimize the amount of information displayed in the Task Manager window. After all, you cannot minimize the window and watch it at the same time.

To preserve screen space, the Task Manager offers a graph summary view that shows only the current charts and nothing else. To try it out, right-click or long-press on the system resource graph and then click or tap on “Graph summary view.”

The resulting window is smaller and less cluttered. This is what you get for the processor (CPU):

And this is what you will get for your wireless card:

The mini-graphs you get for the other system resources are similar to the ones above.

7. View a summary of all the essential system resources at the same time, in a single small window

If you would 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.”

The Task Manager window shrinks 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.

In the latest versions of Windows 10, this summarized view also includes small graphs for each resource usage. However, in older versions of Windows, you might not see them by default. If that is the case for you, right-click or long press the list and select “Show graphs” to display them.

How to copy and paste information about the use of your system resources

Now that you know how to view all that useful information about your system’s resources, you may want to record some of the data. While you could take a screenshot, you would only end up with an image, which is not useful if you need to work with that information. Fortunately, you can copy and paste the data that you need. Right-click or long-press on the data chart from any resource and click or tap Copy.

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.

Conclusion

Now you know how to use the Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, to keep tabs on your system’s performance. The data charts for each resource give you plenty of information, and both techies and home users alike will probably appreciate the data they can gather from the Performance tab in Task Manager. If you have any questions on this subject, do not hesitate to leave a comment below.