To alter the priorities of your computer's processor and speed it up, you need to use Task Manager. The built-in utility allows Windows to 'track' every application that is running – even if it isn’t visible. To open Task Manager, right-click on an empty part of the Taskbar that runs along the bottom of the screen and choose Start Task Manager. When the window opens, make sure the Applications tab is selected and there will be a list of any open programs there. Look at the bottom of the window and there will be some numbers indicating the amount of memory and percentage of CPU (processor) power that’s currently being used by these programs.
Windows can also run things that won’t appear here – anti-virus programs, for example. To see these and other ‘hidden’ activity, click the Processes tab. Although we have got three programs running, we’ve actually got 106 different processes working – all using up Windows’ resources. Now, it’s possible to prevent any of these processes from taking up too many resources by left-clicking on one of them and then clicking the End Process button at the bottom right of the dialogue box – but while this works, it’s a bit of a blunt instrument. It can also be dangerous unless you know what you’re doing, and ending the wrong process at the wrong time could result in data loss.
Instead, right-click on the process you want to configure (either because it seems to be running too slowly or because everything else started to slow down as soon as it started running) and choose Set Priority from the pop-up menu. Then, choose a setting from the submenu – these range from Low through to High (there’s also a Realtime setting that should be avoided unless you know what you’re doing). Changing the priority like this is temporary and when the process restarts, it will assume its default priority.
Changing the priority of processes on the fly like this is fine but if there’s a job that needs to be done regularly – for example, converting home movies from one format into another – it might be useful to assign this a particular priority on a permanent basis. This isn’t possible with Windows alone but a free program called Prio Priority Saver can do the job. Launch a web browser and visit O&K Print Watch. When the website loads, click the Download button at the top.
Scroll down to the bottom to the Prio Priority Saver product and choose the 32-bit version (if the site displays a warning saying the software won’t run on your PC, pick the 64-bit version instead). If the File Download Security Warning dialogue box appears, click Save and then choose a location for the downloaded file. Firefox users should select Save File to save the download to Firefox’s default download folder. Now locate and double-click the downloaded file and follow the installation wizard, accepting all of the defaults and clicking Finish at the end to close the wizard and start the program. It will then be necessary to restart the PC to complete the process.
Now try again. Launch a few programs, then right-click on an empty part of the Taskbar and choose Start Task Manager. Click the Processes tab at the top and then find a process in the list and right-click on it. Notice that there are now some extra options on the menu, courtesy of Priority Saver. The most significant one, Save Priority, is activated by default - and means that when you change the priority of a process, Windows will remember it for next time.