Monday, February 25, 2008

Some Nifty New Features of Windows Vista Task Manager

Hey Guys!
I am a die hard fan of Vista Operating System, as it has completly changed my life and my working with my laptop. Its stable, its feature rich and for me, its less irritant than previous versions of windows. Now there are many features of it that have been given quiet a thought at Microsoft and what i have found is one of those gems that atleast system admins and developers, like me, will appreciate.

Vista task manager, we all know that is by all means an advance task management tool that has been refined to have greater power than it had in previous versions of Windows. Here are some cool features that certainly help to simplify task management:
1. Two of the most visible enhancements to the task manager are the new Services tab which quickly allows you to start and stop Windows Services, and, The Resource Monitor button which lets you keep a watch on your critical system resources. Whats more, you can create a data collection set of your data and them generate comprehensive performance reports based on it.

2. The right click menu on the Processes tab has beed enhanced with many new options that include:

a) Open File Location option : Lets you quickly browse the directory where the selected applications executable file is stored. This was a biggest feature missing in XP task manager. In that you cant find out from where the process is running.

b) Virtualization : This option lets you turn on or off the new Virtualization feature for a particular process. In Vista, when UAC (User Account Control) is enabled, every process runs in a low privilege mode that doesn't allows it to perform harmful activities. It is due to this fact, USB drive based viruses are not effective under Vista by default. A process can be run with full admin rights only by user's interaction. Now in the low privilege mode, when a program with bad habits (which it inherited due to the nature of previous windows os where once ran from an admin account it was free to do anything :-) ) tries to access a restricted system resource, it is given a safe, virtual set of directories and other resources that it can use. In that way, the system remains secure and working even when this bad boy behaves according to its nature :-D.

c) Create Dump File : When we run a program it gets loaded into RAM and that RAM loaded representation of the program is called process. Now each process, while running has a working set, which is nothing but the area of RAM where it keeps its data while running. This option creates a file on the hard disk that contains complete contents of the select processe's used memory areas. This is very useful for people who are involved in debugging of applications. Previously system only created dump of process memory when it crashed, or maybe when OS itself crashed.

d) Properties : Opens the standard properties dialog of the file that this process started from.

e) Go to Services : Now thats what i really liked. This option, when selected takes you to the service that this process is running under. You may ask, whats so special about that. Well, this may not be useful where a single process is running under a single service excutable, but there are some processes like the svchost.exe which show up multiple times in Task Manager. Ever wondered why so? When Svchost.exe is the Generic host for Services executable that works as a host for many different services. there are some more like that too. What that means is that under the name of Svchost.exe, many services run. Even more than that, a single svchost.exe file can run multiple services under it. It uses the concept of Application Domains, which .NET programmers i think will better understand. Now in this situation without any external tool you cannot know what services are running under a particular svchost.exe. Here this option comes into play. When you click on it, it takes you to the services tab and highlights all the services that are running under it. Now thats what i call a real sysadmin tool.

Apart from that you can also quickly go to any service's process bu right clicking on it and selecting Go To Process...

So that's all. Hope someone will find it intresting and of use.

Have a nice day :-)
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