Introduction to the all new Windows Server 2012 Task Manager

by [Published on 20 Dec. 2012 / Last Updated on 20 Dec. 2012]

This article provides you with an overview of the new Task Manager in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

Introduction

With the release of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, Microsoft has released a completely revamped Task Manager tool. While the tool still performs pretty much the same as it has in the past, it looks quite different than it used to. So, I decided to out together this article to provide you with an overview of the new Task Manager.

As soon as you open Task Manager in Windows Server 2012, you will notice that the tool looks completely different than it did in previous versions of Windows. Figure 1 shows you the Processes tab.


Figure 1: The Task Manager Processes tab

As you can see in Figure 1, each application and background process is displayed on the Processes tab and you’re provided with information about how much CPU and RAM is being used by each process. The new visual style makes it easier to see at-a-glance what processes are using the most resources. Further, it’s much easier than it used to be to narrow down individual instances of processes thanks to the way that processes are grouped. This makes it much less risky when you need to end a task.

In Figure 2, you can see a list of the items that are available to be displayed as columns on the Processes tab. This can aid greatly in troubleshooting if you’re trying to find out, for example, the location and executable that is associated with one of this listed processes. Or, if necessary, you can add the PID (process ID) column to display the associated process number.


Figure 2: Add columns to or remove columns from the Processes tab

As has always been the case, you can also right-click any process to gain access to the shortcut menu shown in Figure 3. From here, you can choose to end the process, get more details about the process, open the process properties page and much more.


Figure 3: You can still manage processes just like you always have, but it's a bit easier now

The next tab is one that I find extremely useful. Here, you are provided with at-a-glance information regarding the various system resources at your disposal. In Figure 4, you can see the CPU statistics for one of my virtual lab servers.

There is quite a bit of information on this screen, including:

  • Current processor utilization
  • Processor speed
  • Detailed information about the processors in the server
  • Current high level process information, including the total number of processes, thread and handles
  • The total system uptime. In the example, you can see that my lab virtual machine has been up for just over 37 minutes.


Figure 4: Current CPU statistics for the server

The next set of statistics gives you information about the memory in the server, including the amount of RAM in use and available and a number of other statistics. This information is shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Memory statistics for the server

Storage performance is often overlooked when it comes to troubleshooting server issues, but it’s actually critically important. In Figure 6, you can see that Task Manager displays:

  • Transfer rate. How fast is the disk transferring data to and from the system.
  • Active time. How often is the disk active?

Perhaps the most important metric, however, is the average response time metric. This is the key metric that indicates whether or not the system has enough storage performance to meet needs. If this number gets too high, the system is not able to quickly enough service applications. This generally means that there are not enough IOPS to go around and that he system needs more disks.

If you’re not seeing disk statistics on your system, open a command prompt with administrative rights and execute the following command:

C:\Windows\system32>diskperf –y

You will get these results:

Both Logical and Physical Disk Performance counters on this system are automatically enabled on demand.

Raw counters are also enabled for IOCTL_DISK_PERFORMANCE.


Figure 6: Disk performance statistics

Likewise, another finite resource is the network. After all, there is only so much bandwidth to go around. Figure 7 displays both incoming and outgoing network traffic statistics.


Figure 7: Current network statistics

The Users tab displays a list of all of the processes that are running on a per user basis along with the amount of CPU and memory resources that are associated with each running user process. Again, note that there are a number of task management options available for your use, including the ability to end tasks and get more information about an individual process.


Figure 8: The Users tab in Task Manager

For those of you that are Windows Server aficionados, the Details tab will feel like home and it provides you with all of the process management options you enjoyed from the beginning. Here, you can change a task’s priority, modify process to processor affinity and more.


Figure 9: Detailed process information

Finally, the Services tab is exactly what it seems. Because services play such a pivotal role in how Windows operates, the Services tab shown in Figure 10 is useful in Task Manager. You can start, stop and restart services from here as well as open the more full fledged services control panel applet.


Figure 10: The Services tab in Task Manager

Windows 8 Task Manager differences

For those of you that compare Windows 8 and Windows 2012, you will notice a number of significant differences between the Task Manager in the desktop and the server editions of the product.

First of all, in Windows 8, the Processes tab has some additional default columns that you don’t see in the Server version. First of all, you see both Disk and Network statistics columns for each process. While this information can be tracked in Server, it’s not displayed by default on the Task Manager screen. Disk statistics can be relatively burdensome on the system.


Figure 11: Windows 8's Task Manager - Processes tab

Windows 8 also sports a Task Manager tab that isn’t present at all in the Windows Server 2012 Task Manager. Entitled App History, this tab exists entirely to support Windows 8’s Metro-style app capabilities. Windows Server 2012 doesn’t include by default the WinRT subsystem that enables Metro style applications to run, so there is no need to track Metro app application statistics.


Figure 12: The Windows 8 App History tab in Task Manager

On this tab, administrators are able to see exactly how much CPU, network, metered network and tile update resources are being used by Windows. In Windows 8, you’re able to configure a network connection as a “metered” connection – for example a cellular connection – which carries with it a cost on a per MB or per GB basis. This can be useful when roaming. The Tile Updates column reflect Windows 8’s dynamic Start Screen on which tiles stay updated to provide current information to users. Populating these tiles requires some network usage, which is reflected in this column.

Summary

Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 have a lot of under the hood changes, but some of the changes are much more obvious, such as those found in the newly revamped Task Manager.

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