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How to boost Windows 8 performance

November 12, 2013 06:30 AM ET

Use Fast Startup

There's one last startup item to check: Make sure that Windows 8 uses a new mode called Fast Startup, a hybrid of a traditional shutdown/boot operation and hibernation. When you shut down your PC, all user sessions are closed but the Windows kernel session is saved to disk, or hibernated. Then when you start Windows again, it loads the hibernated system session from disk, cutting startup time.

By default, Fast Startup should be enabled on your system. But it's a good idea to make sure it's turned on, just in case your system wasn't set up correctly or Fast Startup was accidentally turned off.

On the Start screen, type power, click Settings and click the Power Options icon that appears on the left side of the screen under Settings. Click "Choose what the power buttons do" in the left pane, and under "Shutdown settings" at the bottom of the screen that appears, make sure that the box next to "Turn on fast startup" is checked.

Track and fine-tune performance with the Task Manager

You may know of the Task Manager as the go-to application for seeing programs and processes running on your PC, and for shutting down any you don't want to run any more. But over the years it's developed into a much more powerful tool. In Windows 8 it's gotten a major overhaul that makes it a great way to fine-tune system performance.

Windows 8 Task Manager - small
The stripped-down version of Task Manager.

Launch the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl-Shift-Esc on your keyboard or whatever method you prefer. The Task Manager has two interfaces in Windows 8: a stripped-down simplified one that shows your currently running applications, and a much more detailed one that you'll use for troubleshooting and improving system performance. To switch between them, click the "More details" down arrow when you're in the simplified version, or click the "Fewer details" up arrow when you're in the more detailed version.

If you're having trouble with a particular program that's running, you can use the Task Manager's simple view to end it: Just select the application in the list of apps and click the End task button.

If you don't know the source of the slowdown of if you want to fine-tune your system's performance, switch to the Task Manager's detailed view. There are seven tabs here. We've already covered how to use the Startup tab to make your system boot up faster. For other system performance improvements, you'll generally use these four tabs: Processes, Performance, App history and Users. (Story continues below the screenshot.)

Windows 8 Task Manager - Processes tab
The full-blown Task Manager, in all of its detailed glory.

Processes tab

This tab (shown above) reports on the apps, background processes and Windows system processes currently running on your PC. It reports on the percentage of CPU, memory, disk capacity and network resources each app or process is using. The right side of the screen is a heat map, with colors ranging from pale yellow for low resource use to red for critically high resource use.

If you're experiencing system slowdowns, head to this tab and see whether anything here is hogging your CPU or memory. If so, you can close it down. Right-click it and you get a menu that allows you to manage it in a variety of ways, including ending it and any related processes (if there are any).

When you right-click, you get a number of other options as well. If you select "Resource values," you can choose to have the memory, disk and network information about each process displayed as either a value (for example, 47.9MB) or a percentage of use (for example, 23%). Choosing "Open file location" launches File Explorer to the folder where the process's executable is found, with the process highlighted.

"Create dump file" will generate a file that contains a snapshot of the process at that moment in time, including which of its modules were loaded and what the process was doing. If you're having a problem with a process, a dump file can help programmers understand how to fix it.

You can also add more columns of information to the Processes tab. Right-click in the chart's header area and choose what columns you want to add, such as the process type (app, background process, etc.), name, publisher and more.

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