Once in a while I wander across a PC utility that really saves me a lot of work. Recently I discovered a piece of software called “What’s Running?” which I now use instead of the collection of PC monitoring tools that I had been using. How’s it possible to replace an entire suite of tools with a single piece of free software? Let’s take a look.
What is it?
Have you ever experienced the situation where your PC or why your internet connection suddenly seems sluggish and you have no idea why? Maybe one of your programs is taking up most of your system’s CPU, maybe you system is out of memory, maybe an application is downloading something huge — there are a million different things that can cause a system to suddenly slow down. You can do what I’d always done and run a utility to check of the CPU usage, another utility to monitor the memory usage, and another utility to watch my network connections. Or you can simplify things a bit and use What’s Running.
What’s Running is a dashboard-type application which can give you a bird’s-eye view of a number of different aspects of your PC, including detailed information about:
- system services
- network traffic
- startup programs
- overall system information
Let’s look at each of those in a bit more detail.
Every version of Windows comes with the Task Manager application. That application can show you the list of processes which are running on your system as well as a fair amount of detail about those processes such as CPU and memory usage. What’s Running can show you everything that Task Manager can show you but it can also provide additional detail, like the DLLs used by a given process. The latest version of What’s Running can also display the list of processes in a tree format so that you can see how those processes relate to each other.
What’s Running can show you all of the information that you can get from your system’s Services panel including the state of the service and details about when and how the service runs. What’s Running provides additional detail about the process started through the service such as the process’ ID (PID), memory usage, and I/O statistics.
The Modules tab shows all of the DLL’s, API’s, and EXE’s which are currently in use. Clicking on a given module exposes more details, such as the size and location of the module as well as the list of applications which are currently using that module. Have you ever tried to delete a DLL from your file system but were told that you couldn’t because it was in use by some unknown process? Here’s an easy way to find out what processes are locking the DLL you’re trying to delete. Close those processes and the OS will let you delete that DLL.
The IP Connections tab shows every network connection open on your system, including connections to local resources as well to to the internet. Stay on this tab for a few minutes and you can watch just how often the software you have installed on your system makes calls out to the internet. Most of these calls are expected (like checking for a new version of the software, for instance) but if you have software you didn’t install making calls you may have a larger problem on your hands.
Clicking on an entry in the IP Connections table reveals information such as the process which opened the connection, the local and remote ports which mark the endpoints of the connection, and the timestamp showing when the connection was established.
The Drivers tab shows all of the drivers that your system is currently using. Drilling down into an entry reveals information such as the file name and version number of the driver as well as details about when the driver gets loaded by the system.
The Startup tab shows all of the processes which are to be started when your system boots up. You can see what processes are starting up, where those processes are located, and how they are set to start. You can also disable the automatic starting of certain processes.
The System Info tab shows an overview of your system, including the OS version, information about your CPU, memory, and hard drives, and the type of BIOS you’re running.
What’s Running doesn’t really show you anything about your system that can’t be shown using other utilities. What it can do, though, is show you all of that information in a single, consistent, concise UI. So if you’re the type of user who is constantly using different utilities to monitor different aspects of your system’s performance give What’s Running a try.
What’s Running works on Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista (as long as you run it as an administrator) and is free for personal use. Grab a copy and find out What’s Running on your system.