Wrangle Up Your Computer With Process Lasso

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Wrangle up those overkill processes you had no idea were running in the background with Bitsum’s Process Lasso Beta 1. Process Lasso is a task manager for Windows, much like Windows task manager, only better. Sure there are a lot of task mangers out there, but Process Lasso has some great features, and the price is right…free.

One thing I immediately loved when I first encountered this program was the fact that it comes in both an (x32) and (x64) version. The second thing I liked was it’s super small file size. The entire file was only 411.4 Kb, and took about 10 seconds to download. Finally, as a freeware program I wasn’t assaulted with a Please Register countdown, any annoying adware, or any attempts to install services or toolbars I didn’t want. The author does include a small unobtrusive message that reports “Home users: Get the PRO build for a donation of any amount.”

I pitted this program against the Sysinternals offering Process Explorer (also free). Since I had the option I decided to test it on both the (x32) and (x64) platforms. The (x32) system I used was and AMD Athlon 1.9 GHz system on Gigabyte MOBO, 1 GB of Geil 400 MHz DDR, 256Mb AGP ATI Radeon Video, and 120 GB Western Digital PATA Hard Drive, running on Microsoft Windows XP Professional with all the latest updates. The other system I tested it on was an AMD Athlon X2 Dual Core 6000 3.1 GHz on Gigabyte MOBO, 4 GB’s Kingston HyperX DDR2 800, Asus EN9400GT 1GB PCI Express 2.0 X16 Video, Seagate Barracuda 500 GB SATA 3.0GB/s, On Vista Home Premium…all latest updates with Aero installed.

On the 32 bit system I started by running with a fairly clean environment…all the usual services except Microsoft Update and nothing else. My total commit charge (memory used) was 63,132 KB’s – less than 64 MB’s. My processor usage was at or below 3%, and system responsiveness was at 100%. Everything was running fast and well. Now I would put Process Lasso to the test.

I started Process Lasso. It added about a total of 4,140 KB’s to memory usage. Not bad compared to Sysinternals Process Explorer, which uses a whopping 13,540 KB’s and is less feature rich. Next I would put my poor 1.9 GHz system under some strain. I fired up my Sunbelt Vipre Antivirus first. This took an immediate toll on resources which Process Lasso shows by bringing up a stoplight icon in the system tray. Immediately Process Lasso reacted by shifting svchost processes into a lower priority temporarily, and restoring them once Vipre was running. My total memory commit charge for Vipre was 19,108 KB’s, and about 1.32% CPU resources. Now it was time to get serious.

Systematically I started a series of applications that would shove the system towards failure. I shut down Process Lasso and fired up these applications in this order: Mozilla Firefox 3.0.4 – 49,812 KB’s & 3.62% CPU, Microsoft Word 2007 – 25,696 KB’s & 2.50% CPU, Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended 9.0 – 38,968 KB’s & 1.5% CPU. Finally as the coup de grace Nero Vision converting an avi to a DVD format image file – 289, 512 KB’s & 96% CPU! This brought my total memory commitment to 486,228 KB’s. About half my system memory, the CPU was 100% utilized. This was a system killer. Trying to switch between applications even with Nero Vision minimized to the tray was ridiculously slow. In fact it could take upwards of 40 seconds to switch between applications. At one point when I tried to go to the start menu to fire up yet another process, the system hung for an eternity of over 60 seconds. I was thinking this is it system crash. However, it did eventually respond after I started Internet Explorer 7.0, albeit slowly.

Now the true test. I start Process Lasso, and follow the same order and procedure as above. I watch as Process Lasso flashes it little stoplight as the applications fire up. After all the applications are up and running I start switching through windows…hang time for most of them almost none or less than 1 second, the exception being Nero Vision which hangs a precarious 4 seconds before appearing. Getting to the start menu no hang time at a all. Beautiful. All the while Process Lasso runs a log window telling you what applications and resources it is lowering consumption on, and doing so without a hitch. Even letting me write this article as I’m testing.

I also ran this test on the (x64) system. It ran well…but I’m not going to bore you with more details, as it was hard to create a system load that hung that system. However, when I did finally load the system down, suffice it to say that Process Lasso performed as it did on the x32. The one feature I didn’t try that really pertains to the 64 bit system was CPU Affinity, which should have allowed per processor load balancing…but that’s on my to do list.

Process Lasso is feature rich. So much so I am not going into them all here, but I will touch upon it’s highlights. It has an option to start at system startup, which I recommend with one caution…it will slightly slow down the startup process especially if you are running Antivirus software. I believe this is due to the fact that it is switching between services and applications in an effort to create better overall performance, but at a cost of slowing down an application (and therefore system) startup speed. Among it’s other great features are a wealth of information about CPU usage, thread ID’s, memory usage, application pathway, and priority class. It allows you to kill processes at will, even to use a force termination. It’s automatic feature called ProBalance seems to work well at managing system resources and load balancing. It also speeds up application exit if you do it by terminating the process from within Process Lasso. Among it’s strengths are the ability to set current priority classes anywhere from Real-Time (highest priority) to Idle (lowest priority). The user can also set a default priority level for each application to use when it is executed.

Some of the other great features include CPU Affinity, that allows a user to choose which CPU (in Multi-CPU systems) should handle the load of a specific process or application. You can use an exclude from Probalance to keep Process Lasso from managing a certain process or application. It has a feature Terminate Always that completely prevents a process from running ever. Add to that the ability to open the containing folder to any running application or process, set processes based on the user that is logged in, Virtual Memory trimming, and even a Delete Executable for application or service at resart option.

Process Lasso also has a rich options menu, allowing the user to configure the program in a variety of ways. These features include:

Process startup options which allow a user to pick which features will run based on the user logged on.

Balloon tip notification to tell you when a process is priority is lowered or raised.

Refresh speed to make Process more or less responsive in its notifications.

Probalance Settings that allow the user to configure exactly how Process Lasso will handle foreground and background process switching, as well as whether it should manage services.

Default priority configuration which allows the user to set processes and services to a default level from Idle to Real Time.

A foreground boost setting to give those applications that you are working in a lion’s share of the resources so that the application is more responsive.

A configuration for disallowed processes which prevents a service or process for activating.

A process instance configuration that allows a user to configure how many instances of a process that Process Lasso will allow to run at once. An example would be limiting Internet Explorer to only run 4 instances at once so that a 5th instance were to try and start it couldn’t. This could actually work as a poor man’s type of pop-up blocker in this scenario.

An option to set a default schedule to trim memory usage at a certain interval.

A variety of logging options.

Advanced tools which allow the user to tweak the NT scheduler, the Vista Multimedia scheduler, and edit the INI configuration file.

All that is just scratching the surface of this wonderful program. The author has told me that the pro version of this program available for as little as a $1.00 donation adds a few features, primarily a feature that allows this program to be run as a service. This is to prevent many Antivirus and Spyware programs from giving a false positive when this program is activated.

The author also has a number of other intriguing program on his website that I may review in the future. You should really check it out.

In all, Process Lasso does what the author claims. It is a great program for showing you exactly what is running on your system, and what resources those processes take. It creates a fluid and efficient scheme for creating a system profile that you can control, or allow Process Lasso to control from startup. It effortlessly controls processes, switching between them like a champ, improving your system performance and making hangs and crashes less likely. It is easy to use, with a simple interface, low overhead, and a handy addition for any level of computer user. I know I am adding it to my tech toolbox.