Run Tasks in Low Priority
Thursday, July 22, 2004
By: Matthew Doucette

This article explains how to have any Windows (XP/2000) task or program run in various priority settings by default.

Most tasks default to "Normal" base priority.  "Windows Task Manager" runs in "High" base priority by default.  Also, "Windows Task Manager" is how to manually set already executing tasks to different priority settings.  But this is a pain if you have to do this all the time.  Typically, if you ever want to change a task's default priority setting, you will probably want to set it to a lower priority, either "BelowNormal" or "Low".


How To Run Tasks in Low Priority Automatically in Windows XP:

Create a backup copy of the task's icon, for your own sake (in case you wish to revert your changes).

Right-click the task's icon, "Properties", "Shortcut", "Target:", and modify as follows (I used Adobe Photoshop as the example)...


"C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 6.0\Photoshp.exe"


C:\WINDOWS\system32\cmd.exe /c start "Adobe Photoshop" /belownormal "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 6.0\Photoshp.exe"


The highlighted red text of both sections are the same.  Pay attention to the quotation marks, they must be included.


How To Run Tasks in Low Priority Automatically in Windows 2000:

A take-off of the Windows XP example above...


"C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 6.0\Photoshp.exe"


C:\WINNT\system32\cmd.exe /c start "Adobe Photoshop" /belownormal "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 6.0\Photoshp.exe"


How It Works:

  • /c is a command line parameter to cmd.exe.  It "Carries out the command specified by string and then terminates."  This is necessary as you do not want cmd.exe running in the background after opening the task.

  • start is actually a program. Try running "start /?" (without quotes) from the command prompt to see all the options.

  • "Adobe Photoshop" (with quotes) is the title of the task. You can set this text to whatever you want. I set it the same as the original task.

  • The /belownormal sets the priority to "below normal".  You can double check this in Windows Task Manager (CTRL-ALT-DEL) after you run the task.  You could have also used /low to set the priority to "low".

  • "C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 6.0\Photoshp.exe" (with quotes) is the original task itself. Notice that this does not change from before to after.  


Does It Work For All Applications?


I have found that some applications can not be changed (Microsoft Word and iTunes for example).

Contact us if you know why.


Benefits To Running Tasks In Below Normal Priority:

Running a task in low priority does not mean that it will run slow.  Unless it is competing heavily with another CPU-intensive program, it will run (almost) as fast as normal.

The benefit of low priority is it will take the "back seat" whenever you want to use the computer to do something non-CPU-intensive, like open up Internet Explorer or check your email.  Normally, when you do something CPU-intensive, like running an Adobe Photoshop filter, your computer becomes inoperable while the task executes.  This does not have to happen.  A CPU-intensive task should give you a few seconds of CPU resources to accomplish something as simple as checking your email, if you want it to.  Setting the CPU-intensive task to a lower priority accomplishes exactly that.  The few seconds lost by that CPU-intensive task will, more than likely, be unnoticeable.  Even if it was noticeable, wouldn't you want your computer to response to you when you ask it to do something else, even at the cost of slowing down a long-running CPU-intensive task?

However, there are limitations.  Remember that a lower priority task will always take the back seat to a higher priority task until that higher priority task is finished.  This means if you have two long-running tasks competing for CPU resources, and they are set at different priority levels, then one will take the "back seat" to the other until one is finished.



Credit goes to Jason Doucette for discovering the solution to this problem and for providing the information so that I could write this article.


Also See:



About the Author: I am Matthew Doucette of Xona Games, an award-winning indie game studio that I founded with my twin brother. We make intensified arcade-style retro games. Our business, our games, our technology, and we as competitive gamers have won prestigious awards and received worldwide press. Our business has won $180,000 in contests. Our games have ranked from #1 in Canada to #1 in Japan, have become #1 best sellers in multiple countries, have won game contests, and have held 3 of the top 5 rated spots in Japan of all Xbox LIVE indie games. Our game engines have been awarded for technical excellence. And we, the developers, have placed #1 in competitive gaming competitions -- relating to the games we make. Read about our story, our awards, our games, and view our blog.

Home | Games | Awards | About | Learn | Blog | Press Kit | Contact

Xona Games,, Xonatech, Saw Tooth Distortion, Evolutionary Prototype (EP), Duality ZF, Decimation X, Decimation X2,
Decimation X3, Decimation X3.5, Decimation X4, Score Rush, Score Rush 2, Score Rush (HTML5), Score Rush MP, and Score Rush Extended (Score Rush EX)
trademarked and copyrighted by Xona Games Inc., Matthew Doucette, and/or Jason Doucette.
© 2000..2005 Saw Tooth Distortion. © © 2008..2010 Xona Games (under
© Xona Games Inc.

We make Intense Retro video games.