Because Windows is a multitasking operating system it has several ways to manage running processes to help make your computer run more smoothly. Besides Affinity which controls how many processor cores a program can run on, there’s also the priority at which a process runs. This gives the program a setting while running that tells it how high up in the queue it’s placed when asking for processing time.
For example, if you’re running a processor intensive task such as video encoding, and it has a higher priority than your web browser, it’ll use most of the CPU time and the browser will get what little is left over. Give the intensive task a lower priority and it will only take the CPU time left over, speeding up the browser. Changing the priority of a process is very easy, just right click on it in Task Manager and set it to the level you want.
While this is less of an issue with today’s multi-core CPUs, it’s still a problem on laptops or older PCs with fewer cores. One higher priority process can slow the system to a crawl by hogging all the CPU. Even system tasks like Windows Update or Windows Defender can do it from time to time. Tools like Process Lasso were developed to try and automatically juggle process priorities but they give mixed results.
The problem with changing the priority of a process in Task manager is as soon as the process is closed, the priority will be reset to its default level next time you run it. Here we have 6 free tools that allow you to save the priority of a process so you don’t have to adjust it manually every time the process is started. All options were tested in Windows 10 and 7.
1. Prio (Process Priority Saver)
Prio is a very easy solution to this problem of Windows Task Manager not saving priorities. The tool is actually an add on component for Task Manager itself giving it the ability to do just that. This means you don’t have another full blown program running in the background, only the Prio service which consumes a tiny 390KB of memory.
After install, reboot your computer for Prio and its options to start working. Making a permanent priority is simple and obviously done through Task Manager. In Windows 10, go to the Details tab, in Windows 7 go to the Processes tab, right click and set the priority like you normally would. The Save Priority option should already be enabled, click on it if the checkmark isn’t shown
Prio lowers priorities based on process name, so lowering program.exe will lower all future processes called program.exe. It also adds better tooltips, optional TCP/IP and enhanced Services tabs, integrity checks, and a Silent Elevation option. The process priority and elevation options work in Windows 10 but most of the other features are not available unless you are running Windows 7.
2. Process Hacker
Process Hacker is a well known Task Manager replacement that has a number of advanced functions for handling tasks and processes. Like any task management tool, being able to adjust priorities is a standard function. The ability to save the priority for any given process was added to version 2.30 in early 2013. Sadly there have been no new public releases since 2016 although there are still nightly builds being produced.
To set the priority to be saved in Process Hacker, right click on the process, go to Priority, and set the level you want to run from now on. Go back to the same menu and enable the “Save for xxxxx.exe” option. Then it will be remembered in the future every time you run a process with the same name (and Process Hacker is running).
The “Save for this command line” option in the menu is slightly different because it saves the executable’s launch command. Then it will set the priority when only the same executable and command is run again. For example, the option wouldn’t work too well with Google Chrome because all the different chrome.exe’s launch themselves with different arguments. A portable Process Hacker version is also available.
3. Process Tamer
This is a small process management utility that can automatically adjust the priority for running processes when they reach a certain level of CPU usage. However, you can easily turn this function off and set Process Tamer to adjust process priorities based on what you select manually. Go to the Configuration tab and uncheck “Tame Applications Based on CPU Usage”.
Making Process Tamer remember a priority is easy, just click on the Explicit Rule drop down menu on the row of the process and select what you want it to be set at. Change the drop down to the top blank option to reset the priority. Rules can also be deleted or added manually from the Configuration tab.
We tried Process Tamer in Windows 10 and 7 and the auto adjust priority function didn’t work anyway. Luckily, the manual priority function we are using here does work. The program is free but does require registration for a free key to stop popup nags, a 60 day key is available without registering. Portable, installer and updated beta versions from 2017 are available, the original program is from 2009.
4. Bill2’s Process Manager
This utility is a bit like Process Tamer in that it can automatically adjust process priorities based on their CPU usage. You can also turn this off and rely on your own settings by unchecking “Enable automatic priority lowering” in Options > Automatic priority. Bill2’s Process Manager works on the basis of rules and is quite a useful program to apply sets of rules to a specific application process while it’s running.
To apply a custom priority, right click the chosen process entry and select “Create a rule for this process”, check “Set priority” in the rules window and choose the priority you want. If you don’t set a custom rule, Bill2’s Process Manager applies a predefined priority rule for all other processes of below normal (not system processes). To disable this rule, go into Options > Rule by default and uncheck the box.
The .NET Framework 3.5 is required for Windows 10 and 8 users. The default French language can easily be changed to English in the Options window or by deleting the fr-FR folder. A portable version is also available.
5. System Explorer
System Explorer has a huge array of system information and control components, all accessible via a series of web browser type tabs. It’s like Task Manager on steroids which makes it a shame that development for System Explorer stopped in 2017. Like Process Hacker, System Explorer has the ability to save a given process priority and keep that setting when the program is launched in the future.
Make sure you’re in the Processes tab and right click on the chosen process, go to Process Priority and set the level you want to use. Go back to the same menu and tick Permanent to make the setting stick. While sitting in the tray, System Explorer uses around 12MB of memory which isn’t bad considering the number of functions on offer. A portable version is also available from PortableApps.com.
If you want to set the priority of an application that has multiple processes from the same executable, such as a web browser, set the priority of one process, close the prioritized application and reopen it again. The processes will now be the same priority.
6. Set Program Priority From The Command Line
While this last method can set the priority of a program you want to run, it does have one or two drawbacks. The most notable being that you have to be able to launch the process manually. If you can’t or the process is spawned by another program, it won’t work. The main advantage is you don’t need any third party software running in the background (all the other tools need to be running).
Start “” /BelowNormal “C:\Users\Raymondcc\Desktop\Program.exe”
The above command will start Program.exe with a priority of below normal. You can use Low, BelowNormal, Normal, AboveNormal, High, and RealTime. The real time priority only works if the Command Prompt, batch file, or desktop shortcut has administrative privileges. It’s not a good idea to use the real time priority anyway, so it shouldn’t be an issue for most users.
To create a desktop shortcut that can do the same thing, you have to make a minor modification. First, right click on the desktop and go to New > Shortcut.
Type “cmd /c ” into the box and then add the Start command like above for your program and the priority. The Start command needs to be run from the command line so you have to open a Command Prompt beforehand, which will very briefly appear on the screen. There are ways to hide the console window if you don’t like it showing.
Final Note: Instead of raising priorities for specific programs, it’s a good idea to try lower priorities of other programs if possible. For instance, if program’s A and B both have a normal priority but B is heavily CPU intensive, instead of raising the priority of A, lower the priority of B. This reduces the risk of program A causing the system to slow down or become unresponsive if it ever hangs or crashes.
Antivirus and security software often cannot be tampered with if they have self-protection on, which means you won’t be able to alter the priority. Also, be careful and don’t touch priorities of system processes like svchost unless you really know what you’re doing. This could cause unforeseen issues with general performance and other running tasks.