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How to use Windows Task Scheduler to automate computer tasks


Inside This Article
1. How to use Windows Task Scheduler to automate computer tasks
   
2How to Troubleshoot if the task does not run

How to use Windows Task Scheduler to automate computer tasks



Windows 2000 (XP or greater) comes with Task Scheduler Service that can be used to enable a script, executable program, or a document to run at a designated time. It's like cron jobs on a Unix/Linux server.

What is Windows Task Scheduler Windows Task Scheduler is a Windows service and can be used to run on a computer at a specified time and date. You can only use it when the Windows Task Scheduler service is running. This service can be started, stopped, paused, and restarted from Windows Services MMC (Microsoft Management Console). To open Windows Services for Task Scheduler service, go here Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Services -> Task Scheduler.

A Windows Service is a program, routine, or process that performs a specific system function to support other programs, particularly at a low (close to the hardware) level. Some examples of Windows services are Plug and Play, Fax Service, Indexing Service.

By default, Task Scheduler Service should start automatically each time you start Windows and it runs in the background silently. If for some reason it's stopped, you need to start it before you can use it to schedule any tasks.

How to schedule a new task in Windows Task Scheduler Here are the steps to schedule a simple task. It would take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

Step #1: Create a HTML file

To demonstrate how to create a new scheduled task, we are going to schedule a task that runs at a certain time during the day. The task will simply open a HTML file to remind you checking tomorrow's weather.

Click here to download the zip file which contains the HTML file I created. After download, unzip and save it to your computer's Desktop. The file is called CheckWeather.html and it's a simple HTML page with a link to Yahoo! Weather. See screenshot below.

Check Weather Now on Yahoo! Weather

Step #2: Open Scheduled Tasks

To open Scheduled Tasks, click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Scheduled Tasks.

Open Windows Scheduled Tasks

Step 3: Add a new Scheduled Task

When Scheduled Tasks window is opened, double click Add Scheduled Task. It should bring up Scheduled Task Wizard window.

Scheduled Tasks window:
Scheduled Tasks window

Scheduled Task Wizard:
Scheduled Task Wizard

Step 4: Select a program for Windows to run at scheduled time.

As we are going to open the HTML file we created in Step #1, we need to select CheckWeather.html which is not displayed in the Application list. Click Browse button to select CheckWeather.html from your Desktop.

Browse:
Browse a program

Step 5: Choose a frequency for the task.

After you have selected CheckWeather.html, window showing below is displayed. Here you can choose how often you want the task to run. Select Daily and then click Next.

Choose task run frequency:
Choose how often the task will run

Step 6: Select task start time and day.

In this step, you need to specify when you want this task to start. If you want to see if the task is set up properly and can run without errors, choose a time that is 10 minutes from now. For example, if time now is 1:20 PM, choose 1:30 PM. Click Next to continue.

Task start time and day:
Select task start time and day

Step 7: Enter your Windows logon username and password.

This step specifies the owner of the task so that computer runs the task as if it's started and run by this user. Note that, if a password is not entered, the scheduled task might not run. Click Next to continue.

Specify the user of the task:
Enter username and password for the task

Step 8: Complete the wizard.

This is the last step in the wizard. Make sure you tick the checkbox "Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish.". Verify the information displayed and then click the button Finish.

Finish the wizard:
Complete the wizard

Step 9: Examine Task Scheduler's Properties window.

After you click Finish button, two things will happened.

First, the task is created and you should see it's name CheckWeather is displayed with information in these columns: Schedule, Next Run Time, Last Run Time, Status, etc.

Task list:
Task list

Second, the Task Scheduler's Properties window is opened. For this window, you can further finetune or modify various properties for the task. Examine each tab to see what information can be set or changed.

Properties window:
Properties window

Step 10: CheckWeather.html is opened.

If you have set up everything correctly, CheckWeather.html will be opened automatically in your default web browser in a few minutes (assume the start time you set for the task has not passed).

Check Weather Now on Yahoo! Weather

Manage Task Scheduler properties

Scheduler properties can be used to manage various aspects of running a scheduled task.

  • Modify the task you have created.

  • End a task that is running.

  • Disable or re-enable a task.

  • Specify that the task will only run when you have logged onto the computer.

  • Schedule the task to run at certain intervals. The minimum you can set is run every 1 minute.

  • To view a log of past scheduled tasks.

  • Set the task only runs if it's not using batteries.

  • Using command and parameters with an executable program in task scheduler.

  • Notify you missed task.




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Inside This Article
1. How to use Windows Task Scheduler to automate computer tasks
   
2How to Troubleshoot if the task does not run
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