Monday, January 3, 2011

IE8 Process Priority in Windows 7

I wanted to bump up the process priority of Internet Explorer 8 under Windows 7.

There are at least a couple of ways to do this. If the app is already running, you can open Task Manager, right-click the app on the Applications tab and click Go To Process, then right-click the process name on the Processes tab and Set Priority to one of the levels above the default, Normal.

I chose a relatively quick-and-dirty method to create a batch file to boost the process priority of IE8, in conjunction with the START command, which can be tested via the Command Prompt.

Generally, the syntax is as follows:

     START /Priority ProgramName

Where /Priority is one of several values (Low, BelowNormal, Normal, AboveNormal, High, RealTime), and ProgramName is the name of a particular executable (EXE) whose priority you wish to boost.

I began with a simple batch file as a proof-of-concept to instantiate a High-priority instance of Notepad.


start /HIGH notepad


Success! Now I wanted to do something similar with Internet Explorer 8, and have it run with High process priority. The result wasn't quite what I wanted.


start /HIGH iexplore.exe

I'm running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, and have both the 32- and 64-bit versions of Internet Explorer 8 installed. Ideally I would've liked the 64-bit version to run, but it looks like by default the 32-bit one comes up via a command prompt if I omit the path (as I have lazily done here). That's no big deal, nor is the fact that there are two processes named iexplore.exe (see this article on Loosely-Coupled IE [LCIE] by Microsoft's Andy Zeigler regarding why IE8 creates two processes for itself instead of one). The problem is that neither iexplore.exe process has the desired High priority. I got around this by saving the batch file in the 64-bit version of IE's program directory, which by default lives here: 

     C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer

Now when I execute the batch file, START properly starts up one of the iexplore.exe processes at High priority.

But wait, why did it start only one process at High, and the other at Normal?? I'm not sure. I do notice, though, that unfortunately the process which appears to represent the default tab of IE8 that opens is the one set to Normal priority, which isn't exactly what I wanted. I can tell that this seems to be the case when I keep an eye on that process' CPU usage as I try browsing, as shown below.

Furthermore, as I opened additional tabs, which in turned spawned additional iexplore.exe processes in Task Manager, each of these too had only Normal process priority. Only the first process (note that the process with PID 87996 is High, while the second with PID 89476 is Normal).

The end result of this is that despite having set the priority of iexplore.exe to High via the START command in a shortcut, it seems to set this priority only for the "base" instance of iexplore.exe, not the instance which actually seems to be dedicated to browsing; not much help if your goal is to have browsing take precedence among the other activities of your applications. 

It looks like I may need to find some Windows settings specific to Internet Explorer or process priority elsewhere, whether by hacking the registry or some other means.


I stumbled upon a post on AskVG which links to a utility, Prio, which extends Task Manager to include among other things a Save Priority option, as shown below:

However, according to some of the comments in the article, some users of Windows 7 64-bit have reported problems getting their changes to process priorites to "stick" between reboots. 

I've installed the utility in a manner suggested by one of the commenters, woodburyadpost, who suggested the following installation steps:
  1. Install. DO NOT REBOOT. 
  2. Uninstall. DO NOT REBOOT. 
  3. Reinstall (and, presumably, reboot).

Curiously, the very first time I installed the utility, I received no prompt asking me to reboot, whereas after following the above steps, the installer did suggest a reboot. Perhaps this indicates the installer is missing something the first time through whereby a component isn't getting copied or installed on the system properly?

At any rate, we'll see if this works, and if so, it'll be a handy utility to have!

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