How to Schedule Custom Tasks on Windows 8

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Task schedulers are available in Windows operating system since long time. Windows 8 has an advanced task scheduler with tons of options to schedule complex and custom tasks with such ease. In fact, most of the times, you won't even need majority of its options while scheduling a typical task. Today, we're going to take a look at the working of Windows 8 task scheduler and its powerful features. This will literally make you a Windows ninja capable of running custom jobs on the machine on an automated basis. We'll look at some of the important options available in the task scheduler and will also schedule a demo custom task. You can make appropriate changes in the example task presented below to run them easily on your PC. Let's quickly master advanced task scheduler of Windows 8 in a few easy-to-follow steps.

Task Scheduling Basics

Before you start using Windows task scheduler, there are several important things one must consider to ensure your system works smoothly without any performance degradation. It's often observed that once a user gets hold of task scheduling options, he is tempted to create more and more automated tasks.

Before you fall in this trap, here are some generic guidelines to ensure you're using the task scheduler in a correct way.
  • Unless it is not critical or important, avoid scheduling any task.
  • Avoid scheduling tasks that involve high disk or CPU activity.
  • Audit and analyze the performance trail of all the scheduled custom tasks.
  • Do not schedule sensitive tasks that involve remote network access activities.
Warning: Use advanced task scheduler with care. Incorrect or careless task scheduling can degrade the performance of your computer.

Scheduling a Basic Custom Task

We'll start the tutorial with two important actions. We'll first look how we can access the advanced task scheduler on a Windows 8 PC. Thereafter, we will schedule a simple custom task to get hold of the basics.

You can access task scheduler in different ways and it entirely depends on your choice which method you prefer or find convenient. Here's how I generally open task scheduler : Windows Key + X → Control Panel → Administrative Tools → Task Scheduler

There are two ways to schedule a custom task. First one is fairly simple and includes a wizard based dialogue window that can be used to create simple tasks. The second method is more powerful and includes number of powerful and flexible options to fine tune your custom scheduled task as per your requirements. We're going to focus on the latter method as it gives you more leverage to get more out of advanced task scheduler.

Creating our first task - Instead of clicking the 'Create Basic Task...' option, choose 'Create Task...' option.

This will open a multi-tabbed window with several options to customize and run your scheduled task as shown below.

Task scheduler window
We'll use this window to schedule our first simple task. For now, we'll focus only on the most basic and important options that are required to run a typical custom task. So here we go...
  • General Tab - As the name implies, this important tab specifies some of the common features associated with the task. Specify the name of the task and leave all other options as it is. Make sure the task name is in human readable format hinting about the primary job a task may perform during run time.
  • Triggers Tab - This important tab includes some options that govern when your custom task should fire. There are plenty of scheduling options in this tab that can be used to decide when you want your task to perform the required job.
  • Actions Tab - Once you've defined the trigger, you must specify the source executable that will perform the required job. In simple words, this tab helps you select the application you want to run as a scheduled task.
  • Conditions Tab - Here you can specify some additional conditions to start, stop or restart the scheduled task. In other words, this section let's you fine tune the task scheduling conditions.
  • Settings Tab - And last but not the least, this tab gives you some more power to let you specify how your task may behave if some conditions are met. Generally, we use this section to clean up things or to address bottlenecks that may arise during the active state of the job.
Now let's schedule a sample task to get hold of the basics. For demo purpose, we're going to schedule a custom task where file explorer will open automatically every time the administrator will log in on the PC. This is a fairly simple task for demonstration purpose.

The executable file for Windows Explorer (explorer.exe) resides in Windows folder of the system drive which is usually C: drive. Our demo scheduled task will execute this application every time administrator will log in. Here's how you can do it in a few simple steps.
  • Open the task scheduler and click 'Create Task...' option.
  • Switch to the 'General' tab. It is active by default when the new task window is opened for the first time.

    Task scheduling general tab
    Fill the name and description fields with appropriate text. This will ensure you can easily deduce what the task is all about while editing or deleting it in future. Leave all other settings and options on this tab to their default state.
  • Now switch to the 'Triggers' tab. As the name implies, this tab allows you to specify the event that should trigger the scheduled task.

    Scheduled task trigger option
    Since our demo scheduled task is going to start every time administrator will log in, we'll specify that specific event in this tab. Click 'New...' option in this tab that will open a new dialogue window. Select the log on option as shown in the image above along with the administrator account right below it.
  • And now comes the important 'Actions' tab that is used to specify the executable file that will run whenever the log on event will happen.

    Scheduled task action executable file
    Again click the 'New...' option to select the file explorer executable file as shown above. Note: You can specify multiple actions and triggers, if required.
  • Since we're scheduling a simple demo task, you can easily skip the 'Conditions' tab with the default settings.
  • Same goes for the 'Settings' tab that can work fine in its default state.
Once all the tab settings are finished, save your scheduled task. To see it in action, simply log in with administrator account credentials and see how file explorer will automatically start on your desktop.

So that covers the basics of the task scheduler available in Windows 8. You can create more demo tasks to test out more options available for creating more flexible and powerful custom tasks.


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