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Monitor CPU usage, optimise RAM and set process priorities with PTray

09 April 2012, Mike Williams

At first glance PTray doesn’t seem like the most interesting of tools. Does the world really need another CPU monitor? Probably not: on the rare occasions that we care about our CPU utilisation, Task Manager and Performance Monitor generally tell us everything we need to know.

Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find there’s a little to more to the program than meets the eye.

PTray doesn’t just display CPU usage, for instance: it shows your free RAM as well. Unfortunately it tries to do this in a single 16×16 pixel system tray icon, which means the figures are absolutely tiny. But if you can’t read them then you can always hover your mouse cursor over the icon, which will display extra information (including CPU utilisation by core) in a more legible tooltip.

PTray's monitoring function displays free RAM and (in the tooltip) CPU usage by core

Clicking the icon will activate PTray’s second feature, where the program asks Windows to free up memory by minimising the RAM use of all running processes (it’s using the SetProcessWorkingSetSize() API function, if you’re interested). This isn’t as useful as is sometimes claimed – some applications, like Explorer, will free up RAM then grab most of it again immediately – but can be handy in a few circumstances.

And just in case that’s not enough, when PTray launches it can also configure your process priorities (equivalent to right-clicking a process and selecting Set Priority in the Task Manager Processes tab). This is very basic: you have to set it up via an INI file, for instance, and the program only uses this to set priorities when it launches. But if you only need to tweak the priority of a few background processes then it may be enough.

As a resource monitor, then, PTray is ugly and extremely basic. Its memory and priority tweaks make the program a little more appealing, though, and if you’re interested then PTray is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours.

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