Have you ever wished that you could tell your computer to do something once and it would “rememberâ€? what you said and do it on a schedule that you define right down to the second? Even if you haven’t thought about about before, you are now. I’m going to show you how to get simple automation out of your computer. You’ll be able to automate many of the repetitive tasks that you do saving you time. I’m going to demonstrate with an example based around Microsoft(r) Anti-Spyware. Both of the programs require your computer to be on in the middle of the night in order to do what they need to do. But you may not want to leave your computer on all the time. So how do you allow your computer to run the maintenance programs that it needs, without interfering with you work flow and without leaving your computer on all the time. The answer is to schedule a shutdown after the programs have finished doing what they need to do. So your computer will not be on all night, and you won’t have to remember to shut it down before you go to work. Take note that scheduling works for any command or program installed on your computer. Let’s get started.

Scheduled Task Video - Opens a video in a new window that you can follow along with.

Scheduled Task Video - Command Line Version- Opens a video in a new window that you can follow along with.

To begin, I’m working on Windows(r) XP. However, this will work on any version of Windows(r). Microsoft(r) Anti-Spyware runs an automated scan on your system at 2:00 am everyday. You can adjust this but we’re leaving it at the installed default schedule. To schedule a shutdown once MS Anti-Spyware is complete go to Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Scheduled Tasks or Scheduled Tasks from your Control Panel. To add a new scheduled task double click “Add Scheduled Taskâ€?. This begins a wizard. Click “Nextâ€?, This will load a list of all installed programs on your system. But we want to shutdown the system, so click “Browseâ€? and go to C:\Windows\system32\shutdown or C:\Windows\system32\shutdown.exe depending on how you system is setup. Choose “Dailyâ€? on the next screen. Set the start time to 3:00am to give MS Anti-Spyware enough time to finish. Choose “Every Dayâ€? under “Perform This Taskâ€?, and the current “Start Dateâ€? of today is fine. Click “Nextâ€?, the defaults on the next screen is fine. Click “Nextâ€? then “Finishâ€?. You should now see a new scheduled task in Scheduled Task that will shutdown your computer everyday at 3am. That was easy huh? If you prefer to use the command line you can trim this 15 step process down to one command. Here’s how. Click Start->Run and type “cmdâ€?. This opens a command prompt. Type in “at 3:00 /EVERY:m,t,w,th,f,s,su shutdown /sâ€? AT assumes 24hour time, so no am/pm specification is necessary.

Congratulations, you’ve just scheduled your computer to shutdown everyday at 3:00am. But wait, I know what you’re thinking. Can I schedule other programs and tasks to run much the same way? Yes you can, this process works for any program or command. Sometimes Task Scheduler will not run the tasks you’ve scheduled. If this happens to you after trying the above, do not give up. Next week I’ll provide tips on what to do when Scheduler acts up. There is also a video tutorial on the web site that provides a walk through of the above procedure. You can even pause the video as you go through it.

This article was last updated on: 01 Mar 2006