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Ever wonder what Set Affinity does when you right click a process in the Task Manager? - fixedByVonnie

Ever wonder what Set Affinity does when you right click a process in the Task Manager?

Okay check this out:  Right now, open the Task Manager, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc, zip over to the Details tab and right-click a random process.

If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, forget about the Details tab.  You can just right click a process in the Process tab to see the same result.

Most people who use the Task Manager are familiar with the End Process command but what does that Set Affinity… thing do?

I’m a curious guy and I’ve occasionally wondered about this apparently enigmatic option.

I mean, “Affinity” isn’t a word we hear a lot of these days but even a quick dictionary look-up didn’t tell me how it pertains to my computer.

Windows 8.1 Set Affinity

Clicking the Set affinity option gives us a clue.

Set Processor Affinity

Ah ha!

So this has something to do with my CPU cores.

I ran a quick WMIC command to see how many logical cores I have:

wmic cpu get NumberOfCores, NumberOfLogicalProcessors/Format:List

Windows 8.1 use WMIC to view number of cores

Okay, so I actually have 8 logical cores; thus, it appears that the Set Affinity command let’s me assign a particular processor to one or more cores.

And that’s actually what it does.

According to Microsoft, the Set Processor Affinity command allows you to manually assign a particular process to have affinity or kinship with a specific processor.

Now you might be asking why would you ever do this?

The short answer is that you would never need to do this.

The engineers on the Windows development team designed Windows so that it automatically identifies  indolent processors needing work.  The processors doing the least amount of work are eligible to start working on new applications as they appear in memory.  If you manually link an affinity to a specific process then even when the CPU get’s busy Windows can’t allocate it to another CPU with a lighter load.  So as you can imagine, this could actually limit the performance of your system.

The bottom line is that the Set Affinity command is rarely used but even when it is, it’s usually employed by developers who are working on real-time systems such as factory automation.

Unless you’re setting up performance benchmarks for a specific application or you’re trying to run a single-threaded legacy application on a multi-core system, you really shouldn’t expect to tweak the affinity values.

I know there are a few sites out there that claim you can boost your performance by messing with the affinity values.  I agree that there may be some merit to this if you know what you’re doing but I think the best thing for all of us is to simply let Windows be Windows and manage its processor affinities for us.

If you’re looking to boost your system performance, there are a number of safer more effective things you can do to make that happen.

Have you ever used the Set Affinity value?  If so I’m curious what you were using it for.  Please share in the comments!


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Posted in Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with:
  • David

    I work using a 6 p.c network. For business use, To reorganize and back up our database each night is a fairly lengthy
    task especially after a 12 hr shift. even though it only saves 3 to 4 minutes setting the affinity to a single processor of my choice. This is a big deal for us here especially when it is time to go home. 🙂

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  • Toxic Twinkie

    so I actually did use set affinnity to make performance increase. My computer which was overclocked standard was running Silent Hunter 5 and that game has so many performance issues. There is a lot of mouse lag, and as it turns out only allowing one processor core to be routed for the program stopped that lag almost entirely. I believe this was due to the route of information being shorter due to the fact that the only cpu checked was 0 (0 is really 1) rather than being the full 11 that I have on my pc. The more you have active the more time it takes for information to pass through each “gate” however it does take the work load off and spread it evenly through out all of them. but if you change overclock settings and then shorten the route so now the information only has one “gate” to go through but also a heavier load hence the overclocking. To conclude you can actually use the affinity for increased performance alongside overclocking to shorten the path that information needs to take. Watch your numbers though and dont be stupid about it and all should be good. of course 99 percent of the time you will not need to set affinity because as the Admin stated you will rarely need this.