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Task Scheduler is a very useful tool built into most versions of Windows, and it functions in a similar way to Cron on Unix systems. In this tutorial, we will look at how to get a program to run every hour.

To find out if you have task scheduler installed open up your control panel from the Start menu. If installed you will have an icon called "Scheduled Tasks". If not you need to download it from the Microsoft website.

Open up the Scheduled Tasks applet and you should have a window that is similar to this screenshot below.

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

I am going to show you how to create a scheduled task that will run a command every hour, but if you follow the Wizard it is a very straight forward process to create tasks that run at a certain date or time as well. For this example I will be using my Internet File Downloader program to download a picture from the Internet every hour (tutorial for this program will follow shortly).

This is the first stage of the Wizard, just click Next to this one.

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

This next screen will allow us to run any of the programs Windows knows about, but on this occasion Windows does not know my download tool, so click on Browse and select the executable that you have extracted.

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

When selected the following screen will be shown, allowing you to give your task a name and select a frequency for execution. The task I will be running is on the hour, but for now just click on "Daily" and we will change the time later. Click next and the following screen will appear. You need to set Start Time to 00:01 (one minute past midnight - I'll explain later)

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

You can leave this as default as we will need to manually change the details to get it to run hourly. On the next screen you will need to enter your logon details that you use. If you do not enter a password when you turn your computer on just enter your username ("Jane Doe" or "Owner") and leave the password boxes blank.

The last box is important that you tick the box that says open advanced properties, so we can tell the scheduler that we want the task run every hour.

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

When the Advanced properties have loaded you will be shown a dialogue, click on Advanced and we can set how often to run the task. 

Now tick the box marked "Repeat Task" and change it to read Every 1 hours until the time is 23:59. This will cause the task to run every hour, 24 hours per day. If you only want the task to run between 9 am and 5 pm, for example, you simply change the Start time in the box above and the Until time in the Advanced box.

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler

Now, this will run the task every hour, however, my Downloader program requires some parameters in order to run properly. We need to tell it where to get the file and where to put the file once it's downloaded. Back on the task properties screen key in the URL and Filename below to download the latest IR satellite image from the Met Office.

c:\download.exe "http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/images/ukir_sat_200705071700.jpg" "c:"

Click OK to all boxes and return to the Task Scheduler main window. If you right-click on our newly created task you can click "Test". If all is ok then you should have a jpeg image on your c: drive.

20 thoughts on “A Guide to Windows Task Scheduler
  • 29th September 2012 at 12:00 am

    If you need a more advanced scheduler and automation tool I recommend that you try out VisualCron. VisualCron can do everything that the normal Scheduled Tasks do but also have Task types like:

    - encrypt/decrypt using PGP
    - FTP/SSH
    - call web services
    - execute SQL queries and return back result

    Reply
  • 15th February 2012 at 12:00 am

    Great stuff!! A simple, down to earth explanation - work like a charm  :-) 

    Reply
  • 25th January 2012 at 12:00 am

    Searched all over for this. I need it to make a simple guide for my field technicians.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • 18th October 2011 at 12:00 am

    Advanced options in the Task's Properties window, and select the Repeat box.

    Reply
  • 30th June 2011 at 12:00 am

    What I want to do is slightly different: I have a job which I want to run quite frequently. I would like to RUN-----DELAY TWO MINUTES---- RUN ----DELAY TWO MINUTE-----

    Problem is the RUN time is flexible. I could build in a sleep or Timeout in a batch file, but that's kind of lame. I just want to delay two minutes since the last time the Job ended not at an absolute time. (maybe this is not in scope for the scheduler)

    Reply
  • 15th March 2011 at 12:00 am

    Nice, Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.

    Reply
  • 17th November 2010 at 12:00 am

    Thats exactly what i was looking for. Simple and clear. Thanks Tim.

    Reply
  • 26th October 2010 at 12:00 am

    Good walkthrough. Unfortunately Microsoft's UI makes scheduling things so clumsy that this article is necessary.

    Reply
  • 11th March 2010 at 12:00 am

    Thanks so much, I've been trying to figure out how to run a task hourly under Windows and yours is the best explanation anywhere.

    Reply
  • 1st December 2009 at 12:00 am

    Thanks for the info on how to set it up to run every hour! As Sharon mentions this isn't very well documented by MS as far as I can see.

    Reply
  • 22nd June 2009 at 12:00 am

    Thank you - this is exactly what I was looking for. Actually this is the first place I found (including Windows HELP) that actually explained how the Repeat Until... and Duration options worked together with a daily schedule.

    Reply
  • 9th May 2009 at 12:00 am

    The good news is that this tip let me know to use the "advanced" button to set an hourly task. However, in my updated version of Windows XP Pro (a of 5/9/09) the scheduler dialogs are quite different from those shown above. Perhaps your system is Windows Vista? If so I suggest letting readers know which OS the tips apply to! Thanks.

    Reply
  • 14th April 2009 at 12:00 am

    Thanks for the solution

    Reply
  • 15th December 2008 at 12:00 am

    tones of thanks, it really helped me

    aniket

    Reply
  • 27th November 2008 at 12:00 am

    Thanks a lot !!!

    Reply
  • 17th October 2008 at 12:00 am

    Excellent Suggestion!!

    Reply
  • 12th September 2008 at 12:00 am

    Great!!! This post helped me a lot for our setup.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • 29th August 2008 at 12:00 am

    Have been looking to do a similar task with a digital photoframe I am setting up, running a update program every hour. The only problem with this method is, if the PC/laptop is not on at 00:01 for example, then it will not run until the next 00:01, it will not run every hour. Bit of a pain!

    Reply
  • 12th May 2008 at 12:00 am

    Nice, Exactly what I was looking for. You helped me out quite a bit.

    Reply
  • 3rd May 2008 at 12:00 am

    Thanks, I was looking for information on how to do this. It's unfortunate that the terrible command-line tool doesn't allow this degree of flexibility  :( 

    Reply

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