Updated: 12/31/2022 by Computer Hope
Illustration of a person with seven arms to represent multitasking.

The process of having a computer perform multiple tasks simultaneously. During multitasking, tasks such as listening to music or browsing the Internet are performed in the background while using others in the foreground.

Advantages of multitasking

  • Data can be copied and pasted, or dragged and dropped, between programs.
  • May increase productivity, because multiple programs can be running at once.
  • Any changes or updates are seen immediately. For example, if a new e-mail is received, you immediately know.

Disadvantages of multitasking

  • Requires more system resources.
  • If on a laptop or portable device, takes more battery power.

Is multitasking good or bad for humans?

Most computers, programs, and operating systems are designed for multitasking and do a great job at it. However, many studies show that multitasking can reduce productivity, increase mistakes, and decrease cognitive performance.

How can I multitask on a computer?

Computers make it easy to multitask between one or more programs by having different windows for each program open on the computer. Below are all of the different ways you can multitask on a computer.

Have multiple windows open at once

If you have a large display, you can resize a window and move it so more than one window is shown on the screen at once. New versions of Windows also makes it easy to move a window to each side or corner of your screen.

Use keyboard shortcuts to switch between open windows

If you want to switch windows without using the mouse, you can press and hold the Alt, then press the Tab to switch between open windows. See the keyboard shortcut Alt+Tab page for further information on this shortcut.

Use multiple monitors on one computer

It is possible to use two or more monitors or displays on the same computer. Many people find it convenient to have two screens, keeping a program open on one screen while they work on the second screen.

Cooperative multitasking, Multithread, Non-pre-emptive multitasking, Preemptive multitasking, Protected mode, Software terms, Task