Many people need to schedule Windows to take actions at specific times, even when they're not at the computer. For example, you might want to schedule a backup or update for a certain time every day or week.

Windows 2000 includes a command-line tool to schedule events: the AT command. To learn more about the AT command, open a command prompt and type HELP AT.

The AT command isn't exactly user-friendly, particularly if you're not familiar with working with the command prompt. For that reason, many people turn to the Scheduled Tasks folder to schedule events.

To open the Scheduled Tasks folder, go to Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Scheduled Tasks. You can add a scheduled task by double-clicking the Add Scheduled Task icon to begin the Scheduled Task Wizard. The wizard prompts you to select the application and the schedule frequency.

While the Scheduled Tasks folder offers a relatively simple way to schedule events automatically, it still has limitations. If you need to respond to dialog boxes presented by scheduled applications, shut down or reboot the local or a remote computer, or take other actions not offered by the Scheduled Tasks folder, a handful of third-party tools exist that provide simplified but relatively powerful event scheduling.

One example is Splinterware's System Scheduler. The free version of the program provides easy scheduling and the ability to send key presses to application dialog boxes. The Professional version offers support for additional actions as well as support.