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In the built-in Documentation there is an example how it is possible to change the priority of the MathKernel process using NetLink: NETLink/example/Part1/ProcessPriority (not available online).

I wish to change the default priority of the MathKernel processes.

Is it possible to achieve this without initializing NetLink?

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There are two documented ways to achieve this:

  1. Create the environment variable MATHKERNELINIT with value -threadpriority=-1 (the number -1 under Windows corresponds to the priority Below Normal). Under Windows a permanent environment variable can be created via System PropertiesAdvanced system settingsAdvancedEnvironment Variables. After creating this environment variable all the new MathKernel processes will have the priority Below Normal by default (and in all installed versions of Mathematica!). System reboot is not necessary.

  2. Via the Evaluation ► Kernel Configuration Options... dialog create a new kernel and in the Advanced Options add the -threadpriority=-1 command line switch, then make this kernel the Default Kernel via the Evaluation ► Default Kernel submenu. This will not affect the Notebooks configured to use other kernels.

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