Task Manager is a powerful program for managing running applications, processes, and logged on users, and for checking basic system and network performance.
Since Windows Vista, there is also a program called Resource Monitor for more detailed information about your system and active applications.
You can open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc on your keyboard or by right-clicking (or tapping and holding on touch-screens) on an empty space of Taskbar and selecting Task Manager (Windows XP, Vista, 8/8.1 and 10) or Start Task Manager.
In Windows Vista, 7, and 10, you can also use the Start menu Search box for launching Task Manager - just type "task" and click View running processes with Task Manager or Task Manager.
In Windows 8 and 8.1, open Apps search/Search everywhere using keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Q, type "task" into the Search box, and click Task Manager. Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key+X to open the Quick Links menu (a list of system management tools, also available in Windows 10) and click Task Manager.
Touch-screen users should swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap the Search icon.
To make system monitoring easier, Task Manager is on top of all other windows by default. You can change that by opening the Options menu and clicking Always On Top.
Double-clicking an empty space inside the Task Manager window in Windows XP, Vista, and 7 will hide its Title Bar and Tabs. On the Performance and Networking tabs, this will show a larger CPU (processor) or network usage graphs. Double-click some empty space again to restore the normal view.
These views are not available in Windows 8 and newer.
In Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, Task Manager opens in the simple view if launched for the first time. In this view, you can perform essential tasks by right-clicking or touching and holding a running app.
If no program is open, the "There are no running apps" message is displayed: you can either launch an app (please note that Windows/File Explorer is not listed in simple view) or click/tap the More Details button to open the full view of Task Manager.
Several new commands are available in the right-click menu of Task Manager. You can launch apps in simple view using the Run new task command - for example, if File Explorer crashes so that nothing except for desktop background is visible, right-click a running process, choose the command, type "explorer" and click OK to make Desktop and Taskbar reappear. Remember the Ctrl+Shift+Esc shortcut for such situations.
Please note that while Windows Explorer has been renamed to File Explorer since Windows 8, all explorer.exe processes are still called Windows Explorer in Task Manager.
The Open file location command opens the app folder in File Explorer, so you can easily verify it is the correct program, not malware. You can also verify a program's legitimacy using the Properties command.
The Search online command helps in case you have no idea whether the running app is a safe one or some malware. Clicking the command will open your default Internet browser and find results using its default search engine. If you see that the program is labeled as malware (for example, many links to removal guides), it is necessary to run a full anti-virus scan.
Please note: in Internet Explorer, you might need to enable the Search in the Address Bar option in the Manage Add-ons window for this feature to work.
Windows 8 and later changed the Processes tab of Task Manager completely - it displays current total usage of CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network resources and allows application grouping for a better overview.
The fully manageable list of processes is now available in the Details tab.
Windows 10 Creators Update (April 2017) runs every service in its own process instead of grouping them under multiple Service Host (svchost.exe) processes. Your device needs at least 3.5 GB of RAM for this to work.
In Task Manager, desktop programs and Windows Store applications are both called just "apps".
Click More details to reveal the tabs if Task Manager is in default (simple) view.
On this tab, you can sort by any column by clicking on it; stopping the mouse pointer on a column header reveals what the contents mean.
Windows Store (aka Modern UI/Metro) apps can be suspended in Windows 8/8.1 and 10. To check this status, open the View menu (Alt+V), expand Status values, and click Show suspended status.
Suspended Windows Store apps are sleeping in the background and waiting to be activated. They will not update any Live Tiles while suspended. Such apps suspend automatically if not used for a longer period of time.
To enable easier distinguishing between apps, services, and processes, open the View menu again and enable the Group by type option.
Please note that grouping is not used if you sort the list by any other column than Name.
This will provide a much better overview of running programs/apps, background processes, and Windows processes. Generally, you should not use the End task command on the background or Windows processes.
If a process or an app has several child processes, the number of these are displayed in brackets until the group is expanded.
Please note that the right-click menu has different options if clicked on a group, sub-process, or service.
For a group, you can use the new and useful Open file location and Search online commands for quick distinguishing between safe processes and malware. The Go to details command opens the associated process in the Details tab where you can also lower its priority or kill the process or process tree forcibly.
If you right-click a service, you can stop it, open the Services management console to manage it, or search online to verify it is safe. The latter is useful in case you have no idea what the service does, if it is safe to stop it or if it is related to some malware.
Right-clicking or touching and holding the Windows Explorer group in the Windows processes section has one more new option - Restart. This enables easier recovery of Desktop and Taskbar in case the explorer.exe process stops responding or crashes completely.
To display usage percentages instead of numeric values in Memory, Disk, or Network columns, select the option form Resource values of the right-click menu.
In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, you can see which Windows Store (aka Modern UI or Metro) apps have consumed most of the available resources over a longer period of time. Open the App history tab to see statistics for your user account.
You can sort the list by any column by clicking on its header. All column headers provide an overview of data displayed if you stop the mouse pointer on them.
To make the list easier to read, higher resource usage values are displayed in darker colors.
You can select columns displayed by right-clicking on any present column header and enabling or disabling available options.
The difference between Metered networks and Non-metered networks is that the former includes networks that charge for the amount of data uploaded and downloaded - cellular (3G, 4G, LTE), dial-up, and other similar networks.
To reset the data usage for your account, click Delete usage history. The action will not be confirmed.
Another new tab in Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 Task Manager is Startup. This allows easy management of startup apps for the current user account. If you are an administrator you can manage all startup items for your device.
The Startup Impact column shows how the program affects Windows boot time. You should not always disable all startup programs with high startup impact as they might be required for some apps to work properly. Please do some online research before taking action.
Right-click or touch and hold an app to disable or enable it at startup, or use the new Open file location and Search online commands to gather more information about the item.
In older versions of Windows, you can do the same using the Startup tab of msconfig (System Configuration) program, but it does not have the Startup impact column.
You need Task Manager when an application (program) has stopped responding and you need to close it by force or a program is so busy that you cannot switch to other windows.
If an application is very busy doing something processor-intensive, its Taskbar icon might be unresponsive and you can't minimize its window. When you need to see other programs, open Task Manager, and go to the Applications tab. Right-click on the application name and select Minimize. This should force the application to minimize in a short period of time.
You could also right-click the program you want to see and click Switch To or Bring To Front.
In Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, the simple view of Task Manager offers only the Switch To command; others are available only if you click the More details button, expand an app, and right-click its process in the Processes tab. More on that later in this article.
If an application stays unresponsive for a long time and distracts your work, it is better to close it. The nice way for this is by ending its task; the more brute way is to kill its process (discussed later in this article).
To play nice and tell an application to stop its work and close, right-click on its name in the Task Manager Applications tab and click End Task (see the picture above).
In most cases, this closes the application.
To see a list of running processes (this includes applications and services) in Windows XP, Vista, and 7, click the Processes tab.
In Windows 8, 8,1, and 10, click or touch the More details button if Task Manager is in default (simple) view and then open the Details tab.
Here you can sort the listed applications by any column visible (Name, PID, CPU, etc) in the ascending or descending order. Click on a column name once and it will be sorted in ascending order, the next click will sort it in descending order, and so on.
The list is dynamically updated every second, so if you sort the process list by CPU (processor usage in percentage) column in descending order you will see the processes that consume the most of your computer's processing power.
If there are many programs running at the same time, the list might change quickly and make it hard to find a certain process. Sort the list by Image Name or Name column (this is actually the file name of the running program) and find the process in a much more peaceful list.
Windows 8 and newer display details on what each column means if you stop the mouse pointer on the column header.
In Windows XP, Vista, and 7, only programs started by the current user (you) are shown by default.
Windows 8/8.1 and 10 display all running processes for all user account types, but the User name column is empty if you are a standard user and the process was not started by you.
To see system processes and running programs of all users logged on to a Windows XP, Vista, or 7 computer, click the Show processes from all users checkbox (in Windows XP) or button. This will also display "System Idle Process" - an indicator of unused processor power at the time. This should have a value around 90 if your computer is not doing much, but the value will never exceed 99.
In Windows Vista and 7, the button will be replaced by a checkbox with the same name after the change.
But then a normal user never knows what process he/she needs to check - the names are sometimes pretty cryptic. To access the correct process, go back to the Applications tab, right-click on the running application you want to manage, and choose Go To Process. This is especially useful when you have several My Computer windows open and one of them stops responding. All those My Computer and Windows/File Explorer windows are different processes with the same name (explorer.exe), but the Go To Process command shows you exactly the right one.
Please note that you can also distinguish between processes with the same name using the value in the PID (Process Identifier) column.
In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, the Processes tab allows the same actions for all programs except for Windows Explorer. You can end any open Windows Explorer process by expanding its group and right-clicking the required one (select End task). For other apps, you can right-click on the group name (not any sub-processes) and click Go to details. This command will open the Details tab and select the process in use by the selected app or program.
If your device is slow and some process is consuming lots of CPU for a longer time, try changing its priority to a lower level instead of ending it. By default, most processes start with the Normal priority: this means that CPU resources are shared equally between all running services and apps.
In most cases, you need to run Task Manager with administrative rights to manage process priorities.
To lower the priority of a process, right-click (or tap and hold on touch-screens) it in the Processes tab (Windows XP, Vista, and 7), expand Set Priority, and choose BelowNormal (in Windows XP) or Below Normal.
In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, you should do this in the Details tab instead.
You can also set the process to Low priority if it still seems to eat all processor power even after changing to Below Normal level. One example where this might be useful is when Windows Search Indexer (SearchIndexer.exe) starts to consume way too many resources for no apparent reason.
To allocate more resources to a process, choose Above Normal instead. This might be useful for programs that deal with time-consuming tasks, such as video encoding. High is also acceptable sometimes, but Realtime is never recommended because this might make your device unresponsive (essential system tasks do not get enough resources).
Windows will then open a window warning about possible system instability. Click Yes (in Windows XP) or Change priority.
Please note that if you are trying to change a priority level of some essential system processes, you will get the "Access Denied" error message instead. Some processes do not allow changing their priorities to keep Windows stable.
This does not mean that you can fool around with all processes on the list, though! Keep your mind clear and change only the process that seems to be causing trouble.
Please remember that process priority settings are not permanent - they last only until the process itself or your device restarts.
In case your PC has multiple physical processors (CPU-s), or a CPU with multiple cores and/or HyperThreading, you can set the affinity of a process. Affinity defines which processors or cores a program or a service can use.
For example, if your device has 4 cores available, then limiting affinity to 3 cores means that the process can only use up to 75% of CPU resources, 2 cores limit it to 50% CPU, and 1 core means that only 25% of total CPU resources will be available for the process. Basically, the more cores your computer has, the better your options are - on a Dual Core computer your options are only 100% and 50%.
Again, you cannot change the affinity of critical system processes and services. For example, the infamous SearchIndexer.exe (Windows Search Indexer) affinity can only be limited in Windows 7 and newer. Windows Vista users should definitely limit Windows Search priority to Power Saver in Power Options.
To define affinity for a process, right-click (or tap and hold on touch-screens) it in the Processes (Windows XP, Vista, and 7) or Details tab (Windows 8 and 8.1), and choose Set Affinity.
Tick the checkboxes for processors (CPU-s) that you want to allow for the selected process and click OK. In Windows 7 and newer, you can use the <All Processors> checkbox for selecting or deselecting all cores at once - but you must choose at least one core.
Please note that affinity settings are not permanent - they last only until the process or your PC restarts.
Users of Windows Vista and newer can also use Event Log for troubleshooting performance of programs, services, and drivers.
If an application is totally unresponsive and clicking the End Task in Applications (Windows XP, Vista, and 7) or Processes (Windows 8/8.1) tab changes nothing, you can try stopping the process itself.
In Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, advanced users can check general details about why the process hung. Right-clicking a process with the "Not responding" status and choosing the Analyze wait chain could lead to a solution.
The second new command available for troubleshooting unresponsive processes in Windows 8 and later is Create dump file - this creates a rather large .dmp file that can be analyzed with tools like WinDbg.
Right-click the program you want to stop and select End Process.
Windows will open a warning window, click Yes (in Windows XP), or End process to kill the process.
Please note that you can only stop your own processes (see the User name column) if you are a standard user, not an administrator.
Some processes have sub-processes or related processes and if stopping a power-hungry process does not free CPU resources, right-click it again and select End Process Tree instead.
If after ending a hung process (especially when killing explorer.exe) your Desktop and Taskbar disappear, you can get them back quite easily. Open the File menu and click New Task (Run...) or Run new task (in Windows 8/8.1/10 only).
The Create New Task window opens.
If you've enabled the Show processes from all users option in Windows Vista, there will be an additional line stating "This task will be created with administrative privileges". Some processes (such as explorer.exe) should not be run with elevated rights, close Task Manager, and re-open it using keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Then launch the program normally.
In Windows 7, 8/8.1 and 10, you can just tick or clear the Create this task with administrative privileges box.
Type "explorer" and click OK.
Your Desktop and Taskbar will reappear after a few seconds. Please note that this restarts Desktop and Taskbar only, any previously open Explorer windows must be relaunched.
In Windows 8 and newer, the Processes tab of Task Manager enables easier restarting of the Windows Explorer process. Just right-click the Windows Explorer group (not any of its sub-processes) and use the Restart command.
You can also use the Processes or Details tab for checking which program or process has used the most resources over time.
In Windows XP, Vista, and 7, open the View menu and choose Select Columns.
In Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, right-click or touch and hold any column head (title) and choose Select columns.
Use checkboxes to display or hide the columns you need.
- To reveal long-time CPU (processor) hogs, enable the CPU Time column. This displays the total processor time that processes have used since they started.
- To see which programs, apps, or processes use hard disk the most, turn on the I/O Read Bytes and I/O Write Bytes columns.
- Memory consumption can be seen in the Memory Usage and Virtual Memory Size columns (Windows XP only) or Commit size (Windows Vista and newer) columns. This reveals the total amount of RAM and paging file used by a process.
Click OK after you're done.
Now Task Manager displays the columns you selected. You might have to resize its window to see all items.
In most cases, the System Idle Process should have the largest value in the CPU Time column - this shows the total time while the processor was not in use.
In Windows Vista and later, Task Manager includes the Services tab. This displays the list of all services with their current status (Stopped or Running). This tab is not meant for configuring services, but you can open the Services management console by clicking the Services (Windows Vista and 7) or Open Services button under the list.
Here you can start or stop services and see which process the selected running service is related to. I do not recommend fiddling with items listed under this tab as this can lower system security if you stop an important service. If you want to check which process a running (not stopped!) service is related to, right-click the service and select Go to Process (Windows Vista and 7) or Go to Details.
You can also do this the other way round - to see which service(s) a running process is related to, right-click the process under Processes (Windows Vista and 7) or Details tab and click Go to Service(s). This is especially useful in case you want to know which services a certain svchost.exe process is related to - there are normally several Service Host processes running in Windows. If you like manual labor very much, you can match values in the PID column of Processes/Details and Services tabs.
Please note that not all running processes are related to services.
The Performance tab of Task Manager displays essential indicators for system performance. Most of these are useful for advanced users, but you can still see graphically how much of your computer's processor power and Page File (in Windows XP) or Physical Memory is used in real-time. Please note that the History graphs are updated only while Task Manager is running.
In case you have a multi-core / HyperThreading processor or more than one processor installed, you will see a graph for each core or physical CPU.
Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 have completely reworked this tab: it has sub-tabs for CPU, Memory, all disk drives, and network adapters, each displaying additional hardware information and more detailed usage data. All graphs provide an overview of the data when you stop mouse pointer on them.
If processor usage is high for a long time, go back to the Processes tab and click the CPU column twice. This will reveal which processes use the most of your computer's processor resources. Ignore the "System Idle Process" - this shows how much of processor power is free.
There are cases when some processes keep utilizing a large chunk of CPU resources: for example, WmiPrvSE.exe does this when the WMI repository is corrupt. There are usually fixes and workarounds available on the Internet.
To check if your computer has enough RAM (Random Access Memory) installed, open all the programs that you tend to keep running at all times, and use these for some time (10-15 minutes).
In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, open the Memory tab from the left and check the Available column - if the number is often zero or only a few megabytes, the current amount of RAM is insufficient.
In Windows Vista and 7, see the Physical Memory line on the bottom right of the window. If the percentage often exceeds 85, more RAM is required.
In Windows XP, see the Available line in the Physical Memory (K) section on the right. If the number is consistently less than 32 000 (32 megabytes), you should consider adding more RAM.
In Windows Vista and later, you can use ReadyBoost to reduce stress on RAM and disk drives.
The next tab in the Windows Task Manager is called Networking. In Windows 8/8.1 and 10, the same tab has been moved to the Performance tab.
In Windows XP, Vista, and 7, it does not display any other useful information than the network adapter usage history and link speed. The usage indicator will not usually exceed a few percent. If your computer has multiple network adapters, there is a separate history graph for each adapter.
Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 reveal some more useful data, such as IP-address(es) (local, not external), and DNS name.
The Users tab displays all users that are logged on to your computer. Administrators can disconnect their sessions, log them off, or send messages to them. It does not seem to make much sense as consumer versions of Windows allow only one active user at a time, but it might come in handy when there are multiple user accounts on your device, and User Switching is turned on.
Windows 8/8.1 and 10 have again improved the tab, helping administrators list running processes and resource usage for every user. Standard users can see their own data here, but not others' data. The number of running processes for a user is displayed in brackets.
In the first example below, Mirjam is currently logged on and using the Windows 7 computer. Her status is "Active" and the Session column states "Console": this means that she is actively using the computer (aka physical access).
Margus was also logged on, but he used the Switch Users or Switch account command instead of logging off/signing out: his programs are still running, although his status is "Disconnected".
A session can also be "RDP-Tcp" in case Remote Desktop or Remote Assistance is enabled. On most home devices, Remote Desktop should not be enabled, but if it is, you can see the remote host name or IP address in the Client Name column.
In the second example, it is the other way round - Margus is signed in with his Microsoft Account (note that his Status column is empty in Windows 8 and newer) and Mirjam's local account is disconnected.
Now imagine that Mirjam needs to restart the computer after running Windows Update. If Margus is not available, but Mirjam knows his password (that is a very bad practice, never share passwords), she can log on as Margus, close his running programs and then restart the computer. This is exactly the same as using the Switch Users command and logging on as Margus from Welcome Screen - but doing it with Task Manager takes fewer steps.
Please remember that only administrators can connect to another user's session. Windows Vista and 7 users must first click the Show processes from all users button of Processes tab in order to run Task Manager with elevated privileges. Without these rights, managing other users' sessions fails with the dreaded "Access is denied" error.
To connect as another user, right-click the user name and select Connect.
Note that Windows 8/8.1 and 10 (the second picture) adds another useful feature to the right-click menu - the Manage user accounts command. This opens User Accounts in Control Panel (not the Windows Store app).
Type other user's password and click OK.
You will then be switched to another user's session. Your own open programs will continue to run in your own session.
If Mirjam has administrative rights but does not know Margus's password (this is good practice), she still can log Margus off. Again, Windows Vista and 7 users must first click the Show processes from all users button (Processes tab) in order to run Task Manager as an administrator. Without these rights, ending other users' sessions fails with the "Access is denied" error.
Right-click or touch and hold the user name and select Log Off (Windows XP, Vista, and 7) or Sign off. This will close the user's running programs and therefore he/she will lose all unsaved changes in open programs and apps. Use it with care!
A confirmation window opens. Click Yes (in Windows XP), Log off user (Windows Vista and 7), or Sign out user to log the selected user off.
When Mirjam does not know Margus's password and she does not want to log him off, she can still leave a message for Margus, for example, "Log off and restart the computer as soon as possible - new updates need to take effect!". Mirjam can then log off, leave the computer running and go to some night club... err, sports club. When Margus returns, he will see the message after logging on. Such an inexpensive substitute for a phone call or an SMS.
To send a message to another user, you need administrative rights again.
Right-click on the user's name and choose the Send Message command.
The Send Message window opens. The Message title field is filled automatically, but you can change it if you want to. Then type something in the Message field and click OK to send the message.
You might hear a beep to indicate that a message was received by the user.
When the user logs on the next time, he/she will see the message: