The native Windows Task Manager isn’t all too impressive. For most of us, it may as well be called a task killer since we only bring it up to kill unresponsive processes. What if you could beef up the manager with loads of nifty features, allowing you to actually manage your processes?
That’s what these alternative Task Managers do. They’re advanced, powerful, and once you’ve tasted of their usefulness, you’ll never look back. Best of all, they’re all free!
Advanced features in a well organized interface.
As far as alternatives to Windows Task Manager are concerned, Process Explorer is one of the more popular choices. It unleashes a host of powerful functions that just aren’t available on the native manager.
The user interface improvements are notable. Each process is associated with its program icon (in the native manager, icons only exist under the Applications tab, not the Processes tab) making it easier to browse. Processes are laid out in a tree format and individual branches can be collapsed, removing a lot of unnecessary clutter.
On top of that, you’ve got features like unlocking locked files, finding processes by window, and detailed resource usage info.
Process Explorer is available for free as a portable program for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. Check out our Process Explorer overview for a deeper look.
Open source Task Manager with advanced features and intuitive design.
Process Hacker is remarkably similar to Process Explorer. In fact, as you browse through its available features, you’ll see that they’re nearly identical in what they offer. In most cases, choosing between the two will come down to user interface preference.
How are they similar? Process Hacker has a color-coded process tree, real-time graphs and stats, locked file unlocks, network usage monitor, CPU priority management, and plenty of other advanced features.
One big benefit of Process Hacker over Process Explorer is that it’s open source. If you aren’t up to speed on the benefits of open source programs, we’ve got you covered with our introduction to open source.
Process Hacker is available in portable and installer formats on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. Check out our Process Hacker overview for a deeper look.
Accessible interface with a handy security check and a depth of features under the hood.
System Explorer is an advanced tool with much of the same raw power that can be found in both Process Explorer and Process Hacker. The basic interface is simple and straightforward while the advanced features are hidden inside menus, resulting in an experience that’s welcoming to newbies, yet effective for power users.
With System Explorer, you can do the usual: manage tasks and processes, get detailed resource usage information, and monitor system activities with visual graphs and charts. But System Explorer’s information extends beyond just tasks and process, going so far as to include startup apps, uninstaller info, services, drivers, and more.
But if you’re wondering why you’d use System Explorer over its competitors, the answer lies in security. The creators of System Explorer maintain a database of suspicious files that’s used to check the safety and validity of processes running on your system. Found a process you don’t recognize? Check it with one click.
System Explorer is completely free and available in portable and installer formats on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8.
Optimize tasks to improve system performance.
Process Lasso is more than just a Task Manager. It’s a task optimizer that provides a number of utilities for making sure your system runs to the best of its capabilities.
Its most lauded feature is called ProBalance, which automatically makes adjustments to your system processes in a way that optimizes CPU allocations for speed and performance.
Other features include automated process rules (to prevent certain processes from running, for example), automated power profiles (depending on which processes are running), and automated energy saving, as well as a whole host of other handy tools.
That being said, Process Lasso isn’t just about automation. With it, you can manually adjust tasks and processes on your own in case you prefer full control.
The core functionality is available for free on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. However, you’ll need the Pro version to unlock advanced Process Lasso features, which is available for $25 USD. Sadly, there is no portable version.
The best of the Windows 8 Task Manager in a portable app.
Regardless of what you might think about Windows 8, there’s no denying that its new native Task Manager is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors. Even those who did not have the most pleasant experience have praised the Windows 8 Task Manager as an improvement.
If you’re still using Windows 7 – don’t worry, so am I – then you may be interested in DBC Taskman, which is an attempt to replicate the new Task Manager on Windows 7 systems. With it, you get the updated aesthetic that makes it easier to view your system’s resource usage at a glance without losing any of the details.
It’s a portable app, which means you don’t need to install it. Put it on a USB drive or in cloud storage and you can use it everywhere you go. The one downside is a bug with task killing: it doesn’t work.
To be clear, it’s definitely the “weakest” alternative out of all the programs listed in this article, but for those who want a better version of the native manager without drowning in excessive features, DBC Taskman is the perfect choice.
Task Management Made Easy
With these tools, process management will never be a pain again. They all have their ups and downs, so give each one a try to see which one works best for you. I’ve chosen to use Process Hacker.
If you’d prefer to stick with the native manager, that’s fine too. In fact, Aaron has put forth some arguments explaining why the Windows 7 task manager is good enough. If that’s the path you’re taking, check out Task Manager Modder for customize it further than you normally could.
Which Task Manager alternative do you like best? Are there any other good ones that we missed? Let us know by posting in the comments below!