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As a Windows user, you’ll occasionally run into problems: unresponsive windows, high CPU usage, high disk usage, suspicious apps, etc. When that happens, the Windows Task Manager should be your first line of defense.

Unfortunately, the Windows Task Manager isn’t very impressive. Did it receive a bunch of enhancements with Windows 10? Yes. Does it still have a few tricks up its sleeve 10 Windows Task Manager Tricks You Didn't Know 10 Windows Task Manager Tricks You Didn't Know If the only time you open the Task Manager is when an application is frozen and needs to be killed, you're overlooking some of its more powerful features. Read More ? Of course. But the more you use it, the more you realize that it’s lacking in some areas.

Which is why we recommend using an alternative task manager. The ones below are more advanced, more powerful, and best of all, available free of charge. There’s no risk, so why not give them a try?

1. Process Explorer

Back in 2012, we called Process Explorer the most powerful Task Manager replacement ever Process Explorer - The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows] Process Explorer - The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows] Let’s be honest, the Windows Task Manager isn’t that great for understanding and managing the processes running on your computer. Even on Windows 8, where it’s much-improved, the task manager can’t come close to the... Read More — and that remains true even to this day. Provided by Sysinternals, Process Explorer is a portable-only app that comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Once launched, you’ll see an overview of all running processes on your system organized in a hierarchy. There’s also a lower pane (disabled by default) that shows which DLLs or handles are in use by processes. Both of these features combine to make system troubleshooting much easier.

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Notable features include:

  • Color-coded processes list for easier navigation.
  • See which open files are locked by which processes.
  • Set Affinity and Priority actions for processes.
  • Restart, Suspend, Kill Process, and Kill Process Tree actions.
  • Real-time CPU, GPU, RAM, and I/O diagnostic data and graphs.

2. Process Hacker

Process Hacker is the only open source What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More Task Manager alternative on this list.

It comes in both installed and portable versions and is virtually identical to Process Explorer above. The system processes overview shows a hierarchical, color-coded tree that’s packed with information. There’s no lower pane, but you can learn everything you need to know about a process by right-clicking on it.

So why is Process Hacker ranked lower than Process Explorer? Because Process Hacker’s development is on the slower side. While the project’s GitHub is active, the last stable release as of this writing is from 2016.

Notable features include:

  • Color-coded processes list for easier navigation.
  • Set Affinity, Priority, and I/O Priority actions for processes.
  • Find processes by window and windows by processes.
  • Restart, Suspend, Terminate, and Terminate Tree actions.
  • Manage services, network connections, and disks.
  • Real-time CPU, GPU, RAM, and I/O diagnostic data and graphs.

3. System Explorer

Despite its generic name, System Explorer is far from run-of-the-mill. Not only does it help with process management, it comes with a handful of features that can increase system security and protect against disaster. Unfortunately, no portable version is available.

My favorite feature is per-process CPU usage history, which can be viewed over the past minute, past hour, and past day. You can also view overall system performance in real-time, which shows some intricate details like number of page faults or percentage of system interrupts How to Fix High CPU Usage Caused by System Interrupts How to Fix High CPU Usage Caused by System Interrupts Your computer suffers from high CPU usage and the process that hogs most resources is "system interrupts"? We will help you get to the bottom of this! Read More .

Another standout feature is Snapshots. With System Explorer, you can create File, Registry, or File+Registry snapshots that you can compare against one another for better troubleshooting. Security Scans are also available, in case you spot a suspicious process.

Notable features include:

  • Scan running processes against an online security database.
  • Detailed CPU usage histories on a per-process basis.
  • Store and compare File, Registry, and File+Registry snapshots.
  • Set Affinity and Priority actions for processes.
  • Restart, Suspend, End Process, and End Process Tree actions.
  • Manage modules, autoruns, drivers, users, and more.

4. Task Manager DeLuxe

Task Manager DeLuxe (TMX) promotes itself as a direct Task Manager replacement except better. TMX has a somewhat cluttered interface, but once you learn how to use it (which takes no time at all), you’ll realize that every bit is useful. It’s only available as a portable app.

In addition to real-time monitoring of system processes, services, and network connections, TMX allows management of startup apps and tasks. You’ll find the charts and graphs for various monitors informative, and I like that TMX can immediately elevate privileges for any process.

Notable features include:

  • Desktop Explorer shows process details upon mousing over windows.
  • Detailed real-time monitoring of individual processes.
  • Browse, search, and filter all opened or locked files.
  • Find processes by window and windows by processes.
  • Restart, Suspend, and Terminate actions.
  • Manage services, network connections, and disks.
  • Real-time CPU, GPU, RAM, and I/O diagnostic data and graphs.

Note that some web filters, like K-9 Web Protection, mark the MiTeC team’s site under the Spyware/Malware category. I didn’t find any issues there, but if you want to be cautious, you can download Task Manager DeLuxe from MajorGeeks instead (we trust this site for downloads 9 Cleanest & Safest Websites to Download Free Software for Windows 9 Cleanest & Safest Websites to Download Free Software for Windows Downloading software can be dangerous. Visit the wrong site and you might accidentally download malware. We have compiled free software download sites you can trust. Read More ).

5. Daphne

Daphne may not look like much, but this lightweight app packs quite a punch. Yes, the wall of text and bare-bones interface may overwhelm you at first, but you’ll love it because it can do a few unique things. Unfortunately, a portable version is unavailable.

First, Daphne has four ways to kill a process: immediate, immediate polite (non-forced), scheduled, and scheduled polite. Want to wait until a certain day and time to end a task? Daphne makes it possible and easy. It also has an option for running processes on certain days and times.

Furthermore, in addition to finding processes by window or windows by process, Daphne can move processes to the front or back, set alpha transparencies, or even change window sizes. It isn’t just a task killer, but a true task manager.

Notable features include:

  • Ability to kill processes politely and/or at a scheduled time.
  • Kill all processes that match a name filter.
  • Separate hierarchical process tree view.
  • Find processes by window and windows by processes.
  • Set Affinity and Priority actions for processes.
  • Copy all live processes to clipboard for troubleshooting.

Are These Task Manager Alternatives Overkill?

About 99 percent of the time, you bring up the Task Manager to end an unresponsive task, right? And sometimes it doesn’t work. If that’s all you need to do, then an alternative may not be necessary. Instead, learn how to kill unresponsive apps without the Task Manager How to Kill Unresponsive Programs Without the Task Manager How to Kill Unresponsive Programs Without the Task Manager When a Windows program stops working, your first instinct is probably to visit the Task Manager. Here's a super-fast shortcut you can use to kill idle tasks instead. Read More .

Or maybe you’re experiencing an issue that can’t be solved by the Task Manager or an alternative. In that case, you may want to check out these Windows diagnostic tools 13 Windows Diagnostics Tools to Check Your PC's Health 13 Windows Diagnostics Tools to Check Your PC's Health Every Windows user eventually encounters problems that aren't easy to diagnose. Bookmark this article, so you'll have a list of tools handy to help you when it happens to you! Read More and these Windows troubleshooting tools 13 Troubleshooting Tools to Fix Windows 10 13 Troubleshooting Tools to Fix Windows 10 For every Windows issue, there's a tool you can use to fix it. Find your problem in this list and pick one of the 13 troubleshooting and repair tools for Windows 10. Read More .

What do you mostly use Task Manager for? Which of these alternatives, if any, caught your eye? Are there any others that we missed? Share with us in the comments down below!

Image Credit: Vintage Tone via Shutterstock.com

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  1. PsyintZ
    February 24, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    May I ask why you don't use Process Lasso? Considering it includes all of the features that the others offer, as well as the ability to optimize your processes for the best system performance? If you can do everything the others can AND have a faster computer, why wouldn't you??

  2. Anonymous
    August 27, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Which would be best to see what process is currently using my internet ?
    I am in Win XP Pro 32bit

  3. faheem ahmed
    July 2, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    DBC Taskman is bets

  4. Cathleen
    February 17, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    When are you going to upgrade this to include changes for Windows 10, both in what is new in 10 and what may still be needed from another app?

    Thanks.

  5. pate
    April 23, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    I dont like system explorer, the tabs look horrible, like in chrome browser. Sysinternals process explorer is my fav as it has no tabs at all.

    • Anonymous
      June 16, 2015 at 8:23 am

      You can change System Explorer UI to "explorer" mode (a tree on the left) if you don't like the tabs. Click the menu icon (3 bars, below the X close button), select view/Explorer mode.

  6. Evie
    November 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Windows 8 task manager is not so good - you see only process "System", which eats 96% of disk, and many parts inside it, but not which part eats this disk...

  7. Robert Gagne
    October 24, 2014 at 12:04 am

    System Explorer is my favorite one.

    • Joel Lee
      October 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      It IS good, isn't it? :)