This might seem contrary to what you read about throughout the Internet, but the Windows Task Manager is fine as it is – it doesn’t need a replacement. You could interpret that as a simple opinion, but keep in mind that I also felt that you needed to replace it with a “better” program, which I shared in an article not too long ago from writing this one.
I decided to do an experiment and put Windows Task Manager to the test once more and was quite impressed with my findings.
The Quickest Way To Launch The Task Manager
Regardless of the task manager that you use, how is that you currently launch it? Do you right click on the Windows Task Bar? Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete? These are both ways that work, but not the quickest way. Personally, you can’t go wrong with keyboard shortcuts. And even though Ctrl+Alt+Delete is a shortcut, there’s another one that involves one less step. After all, don’t you want to get to the Task Manager with the fewest number of actions anyway?
Try Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Your Task Manager will pop right up! No extra steps involved.
Navigating Windows Task Manager
Perhaps one of the reasons you feel you need an alternative is because you think that Task Manager isn’t as user friendly or that it’s hard to use. In my own experience, I feel it’s more user friendly, and I’m comparing that to the popular Process Explorer.
The Applications Tab
This is likely the most commonly known tab as it’s the one opened on default. It provides an easy way to recognize all of the applications currently running. From here you can create a new task, switch to a current task (although a more efficient way would just be the Start or Alt + Tab button combination), and end a task. You can also get a brief summary of what’s going on in your computer with the total amount of processes running, CPU usage percentage and physical memory percentage.
So why do I point all this out? It’s quite basic and simple right? Nothing new? Yup! You are absolutely correct and I feel it’s quite intuitive. Basic, but still very useful and it doesn’t need a replacement. In fact, I’ve found this tab lacking in other Task Manager alternatives.
The Processes Tab
The first thing you need to know about this tab is that there is a possibility that not all of the processes are being shown – especially if there are several users on the computer. But even if there aren’t, some programs are under a different “user.”
To view these you need to click the “Show processes from all users” button in the bottom left corner.
There’s more to come about what you can do in the Processes tab.
The Services Tab
You could go to the Start menu, click “Run…” (or Start + R) and type “services.msc” or you could just click this tab in the Task Manager, which also has a button to access the Services window should you need to or forget the command to type in.
You should know that when you right click on a service you can see what process it belongs to.
Caution: Be careful if you intend to stop a service – it may be needed for Windows to continue running properly, so be positive that it’s OK to end before following through.
The Performance Tab
Here you able to see statistics in a visual form as well as access the Resource Monitor for more detail. I would say that this tab isn’t for the “average user” as it might not mean much to them, but it’s still a handy tool and shouldn’t be forgotten about. Again, it is on par or above the average with the other alternatives to Task Manager. From up time to CPU usage history, everything you need is right here – no additional applications.
Tip: If you have a process that is using too many resources, these graphs can be great assets.
The Networking Tab
This tab shows you the usage of your active network connections in real time. There are two panes: Local Area Connection and Wireless Network Connection. This can be very useful when keeping a check on your network to make sure there isn’t any odd or suspicious activity.
The Users Tab
If you’re the only user on your computer, then the majority of the time there will only be one user displayed. However, if you’ve created an additional admin account or another user account, those will also be displayed here.
By right clicking on the user you can log out or disable their session. Disabling their session saves what they were working on to the memory, while still ending the processes. This can be quite useful if one or more users forgot to log out, leaving what they were working on to slow down the PC.
In addition, you can also send users a message if you are accessing their computer remotely. This would be useful if you are on a networked computer and need to warn them before rebooting, thus disabling them.
What Else Can You Do?
A lot actually! You can troubleshoot potential application startup problems, review process memory usage, edit columns in the Processes tab, create dump files, restart Explorer, locate the process’s folder files and view its properties, and of course, end the process. However, in addition to ending the process, you can end the Process Tree. The Process Tree is all of the underlying processes under the primary process which you’re ending.
Troubleshooting application startup problems
Have you ever tried starting a program and it didn’t load. You clicked and clicked on it, but nothing happened. Well, something happened – just not what you were hoping for. Basically the program got locked up. So what can you do? You have a couple options. You can end the process entirely.
Or, if you’re afraid of the process crashing your computer, you can set the priority to “low.” Doing this would likely only be needed for Windows processes and if it is causing your PC to slow down through using up too much CPU time. It basically buys you some time to save whatever you’re working on and restart the computer to try to fix the problem.
After ending the process, simply try to open it again and see if it was just a one time thing. If the problem persists then you may have a bigger issue to deal with and may need to contact an expert on the program.
Review process memory usage
Being able to know what process is using the most resources and possibly weeding out the ones you don’t necessarily need can be very useful.
Edit columns in the Processes tab
What you see by default aren’t the only options you have. When in the Processes tab, click View and Select Columns.
Once you’ve selected which options you want (don’t have too many), it’s a good idea to size them appropriately so when you open Task Manager in the future all the information will be viewable without needing to adjust the column size first.
Create dump files
Remember when we talked about ending processes? Another method in troubleshooting application issues is to use a debugging tool, which is free for Windows. To do this, you’ll need to create a dump file for the debugging tool to evaluate. Right click on the problematic process and click “Create Dump File.” Notice where the file is saved so you can easily access it when you open it with the debugging tool.
Sometimes – actually for me most of the time – Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) ends up being the issue. First go to the Processes tab, right click on “explorer.exe” (if you can’t find it try using the find function – Ctrl + F) and click “End Process.”
Then go to File > New Task, type “explorer.exe” and check the box to create the task with admin privileges.
Locate the process’s folder files and view its properties
Lastly, have you ever wanted to find program files that you just can’t seem to locate? If the program is running, you can find the process by right clicking on it in the Processes tab and then clicking Open File Location. It will take you right to where the file is being run from.
Surely this is only the beginning of what the Windows Task Manager can do, but hopefully this article has given you a bit more confidence in using it and the reassurance that you don’t need an alternative program to do many of these things – there isn’t any real need for a task manager alternative. Of course, it’s good that there are others available, but if anything, it’s undoubtedly user preference and not any lacking in the Windows Task Manager itself.
What are your preferences for a Task Manager? Have you always preferred the default on Windows or an alternative? If an alternative, have you changed your mind?