Process Explorer – The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

process explorer small   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 power of Process Explorer. It’s part of the Sysinternals set of tools that Microsoft purchased – and for good reason. They’re among the most powerful system utilities for Windows.

In addition to its power, Process Explorer is also flexible. It’s available from Microsoft as a single .exe file. That makes it a portable app you can throw on a USB drive and run on any computer.

Understanding The Processes Running On Your Computer

Perhaps the greatest thing about Process Explorer – from a power-user perspective – is the way it helps visualize the processes running on your computer and their relation to each other.

The task manager included with Windows is a bit of a mess, displaying all running processes in a flat list. It works if you’re hunting for a specific process by name, but it doesn’t give you an overview that really helps you understand what’s going on.

It’s particularly messy if you use multi-process applications like Google Chrome – what if Google Chrome was misbehaving and you needed to kill all its processes? The Windows Task Manager doesn’t make it easy.

windows 7 task manager processes list   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

Process Explorer helps make much more sense of this. The most obvious improvement is the hierarchical tree of processes – we can see the main chrome.exe process that launched all other Chrome processes and understand what Google Chrome is doing. If we wanted to force-quit Google Chrome entirely, we could right-click the top chrome.exe process and select Kill Process Tree. If we wanted to hide all these chrome.exe processes so they didn’t clutter the list, we could click the minus icon to collapse that part of the tree.

process explorer google chrome4   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

Other improvements also help make this list easier to understand. Each process has an associated icon, a description, and a company name. These descriptions and names may be blank – it’s up to each program to provide this information.

Color-coding helps, too. Processes colored blue are your own processes, while processes colored pink are system services. Your desktop processes will appear under explorer.exe near the bottom of the list, while services will appear under services.exe near the top. This helps sort the process list so you aren’t sifting through system services while viewing the processes running on your desktop.

To view which colors correspond to which types of processes and customize the colors, click the Options menu and select Configure Colors.

process explorer processes and services   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

More Features

Process Explorer is packed with features, including all the ones you’d expect from the Windows Task Manager. You can right-click a process to kill it, change its priority level, or set its CPU affinity and force it to run on only a specific CPU. We won’t focus on all these features – we’ll focus on cool things you can do with Process Explorer that you can’t do with the Windows Task Manager.

  • Search Online: This feature is present in Windows 8’s new task manager, but it showed up in Process Explorer first. You can right-click any running process in the list and select Search Online to quickly search for it online. This can help you understand exactly what the process is and where it came from.
  • Detailed Process Properties: To view information about a process, right-click it and select Properties. If a process is automatically starting with your computer, Process Explorer will tell you where it’s configured to do so. If a process is hiding in the background, you can click Bring to Front to view its window (assuming it has a visible window).

process explorer google drive properties   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

  • Detailed Resource Usage Information: Process Explorer exposes many more ways of visualizing resource usage. In addition to system-wide resource usage graphs, you’ll find per-process CPU, memory, and disk usage graphs in a process’s properties window. You can also see a graph of GPU (graphics card) usage – either per-process or system-wide. To view system-wide resource usage data, click the View menu and select System Information.

process explorer system information   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

  • Unlock Locked Files: Have you ever seen a message saying a specific file or folder is in-use by a process and can’t be deleted or moved? This is often to prevent files that are legitimately in-use from being modified, but sometimes programs continue locking a file even when they don’t need it. To see which program is using a file, you can click Find and select Find a Handle or DLL. Search for the name of the file or folder and Process Explorer will tell you which process is “locking” the file. To remove the lock so you can delete or move the file, right-click the handle itself and select Close Handle.

process explorer remove file lock   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

  • Find a Window’s Process: Not sure what process a specific window belongs to? Click and drag the target-shaped icon on the Process Explorer toolbar over another window on your desktop. Process Explorer will show you which process the window belongs to.
  • Replace the Windows Task Manager: Love Process Explorer and wish the Windows Task Manager was this awesome? Just click the Options menu and select Replace Task Manager. Whenever you open the task manager – either by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Escape, right-clicking the task bar and selecting Start Task Manager, or pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete and clicking Start Task Manager – Process Explorer will appear instead.

process explorer replace task manager   Process Explorer   The Most Powerful Task Manager Replacement [Windows]

Process Explorer is listed on both our Best Windows Software and Best Portable Apps pages because it’s an amazing tool. If you’re looking for another third-party task manager replacement, you may also want to check out Process Hacker or System Explorer.

What do you think of Process Explorer? Do you prefer another task manager replacement? Leave a comment and share your favorite tool!

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29 Comments -

1 votes

Félix S. De Jesús

Very organized open programs… instead of end programs one by one.

0 votes

Ashwin Ramesh

I’ve been using this for quite some time now. It is much more than a Task Manager. Sure does deserve a place in your Best Apps page :)

0 votes

Fawad Mirzad

What i really loved from its features is unlocking locked files, i have been using Unlocker , but not all the times it was working. just downloaded this one and hopefully help me

1 votes

Nevzat Akkaya

This, “Anvir Task Manager” and “Process Lasso” are my favorites.

3 votes

Schvenn Meister

I believe you missed one of the most important features of ProcExp, the SUSPEND option.
For malware removal, this is invaluable.
Simply removing software using your AV software or Anti-Malware program is often not enough.
There will frequently be “companion” programs hiding in the background.
What these programs do is wait for you to remove the main malicious program and then reinstall it next time your computer reboots.
That’s where the “did you reboot your computer? twice?” questions seem funny but have a legitimate origin.

If you know what is running on your system it’s usually quite easy to spot these in ProcExp.
Even if you don’t, looking for gibberish names like 342rljkseadf.exe or for processes that do not have a company name, will often help you narrow down suspicious entities.

So, what you can do is suspend the process in question and each child process, one by one.
Once they’re all suspended, then you can kill the offending processes.

You can then also use AutoRuns, also a SysInternals tool to remove the offending entry from reappearing on startup.

Between your malware and AV programs and the combination of ProcExp and AutoRuns, you can remove the vast majority of malicious software from even the most badly infected computers.

0 votes

Douglas Mutay

Your comment grab my interest even more. This Suspend option is really a must. Thank you. I will definitevely give it a try.

0 votes

Ebuka Mmaduekwe

tanks for that tip

0 votes

Anonymous

Nicely done. Very informative. I’m gonna try this one out!

0 votes

Nevzat Akkaya

and System Explorer :)

0 votes

vineed gangadharan

Thanks for the software :)

0 votes

Gerwell Taroma

i think its just a matter of familiarization…task manager suffices my need for it and its pretty nice to play with it..

2 votes

Meena Bassem

i use version 15.03 of process explorer. and one reason that’s keeping me from upgrading is that i always like to keep it running in tray icon. one click to show and another click on the tray icon to hide. in the new version, there’s only one click to show, if i click once more, it just brings it to the top of other windows, not hide it.till that bug is fixed, i will keep using it that version :(

0 votes

CleverMind

Let Mr. Mark Russinovich know about this at his Twitter account ” @markrussinovich https://twitter.com/markrussinovich I’m sure it’s not a bug. It probably was either removed ( you’ll have to ask why ) or forgotten about from one version to the next I’ll send him a tweet about this article and about your issue.

Regards

0 votes

Jigar Amin

Been using this since while, and its perfect :):)
Easiest way to get any version:http://www.filehippo.com/download_process_explorer/

0 votes

Ebuka Mmaduekwe

actually this is far better than process suspender

0 votes

CleverMind

Let Mr. Mark Russinovich know about this at his Twitter account ” @markrussinovich https://twitter.com/markrussinovich I’m sure it’s not a bug. It probably was either removed ( you’ll have to ask why ) or forgotten about from one version to the next I’ll send him a tweet about this article and about your issue.

Regards

0 votes

Márcio Guerra

Very nice, despite the fact that I’m currently on Linux or Mac… However, if someday I’ll go back to Windows, it seems a very nice program. Task Manager really sucks…

Thank you! Cheers!

Márcio Guerra

0 votes

Anonymous

The hierarchical task listing alone is worth the price of admission. I also like the window->process identifier. Taskman is one tool which I use regularly–I think I’m going to like this a lot.

1 votes

Kieran Colfer

Replaced my task manager with this ages ago – is most useful for the “unlock locked files” option, as windows isn’t very good at finding that sort of stuff. I keep a copy of it in my Google Drive and on a USB stick, so if I ever have to try to debug someone’s computer, I always have it to hand :-)

0 votes

Ole Funch

Dont like it.
OK – hard Words because it realy is a very good Tool to see and manage many Things, and processes
BUT’
I’m missing the Applikation pane, this because if i.e. a specific app. hangs and I want to stop it, then it is very easyer to use the old TaskManager to stop the exact problem insted of, searching the *,exe file among all the other processes.
Ole

0 votes

Ole Funch

0 votes

dustin c

i dont primarily use this for task manager replacement, however it is an absolute MUST HAVE tool for finding some really, really nasty rootkits, if you know how to use it.

0 votes

Scott Macmillan

I have been using this for quite a while.A great application.

0 votes

Kieran Colfer

About the only reason to not fully replace taskmgr with this would be if you’re a power user and need to worry about system services, as it doesn’t seem to cover those.

1 votes

Ashwin Divakaran

Nice Research and Explanation !! But a little Complicated for newbies.

2 votes

Deekshith Allamaneni

I wish Microsoft replaces its task manager with ProcessExplorer in its next version.

0 votes

Aaron

SystemExplorer is a better option.

http://systemexplorer.net/

0 votes

Paul Hays

I’ve made friends with this app and I’m beginning to love it. A very strong contender for top of the heap of “explorer” replacement products. A+

0 votes

Ron

Nice improvement as compared to the windows version