Windows

10 Windows Task Manager Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know

Ben Stegner Updated 20-04-2020

Most Windows users only pull up the Task Manager when a program is frozen and they need to kill it. While it’s perfectly fine to use the Task Manager this way, you’re also overlooking some handy features if you never look deeper.

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The Task Manager has seen some serious improvements since the days of Windows 7. Let’s look at the best Task Manager tricks for Windows 10 that you should know.

1. How to Bring Up the Task Manager Quickly

Even if you know how to get to the Task Manager, you might not be aware of the different methods for doing so. While you can press Ctrl + Alt + Del to open the security screen and launch the Task Manager that way, this is a slow method.

Here’s how to pull up the Task Manager quickly: use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc shortcut. This will instantly launch the app with no additional clicks needed. This is also how you bring the Task Manager to the front when it’s minimized.

If you want to use the mouse instead, you can right-click on an empty spot of your Taskbar and choose Task Manager.

Finally, you’ll find a shortcut to the Task Manager on the Power User menu. Right-click on the Start button or hit Win + X to open this. It’s a handy Windows Task Manager shortcut because it works well whether your hands are on the mouse or keyboard.

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Once you’ve opened the Task Manager, be sure to click More details to show the full interface, if it’s not already active.

2. Find Out Why Apps Are Frozen

Task Manager Analyze Wait Chain

As mentioned before, the most common reason to open the Task Manager is to kill a frozen program (though you can force-close apps without the Task Manager How to Force Close a Program Without Task Manager Wondering how to force close a frozen program on Windows? Here are several ways to force-close apps without the Task Manager. Read More ). But the next time you’re in that situation, you can do more analysis first. It’s possible that the program isn’t frozen, but just taking a while to process a task.

Prematurely killing an active application could result in lost data, so it makes sense to wait and see if a frozen process resolves itself. This is where the Analyze Wait Chain feature in the Task Manager comes in handy. It can tell you when a process is stuck waiting on another process, which can help you identify why an app isn’t responding.

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To see which process is the real culprit, switch to the Details tab and find the process you want to look into. Right-click on it and choose Analyze wait chain to see the details. If that app is waiting on any other processes, you’ll see them in the resulting window.

3. Restart Windows Explorer

Task Manager Restart File Explorer

The Windows Explorer process is responsible for many of the UI elements of Windows, such as the Taskbar, File Explorer, Start menu, and similar. If you have an issue with these elements, your first thought may be to restart your PC. While this will solve the issue, it’s more convenient to restart Windows Explorer instead.

To do this, find Windows Explorer on the Processes tab of the Task Manager. Right-click it and choose Restart to kill the task and run it again. You’ll see your Taskbar and other elements disappear for a moment, which is normal. After they come back, everything should be back to normal.

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4. Monitor Performance and Resources

Task Manager Performance Tab

While the Task Manager provides an overview of all running processes and apps, it also has several tools for effectively monitoring the performance of your system and resource allocation.

Jump to the Performance tab to see these. Once you’re there, have a look at the following tips.

Viewing Graphs

Along the left sidebar, you’ll see fields for CPU, Memory, Disk, and other resources in your computer. Click one to view a real-time graph of its usage.

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If you want to keep an eye on this information without keeping the full Task Manager open, right-click anywhere in the left sidebar and choose Summary View to display only that sidebar. You can instead right-click anywhere in the right panel and select Graph Summary View to display just the current graph.

Copy Diagnostic Info

Task Manager Copy Memory Info

With any resource type selected on the left, right-click anywhere and select Copy to place a diagnostic snapshot on your clipboard. You can then paste this into Notepad to save as a baseline or share it on a forum online to get troubleshooting help.

Access Useful Details

Each resource type has some interesting details that might come in handy. Under CPU, you’ll find Up time, which shows how long it’s been since the computer restarted.

In Memory, you can check the number of Slots used to figure out if you have room to add more. The Read speed and Write speed under Disk give you an idea of how fast your storage media performs, too.

Open Resource Monitor

If you want even more details that the Task Manager doesn’t show you, click Open Resource Monitor at the bottom of the window. This utility is an advanced way to view real-time data about your system, including threads used, disk response times, exact breakdowns of RAM used by processes, and more.

5. Search Online for Suspicious Processes

Task Manager Search Online

Sometimes, you might find suspicious-looking process names in Task Manager. Most of the time they’re legitimate, but it’s always wise to double-check on ones you’ve never seen or heard of before.

Windows can help with this: just right-click on any process and select the Search online action. This will launch a Bing search in your browser with the process and app names. The results should help you determine whether it’s safe or not. For more help, see our list of important processes you should never kill 7 Windows Task Manager Processes You Should Never Kill Some Windows processes can freeze or crash your system if terminated. We'll show you which Task Manager processes you should leave alone. Read More .

6. Add Extra Columns for More Details

By default, the Task Manager only shows a few columns in the Processes tab. While these cover the most important details, you can actually add several more columns just by right-clicking the header area.

These include:

  • Type, which tells you if the process is an App, Background process, or Windows process.
  • Publisher, which shows the developer of the program.
  • Process name, which is often the executable file. These will look familiar if you’ve used the Task Manager in Windows 7 or earlier.

Task Manager Add Columns

While you may find some or all of them useful at times, Process Name is particularly handy. It’s easier to spot suspicious applications by their process name than their application name, and they’re often easier to research too.

Note that you can also add extra columns on the Startup tab. Use these for troubleshooting purposes (like CPU at Startup to measure impact) or just to see which startup processes are still running (with the Running Now column).

7. Toggle Between Values and Percentages

Task Manager Change Values

When browsing the Processes list, the CPU column only shows in percentages. However, you can change the other three default columns between absolute values and percentages.

Percentages are better when you need a sense of how resource usage compares to the total amount available. It’s nice to know an app is using 50MB of RAM, but seeing this is only two percent of all the RAM in your system puts it into perspective.

To toggle these, just right-click on any process, navigate to the Resource values submenu, pick the resource type you want to change, and select either Values or Percents.

8. Manage App Windows

Task Manager Switch To

Task Manager is far from the best window management tool available, but it does have a few actions that you might find useful. To access them, you must click the arrow next to an item you want to manage in order to show all its processes. This only works for items listed under the Apps section of the Processes tab, and it didn’t work for all apps in our testing.

Once you’ve expanded an item to show all processes, right-click the indented entry and you’ll see these window actions for that app:

  • Switch to: Brings the app into focus and minimizes the Task Manager.
  • Bring to front: Puts the app in focus, but doesn’t minimize the Task Manager.
  • Minimize: Minimizes the program.
  • Maximize: Maximizes the application.
  • End Task: Kills the process.

9. Open App File Locations

Task Manager Open File Location

Do you often find yourself needing to navigate to the installed location of a certain program? Maybe you want to tweak some configuration files, or need to copy its file path for some reason.

Crawling through File Explorer is one way to do that, but it requires a lot of clicking. If the program is already running, Task Manager can help you get there a lot faster.

Just right-click on any process and select Open File Location. This will take you directly to the folder that contains the process’s executable file. It’s quite convenient, especially since software can live all across your file system.

This works for Apps, Background Processes, and Windows Processes, allowing you to quickly access pretty much anything that shows up under the Processes tab.

10. Adjust Task Manager Options

Task Manager Options

The Task Manager has a few preferences you can adjust to make the experience smoother. Under Options, you can enable Always on top to keep the Task Manager above other windows unless you manually minimize it. Also on this menu, select Set default tab to choose what the Task Manager should show when you open it.

Look under the View menu to make the Update speed faster or slower. You can even pause it if you need to examine a snapshot in time.

The Task Manager Is a Valuable Resource

For the average user, the Task Manager is more than enough to provide you with the system information you need to keep everything in check. Whether you want to keep an eye on resource usage or easily track down process locations, the Task Manager has you covered.

If you’re a power user, check out some Task Manager alternatives 5 Powerful Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager The Windows Task Manager is good, but it lacks a few features. Try these alternative task managers for Windows instead! Read More for something with more options, as well as the open source PowerToys for Windows 10 How to Do More With Windows 10 Using PowerToys PowerToys are a bunch of free utilities for Windows that can turn you into a power user. Let's see how to use the tools it offers. Read More .

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Windows 10, Windows Task Manager, Windows Tips, Windows Tricks.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. everest
    August 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

    the question in 2019 where is the essential task manager cpu temperature and internal fan`s realtime readouts as free 3rd party apps dont seem to combine
    all these and add the esential options to underclock these devices should you have a need while setting up a new ryzen pc to run stable quick and cool etc.

    if you know of such a github housed task manager tool ,please elucidate and post a video on youtube some people can find it and learn...

  2. Tommy Lent
    July 24, 2019 at 5:34 am

    Interesting stuff. I only came upon it because my PC is dragging with a few processes hogging it up and with Explorer being the biggest culprit, I wanted to know if I could close it (not in this case for me). I decided to read the whole article and there were some interesting things here that I will probably use in the future. The biggest and most important one is being able to avoid C-Alt-Delete and just pressing Ctrl+Shift with my thumb and hitting the Esc key with my middle finger while drinking a beer with my right hand. I can't wait to do that in front of someone because I'm going to look like a total geek god! LOL!

    I'm goofing off of course but really, it was informative. Thanks!

  3. Jarrhead
    September 14, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Thanks for the pointers.
    It's definitely better than its predecessor but I don't understand why MS did such a poor job at the graphs. Visually clean but you can't lock in max range, you can't adjust the length of the sampling window other than changing sampling rate and auto-scaling is hopeless. Very annoyingly, it's clipping most of the time and auto-scale either just ignores it or goes part of the way to correct it. Yes, you can look at current values at the bottom of the graph but just a bit more work on it would've greatly enhanced the graph's usability. Missed opportunity.

  4. Loadmaster
    August 11, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I start the Taskmgr automatically when I log in, using a simple batch file in my Programs>StartUp directory.

    Question: is there a taskmgr command line option to enable 'Show processes from all users'?

  5. Frank
    April 12, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    helpful, but not specified windows version and screen names for menus...

  6. Tom
    December 19, 2016 at 4:01 am

    Great article. A follow up question: I wonder what happened to the Task Manager's Task Switching button. Often a program which I have started stops displaying. When I go to the Task Manager for troubleshooting, I can see it is running, but the Switch to.. button is now missing, so I can't go to the running program. Did MS in their infinite wisdom remove it, or is it hidden someplace?

  7. Lehlohonolo
    October 31, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    I think it should also have a way to have the restart button/option alongside the disconnect button instead of disconnecting user first and then user only has restart option on the blue screen to perform that.
    Because sometimes that's the only left way to restart if you don't wish to take other drastic measures?

    I just thought now that - how about quick type in the run dialog box for 'restart' as well, hmm?

  8. Christian Bonilla
    March 4, 2016 at 2:36 am

    This was really helpful, thanks!

    • Joel Lee
      March 14, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Glad you liked it, Christian! Thanks. :)

  9. jayesstee
    February 16, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Good informative artcle. Some of it works on Win 8.1 Task Manager (Sections 3 -10). Most useful!

    • Joel Lee
      February 18, 2016 at 4:29 am

      Thanks, glad you found it useful, jayesstee!

  10. Sujit Kumar
    February 16, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you

  11. skyFx
    February 16, 2016 at 8:13 am

    What I miss most is "show processes for all users"

  12. BobW
    February 16, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Just tried this on my system and found that the Command Prompt run by CTRL clicking on Run New Task runs as Admin. Probably why it is "hidden". Could be very useful.

    • Joel Lee
      February 18, 2016 at 4:29 am

      Oh, I didn't even notice that. Very nice to know. Thanks for sharing, BobW. :D

  13. sonic
    February 13, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I new about 2 things beside the shorcuts .. So thanks !

    • Joel Lee
      February 18, 2016 at 4:28 am

      You're welcome! Thanks for reading.

  14. Chris B
    February 13, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Didn't know about WinKey + X menu. I'll definitely be using that more in the future!

    • Joel Lee
      February 18, 2016 at 4:28 am

      Nice! Glad you got something out of the article. :)

  15. Anonymous
    February 13, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Thanks for useful guide.

    • Joel Lee
      February 18, 2016 at 4:28 am

      You're welcome! Thanks for reading. :)

  16. Cool
    February 12, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    This article was interesting and pretty useful. I have to say, a lot of the articles I've been reading on this site seem like they were written just for the sake of writing an article and are relatively pointless, like a child's book report. More like this would be nice. Info that one may not already know that is useful.

    • Joel Lee
      February 18, 2016 at 4:27 am

      Thank you for the kind words! I'm glad you found the article useful. :)

      • macro2k
        March 3, 2017 at 2:32 pm

        Can you help with a related question? Windows 10 seems to be much more proactive about applications that use too much memory or resources. A window pops up asking to close the program being used way before the pc actually does run out of memory or processor time. If you are at the monitor you can just cancel the request and let the app keep going- but if you are not there to do this (if youve left a task to run) the app gets killed off after a timeout.

        To put it mildly this is the least useful feature for actually being able to use your pc to its full extent - is there a way to exempt apps from this? or another way to pause this "feature"