Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don’t Need an Alternative

Aaron Couch 27-12-2012

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative Windows LogoThis 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 How To Make Windows Boot Faster Than Ever Before One… two… three… how many minutes does it take your computer to start up? Hopefully not more than three, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you said it surpassed that time. The thing is, our... Read More 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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Applications


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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Processes

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.”


Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Other User Processes

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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Services


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.

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Services Go to Process

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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Performance

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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Networking

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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Users

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.

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Processes End Process

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.

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Processes Set Priority

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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Processes Memory

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.

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Processes 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

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Processes Create Dump File

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.

Restart Explorer

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.

Mysteries Of The Windows 7 Task Manager: Why You Don't Need an Alternative WTM Launch Explorer

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?

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Windows Task Manager.

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  1. tricia
    August 20, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    I cant find any tabs on my task manager and it opens only on processes

  2. hotdoge3
    March 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I’m a big fan of not installing additional software when built in tools will get the job done…me to if it goes ok all good if not may try use all on XP

  3. Austin car accident attorney
    January 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you for this article. Personally, I think this material is great. I agree with much of your information here. It also motivates me to learn more. I await the next article with great anticipation.

  4. ion popa
    December 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I'm still using XP: Process Explorer.

  5. Rigoberto Garcia
    December 28, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Thanks Aaron, unveiled mysteries ...

  6. Victor Ong
    December 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I've been using windows 7 for a long time now, and have just recently upgraded to 8. Both task managers are absolutely amazing and easy to use. Windows 8 actually shows the icons for the processes that you use. Why install extra software when you have a built-in perfect alternative?

    But I have a question: does changing the priority really work? It's never worked for me.

    • Aaron Couch
      January 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm


      You're absolutely right about not needing to install extra software.

      As far as changing the priority goes, it's always worked for me. Perhaps if you could provide a bit more information as to what your problem entails I MIGHT be able to help.

      However, MUO Answers is another great place for questions like this and could give better results for you!

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Mike Merritt
    December 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    How about: "Processes" - Right-Click on a process & "Set Affinity" ?? There must be some significant use for this ? Comments ?

    • Windows Guru
      October 8, 2017 at 5:09 am

      Affinity means you're setting the process to run (mostly) on one core of the processor.

  8. Umair Shaikh
    December 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Great article on the Task Manager. Though to many it may looks difficult to use it and they will use it to remove the not responding task only.

  9. Terahall
    December 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I prefer Process Hacker.Its portable and easier for me

  10. DB
    December 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Excellent detailed explanation of the options/functions that can B performed..ty, ty

  11. Fahmy Corporation
    December 27, 2012 at 5:41 am

    I'm currently using "DTask Manager" as an alternative of "Windows Task Manager"

  12. Anonymous
    December 27, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Today I Learned .... ctrl-alt-shift hotkey. Thanks! Bonus: its easily done with the first two fingers and thumb of the left hand.

  13. Junil Maharjan
    December 27, 2012 at 5:07 am

    As i said in a comment in an article, the windows task manager is sufficient for me.

  14. Irving Rambaud
    December 27, 2012 at 5:00 am
    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      December 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      It's too crowded and overkill to average users. Hence why most user will not need anything past what the built-in task manager already capable of.

  15. James Heiney
    December 27, 2012 at 3:21 am

    I mainly use Task Manager, but I'll switch to process hacker on the occasion that Task Manager starts to act a little wonky. I'll also use Process Hacker (Process Explorer does the same thing) to close a handle -- like a folder that explorer won't let go of.

  16. Kamil Ko
    December 27, 2012 at 3:05 am

    I've used Process Explorer for my PCs and find it easier.

    • Carter Brainerd
      December 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Yeah, what happened to MUO recommendation of this program?

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        December 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm

        The writer said so himself. The built in task manager is sufficient for average users, but savvier users might want better replacement. All in all, recommendation is recommendation. It's not for everyone.

      • Aaron Couch
        January 20, 2013 at 5:49 am


        The article is simply a different look. I feel all too often that we want to quickly replace all the defaults, when in actuality how much do we need all the additional software? This is simply another take/recommendation.

        We haven't stopped recommending Process Explorer. It's on our Best Of Windows Software page: //

        And we also have an article dedicated towards it: //

    • Saumyakanta Sahoo
      December 28, 2012 at 10:59 am

      well ..What MUO also true.....its sufficient for most of the geeky works..

  17. eric
    December 27, 2012 at 2:32 am

    been using win7 task manager from the start and its a great tool, esp when some programs are not responding.

  18. Daniel Huss
    December 27, 2012 at 2:10 am

    I'm a big fan of not installing additional software when built in tools will get the job done...