• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Task Manager\windows\system32\taskmgr.exe

Display currently running programs, background processes, and some performance statistics.

To Open

Ctrl-Alt-Del Task Manager

Right-click on empty portion of Taskbar Task Manager

Command Prompt taskmgr

keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+Shift+ESC


Task Manager is an extremely useful tool, but is strangely omitted from the Start menu. In its simplest form, it displays all running applications, allowing you to close any that have crashed or stopped responding. The main window is divided into the following four tabs:


Shows all foreground applications as well as the status of each one (see Figure 4-92). The Status can be "Running" or "Not responding." You can switch to any running application by double-clicking it, which makes it similar to the Taskbar in this respect. Click New Task or go to File New Task (Run) to start a new program (which has the same effect as going to Start Run).

Figure 4-92. The Applications tab shows the currently open windows, but not all running programs

Select any item and click End Task to close the program. Although it is preferred to use an application's own exit routine, this function is useful for those programs that have crashed or have stopped responding.


A process is any program running on your computer, including foreground applications shown in the Applications tab and any background applications that might be running (see Figure 4-93). Like the End Task button in the Applications tab, the End Process button is used to close unresponsive programs. Additionally, however, it allows you to close background applications that otherwise have no window or other means of exiting gracefully.

Figure 4-93. View all running programs (including background tasks) with the Processes tab

Right-click on any running task to display a list of options, including End Process (see above), End Process Tree (similar to End Process, but ends all "child" processes as well), and Set Priority. The Set Priority menu allows you to increase or decrease the priority of a program; higher-priority processes may run better and are less likely to be interrupted or slowed down by other processes, and lower-priority processes are more likely to yield CPU cycles to other processes. Note that changing a process's priority may have unpredictable results. It should be used only if that process or application explicitly supports running at higher or lower priorities.


The Performance tab shows several graphs, all updated in real time, used to monitor the performance of the system. The refresh rate of the graphs can be changed by going to View Update Speed.

The CPU Usage is expressed as a percentage, in which an average idling computer will take about 3 to 7 percent of a processor's clock cycles, and a computer running a graphics-intensive game (such as one of my favorites, Black & White) might take 80 to 90 percent. Don't be alarmed if your CPU Usage appears to be unusually high, although you may wish to investigate running processes for crashed programs or even tasks that may have been started by unauthorized intruders. (See Active Connections Utility, discussed earlier in this chapter.) The CPU Usage History is a running history of the last few minutes of CPU Usage readings; it can be very interesting to see what happens to the CPU Usage History when you start a particular program or just move the mouse around the screen. To change how Windows handles multitasking, go to Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System Advanced tab, click Settings in the Performance section, and choose the Advanced tab. If you have a multiprocessor system, you'll see a separate graph for each processor, which can be very useful to see how your processors are being utilized (see Figure 4-94).

Figure 4-94. The Performance tab shows a time-based graph of the load on your processor and virtual memory

The Page File Usage and Page File Usage History work the same as CPU Usage, described above, except that they report on the performance of the virtual memory. Virtual memory is the portion of your hard disk used to store data when Windows has used up all of your installed RAM. To change virtual memory settings, go to Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System Advanced tab, click Settings in the Performance section, choose the Advanced tab, and click Change.

Also shown in the Performance tab are several performance-related statistics, such as the amount of total and available memory, or even the number of active handles (unique identifiers to resources, such as menu items, Windows, registry keys, or anything else Windows has to keep track of).


Similar to the Performance tab, above, the Networking tab shows real-time graphs depicting the performance of your network connections. You'll see a graph for each network connection currently in use. See Chapter 7 for more information.

The Options and View menus can be used to set several preferences; note that the options available in these menus change depending on the currently selected tab. For example, if you want to leave the Task Manager open all the time, you may wish to turn off the "Always On Top" option so that you can see other running applications.


Task Manager replaces the Close Program box found in Windows 9x/Me (via Ctrl-Alt-Del). However, instead of being a system-modal dialog (meaning that when it is visible, all other applications are frozen and inaccessible), it's just another application that can be left open all the time.

See Also

Query Process, Taskkill, and Tasklist

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint