Task Manager Overview

Before you start

Objectives: learn how to open Task Manager and which features does it provide.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: process, application, service, users, cpu, processor, running, show, user

Task Manager

One of the self healing features of Windows OS, is that when a program stops responding, Windows tries to find the problem and fix it automatically. If Windows is not able to resolve the problem, we can take advantage of the Task Manager to end the unresponsive application that’s causing the problem.

There are several ways to open Task Manager. You can click Ctrl + Alt + Del and then select Task Manager. Another way is to right-click on the Taskbar and select Task Manager from the popup menu. You can also useCtrl + Shift + Esc key combination. We can also use Run menu (go to Start > Run and then enter ‘taskmgr‘).


A process is anything that gets sent to the processor. We can use Task Manager to start as well as to end processes, and to view current computer performance. Every Task Manager feature is described in the Help section, so it might be a good idea to study it if you plan to use advanced features of Task Manager.

Application Tab

When you open Task Manager, you will see several different tabs. TheApplication tab shows us applications that are currently running and that show up on the Taskbar (with the exception of Task Manager). Each time we open an application we will get a new entry in the list of running applications. The status next to the application shows us information about the application. For example, if we have an application that is not responding, that status will be ‘not responding’. When we select an application, we can end it or switch to it using the buttons on the bottom. For example, we can use the End Task button if the application is not responding. We can start a new tasks using the New Task button, and then type in the name of a program we want to run. We can use the Switch To button to start working with the selected application.

Processes Tab

Another tab which you will see is a Processes tab. Process is an instance of an application. In this tab we can see information about the running process such as the CPU percentage and the memory that it’s using. You will notice that we will have more proccesses than we have applications running. From this tab we can end some process, for example, if it’s not responding. We can do that by selecting the desired process and then pressing the End Process button. We can also set the priority of the process. By default, every process starts with normal priority, but we can change it to be above or below normal. By adjusting the process priority we can control how fast will the process get to the processor. Another option that we can do is set the processor affinity. By setting the processor affinity (if we have multiple processors), we can designate which processor will process particular process. By default, process will use any processor that is available. For some system processes we won’t be able to change the affinity.

By default, we only see the running processes for the current user. However, we can click on the “Show processes from all users” button to see all running processes (we have to have administrative privileges). Sytem Idle process represents the ammount of CPU not being used by our computer (it is free CPU time).

Services Tab

In Windows Vista and 7 you will also see the Services tab which shows all services on your computer. A service is an application that runs in the background and is usually without a user interface. Services are controlling background activities that are occurring on our system. All running services are also represented as processes. Using this tool we can see what services are running and go to its process by righ-clicking particular service and selecting ‘Go to Process’ option. For more managament options for services, like starting and stopping, choosing startup type, choosing permissions and other options, we should use the Services MMC snap-in.

Performance Tab

In the Performance tab we can see how our system is using computer resources. Here we can see a meter that shows us the CPU and memory usage. If we notice that our CPU usage is consistently high, we should take steps to reduce the amount of workload on our CPU, or check if we have a problematic or unresponsive application which is taking all the CPU resources. Here we can also see how much system memory is currently being used. To get more detaild and granular information about the performance of the CPU or other components, we should use the Performance Monitor tool.

Networking Tab

The Networking tab show us current utilization of network resources, on our current network connection.

Users Tab

The Users tab shows us which users are connected to our computer. For example, if we had users connected to our computer through the network trying to access a shared file, those users would show up here. That way we can see which users are connected to our computer. From here we can disconnect a user or log off a user. To do that, right-click a user and select an appropriate option, or select a user and then use the buttons on the bottom.


To see how to work with Task Manager in different versions of Windows refer to these articles:


We can use Task Manager to start as well as to end processes, view running services, and to view current computer performance, including network utilization. To open Task Manager click Ctrl + Alt + Del and then select Task Manager, or right-click on the Taskbar and then select Task Manager from the popup menu, or use Ctrl + Shift + Esc key combination, or enter ‘taskmgr’ in Run menu.