The Windows Task Manager is a powerful tool that contains useful information, from the overall resource usage of your system to detailed statistics about each process. This guide explains all the features and technical terms of Task Manager.
This article focuses on the Windows 10 Task Manager, although much of that also applies to Windows 7. Microsoft has improved the Task Manager significantly since the release of Windows 7.
How to start task manager
Windows offers many ways to launch the Task Manager. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open Task Manager with a keyboard shortcut, or right-click on the Windows taskbar and select Task Manager.
You can also press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and then click “Task Manager” on the screen that appears, or find the Task Manager shortcut in the Start menu.
The first time you launch Task Manager, you will see a small, simple window. This window lists the visible applications running on your desktop, excluding background applications. You can select an app here and click “End task” to close it. This is useful if the application is not responding – in other words, if it is frozen – and you cannot close it in the normal way.
You can also right-click an application in this window to access additional options:
- Switch to: Switch to the application window by bringing it to the front of the desktop and giving it focus. This is useful if you are not sure which window is associated with which application.
- End goal: terminate the process. This works the same way as the End Task button.
- Start a new task: Open the “Create a new task” window, where you can specify a program, folder, document, or website address, and Windows will open it.
- Always on Top: Make the Task Manager window itself “always on top” of other windows on your desktop so you can see it at all times.
- Open file location: Open an explorer window showing the location of the file. exe programs.
- Search the web: Search Bing for the program’s application name and file name. This will help you see exactly what the program is and what it does.
- Properties: open the file’s properties window. exe programs. Here you can configure compatibility settings and, for example, view the version number of the program.
As long as the Task Manager is open, you will see the Task Manager icon in the notification area. This shows you how much CPU (Central Processing Unit) resources are currently being used on your system and you can hover over it to see memory, disk and network usage. This is an easy way to keep track of your computer’s CPU usage.
To see the icon on the taskbar without the task manager displayed on the taskbar, click Options > Hide When Minimized in the full task manager interface and minimize the task manager window.
Description of task manager tabs
To see more advanced Task Manager tools, click More Details at the bottom of the Simple View window. You will see a full tabbed interface. Task Manager will remember your preferences and open a more advanced view in the future. If you want to go back to a simple view, click Less Details.
When you select More Details, Task Manager includes the following tabs:
- Processes: A list of running applications and background processes on your system, along with information about CPU, memory, disk, network, GPU, and other resource usage.
- Performance: Real-time graphs showing the total CPU, memory, disk, network, and GPU resource usage for your system. You’ll also find many other details here, from your computer’s IP address to your computer’s CPU and GPU model names.
- App History: Information about how much CPU and network resources the apps have used for your current user account. This only applies to new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, in other words, Store apps, and not to traditional Windows desktop apps (Win32 apps).
- Startup: A list of your programs that start automatically, that is, applications that Windows automatically starts when you sign in to your account. You can disable startup programs from here, although you can also do so from Settings > Applications > Startups.
- Users: The user accounts that are currently logged into your computer, how much resources they use, and what applications they run.
- Details: More detailed information about the processes running on your system. It’s basically the traditional Processes tab from Task Manager in Windows 7.
- Services: Manage system services. This is the same information you’ll find in services.msc, the services management console.
The Processes tab displays a complete list of processes running on your system. If sorted by name, the list is divided into three categories. The Applications group displays the same list of running applications as the Less Details simplified view. The other two categories are Background Processes and Windows Processes, and they show processes that don’t appear in the standard Task Manager simplified view.
For example, the list of background processes displays tools such as Dropbox, your antivirus program, background update processes, and hardware utilities with icons in the notification area (taskbar). Windows processes include various processes that are part of the Windows operating system, although some of them show up under Background Processes for some reason.
You can right-click a process to see the actions you can take. The options you will see in the context menu are:
- Expand: Some apps like Google Chrome have multiple processes grouped here. Other applications have multiple windows that are part of the same process. You can select Expand, double-click a process, or click the arrow to its left to see the entire process group individually. This option only appears when you right-click on a group.
- Collapse: Collapse the extended group.
- End goal: terminate the process. You can also click the End Task button below the list.
- Restart: This option only appears when you right-click Windows Explorer. This allows you to restart explorer.exe instead of just ending the task. On older versions of Windows, you had to end the Explorer.exe task and then run it manually to fix issues with the Windows desktop, taskbar, or start menu. Now you can just use this restart option.
- Resource Values: Allows you to choose whether you want to see percentages or exact values for memory, disk, and network. In other words, you can choose whether you want to see the exact amount of memory in MB or the percentage of applications using your system’s memory.
- Generate Dump File: This is a debugging tool for programmers. It takes a snapshot of the program’s memory and saves it to disk.
- Go to Details: Go to the process in the Details tab to see more detailed technical information.
- Open File Location: Open File Explorer with the selected file. exe process.
- Web Search: Search for the process name in Bing.
- Properties: View the file properties window. exe associated with the process.
You shouldn’t end tasks if you don’t know what the task is doing. Many of these tasks are background processes that are important to Windows itself. They often have confusing names and you may need to search the web to find out what they do. We have a whole series explaining what different processes do, from conhost.exe to wsappx.
This tab also displays detailed information about each process and their resource sharing. You can right-click on the headings at the top of the list and select the columns you want to view. The values in each column are color-coded, with darker orange (or red) indicating more resource usage.
You can click on a column to sort by it – for example, click on the CPU column to see running processes sorted by CPU usage, with the highest CPU consumption at the top. The top of the column also shows the total resource usage of all processes on your system. Drag the columns to change their order. Available columns:
- Type: Process category: Application, background process, or Windows process.
- Status: If the program seems to be stuck, it will show “Not Responding” here. Programs sometimes begin to respond after a while, and sometimes remain frozen. If Windows has paused a program to save power, a green leaf will appear in this column. Modern UWP apps can pause to save power, and Windows can also pause traditional desktop apps.
- Publisher: The name of the program’s publisher. For example, Chrome displays “Google Inc.” and Microsoft Word displays “Microsoft Corporation”.
- PID: The process ID number that Windows has associated with the process. The process ID can be used by some functions or system utilities. Windows assigns a unique process ID each time it starts a program, and a process ID is a way to distinguish between multiple running processes if multiple instances of the same program are running.
- Process Name: The file name of the process. For example, File Explorer is explorer.exe, Microsoft Word is WINWORD.EXE, and Task Manager itself is Taskmgr.exe.
- Command line: The full command line used to start the process. This shows the full path to the file. exe process (for example, “C:\WINDOWS\Explorer.EXE”), as well as any command line options used to run the program.
- CPU: The CPU usage of the process, displayed as a percentage of the total available CPU resources.
- Memory: The amount of physical working memory on your system that the process is currently using, displayed in MB or GB.
- Disk: Disk activity generated by the process is displayed in MB/s. If the process is not currently reading or writing to the disk, it will display 0 MB/s.
- Network: The network usage of the process on the current main network, displayed in Mbps.
- GPU: GPU (GPU) resources used by the process, displayed as a percentage of available GPU resources.
- GPU Engine: GPU device and GPU used by the process. If you have multiple GPUs on your system, this will show you which GPU the process is using. See the “Performance” tab to see which number (“GPU 0” or “GPU 1” is associated with which physical GPU.
- Power Consumption: The estimated power consumption of a process based on its current CPU, disk, and GPU activity. For example, it could be “Very Low” if the process is not using a lot of resources, or “Very High” if the process is using a lot of resources. If it’s high, it means it uses more electricity and reduces battery life if you have a laptop.
- Energy consumption trend: Estimated impact on energy consumption over time. The Energy Usage column simply shows current energy usage, but this column tracks energy usage over time. For example, if a program uses a lot of power from time to time but isn’t currently using it, it might show “Very Low” in the Power Use column and “High” or “Moderate” in the Power Trend column.
If you right-click on the headers, you will also see the Resource Values menu. This is the same option that appears when you right-click on an individual process. Whether or not you access this option by right-clicking on an individual process, it will always change the appearance of all processes in the list.
Task Manager menu options
The Task Manager menu bar also has some useful options:
- File > Start new task: Launch a program, folder, document, or network resource by specifying its address. You can also check the “Create this task with administrator privileges” checkbox to run the program as an administrator.
- Options > Always on Top: The Task Manager window will always be on top of other windows as long as this setting is enabled.
- Options > Collapse On Use. Task Manager will minimize whenever you right-click on a process and select “Switch to”. Despite the strange name, that’s all this option does.
- Options > Hide on Minimize: Task Manager will continue to run in the notification area (taskbar) when you press the minimize button if you have this option enabled.
- View > Refresh Now: Immediately refresh the data displayed in Task Manager.
- View > Refresh Rate. Choose how often the data displayed in Task Manager refreshes: High, Medium, Low, or Suspended. If the Suspended option is selected, the data will not refresh until you select a higher frequency or click Refresh Now.
- View > Group By Type: When enabled, the processes on the Processes tab are grouped into three categories: Applications, Background Processes, and Windows Processes. If this option is disabled, they appear mixed in the list.
- View > Expand All: Expand all process groups in the list. For example, Google Chrome uses several processes, and they are combined into the “Google Chrome” group. You can also expand individual process groups by clicking the arrow to the left of their name.
- View > Collapse All: Collapse all process groups in the list. For example, all Google Chrome processes will show up under the Google Chrome category.
View performance information
The Performance tab displays real-time graphs showing system resource usage such as CPU, Memory, Disk, Network, and GPU. If you have multiple drives, network devices, or GPUs, you can view them all individually.
You will see small graphs in the left panel, and you can click an option to see a larger graph in the right panel. The graph shows resource usage over the last 60 seconds.
In addition to resource information, the Performance page displays information about your system’s hardware. Here are just some of the things that show up in different panels in addition to resource usage:
- CPU: The name and model number of your CPU, its speed, number of cores, and whether hardware virtualization features are enabled and available. It also shows your system’s “uptime”, which is how long your system has been up since the last boot.
- Memory: how much RAM you have, how fast it is, and how many RAM slots your motherboard is using. You can also see how much of your memory is currently filled with cached data. Windows calls this “waiting”. This data will be ready and waiting if your system needs it, but Windows will automatically flush the cached data and free up space if it needs more memory for another task.
- Drive: The name and model number of your drive, its size, and current read and write speeds.
- Wi-Fi or Ethernet: This is where Windows shows the name of the network adapter and its IP addresses (both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses). For Wi-Fi connections, you can also see the Wi-Fi standard used for the current connection, such as 802.11ac.
- GPU: The GPU panel displays separate graphics for different types of activities, such as encoding or decoding 3D video. The GPU has its own built-in memory, so it also shows the memory usage of the GPU. Here you can also see the name and model number of your GPU, as well as the graphics driver version you are using. You can monitor GPU usage directly from Task Manager without any third party software.
You can also turn it into a smaller window if you want to keep it on screen at all times. Just double-click anywhere on the empty white space in the right pane and you’ll get a pop-up with this graph always on top of the rest. You can also right-click the chart and select Graph Summary to enable this mode.
The Open Resource Monitor button at the bottom of the window opens the Resource Monitor tool, which provides more detailed information about the GPU, memory, disk, and network usage of individual running processes.
Application history advice
The App History tab only applies to Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. It doesn’t show information about traditional Windows desktop apps, so most people won’t find it too useful.
At the top of the window, you’ll see the date Windows started collecting resource usage data. The list shows UWP apps and the amount of CPU time and network activity the app has generated since that date. You can right-click the headers here to turn on a few more options for more details on network activity:
- CPU Time: The amount of CPU time the program used during this time period.
- Network: The total amount of data transferred over the network by the program during this time period.
- Limit Network: The amount of data transferred over metered networks. You can set the network as metered in order to store data on it. This setting is for networks where you have limited data, such as the mobile network you are connecting to.
- Tile Updates: The amount of data downloaded by the program to display updated Live Tiles on the Windows 10 Start menu.
- Unlimited Network: The amount of data transferred over unlimited networks.
- Downloads: The amount of data downloaded by the program on all networks.
- Downloads: The amount of data downloaded by the program to all networks.
Launch Application Management
The Startup tab is Windows 10’s built-in startup program manager. It lists all the applications that Windows automatically starts for your current user account. For example, both programs from the Startup folder and programs that run in the Windows registry are displayed here.
To disable the launcher, right-click it and choose Disable, or select it and click the Disable button. To turn it back on, click on the “Enable” option that appears here. You can also use the Settings > Applications > Startup interface to manage startup programs.
In the upper right corner of the window on some systems, you will see “Latest BIOS Time”. This shows how long it took your BIOS (or UEFI firmware) to initialize your hardware when you last booted your computer. This will not show up on all systems. You won’t see it unless your PC’s BIOS tells Windows this time.
As usual, you can right-click on the headers and enable additional columns. Columns:
- Name: The name of the program.
- Publisher: The name of the program’s publisher.
- Status: Shows “Enabled” here if the program automatically starts when you log in. “Disabled” is displayed here if you have disabled the startup task.
- Startup Impact: An estimate of how much CPU and disk resources a program is using at startup. Windows measures and tracks this in the background. The light program will show “Low” and the heavy program will show “High”. Disabled programs show “No”. You can speed up the boot process by disabling programs with a “high” impact on startup than by disabling programs with a “low” impact.
- Startup Type: This shows if the program is being started because of a registry entry (“Registry”) or because it is in your startup folder (“Folder”).
- Disk I/O at startup: The disk activity that the program performs at startup, in MB. Windows measures and records this on every boot.
- CPU at startup: The amount of CPU time the program uses at startup, in ms. Windows measures and records this on boot.
- Running Now: The word “Running” appears here if the launcher is currently running. If this column shows an entry for a program, the program closed or you closed it yourself.
- Disabled Time: For launchers that you have disabled, this shows the date and time you disabled the program.
- Command Line: Shows the full command line from which the launcher is launched, including any command line options.
The Users tab displays a list of registered users and the processes they run. If you are the only person logged into your Windows PC, you will only see your user account here. If other people have logged in and then locked their sessions without logging out, you will also see those locked sessions appear as “Disconnected”. It also shows you the CPU, memory, disk, network, and other system resources used by the processes running under each Windows user account.
You can disable a user account by right-clicking it and selecting Disable, or force signing out of it by right-clicking it and selecting Log Out. The Disconnect option terminates the desktop connection, but programs continue to run and the user can log back in, for example by locking the desktop session. The Quit option ends all processes, such as signing out of Windows.
From here, you can also control the processes of another user account if you want to end a task that belongs to another running user account.
When you right-click on the headers, the following columns are available:
- ID: Each logged in user account has its own session ID. Session “0” is reserved for system services, while other applications can create their own user accounts. Usually you don’t need to know this number, so it’s hidden by default.
- Session: The type of session. For example, it will say “Console” if it is being accessed on your local system. This is primarily useful for server systems with remote desktops.
- Client Name: The name of the remote client system accessing the session, if accessed remotely.
- Status: The status of the session – for example, if the user’s session is locked, the status will say Disconnected.
- CPU: Shared CPU used by user processes.
- Memory: The total memory used by user processes.
- Disk: The total disk activity associated with user processes.
- Network: The total network activity of the user’s processes.
Detailed Process Management
This is the most detailed task manager panel. It is similar to the Processes tab but provides more information and shows processes from all user accounts on your system. If you’ve used the Windows 7 Task Manager, it will look familiar to you; this is the same information displayed on the Processes tab in Windows 7.
You can right-click processes here to access additional options:
- End goal: terminate the process. This is the same option as on the normal Processes tab.
- Terminate process tree: Terminate the process and all processes created by this process.
- Set Priority: Set the priority for the process to Low, Below Normal, Normal, Above Normal, High, and Real Time. Processes run at normal priority. A lower priority is ideal for background processes, while a higher priority is ideal for desktop processes. However, Microsoft does not recommend fiddling with real-time priority.
- Set Bound: Set the processor affinity for the process, in other words, which processor the process is running on. By default, processes run on all processors on your system. You can use this to restrict a process to a specific processor. For example, this is sometimes useful for older games and other programs that assume you only have one processor. Even if you have a single CPU on your computer, each core appears as a separate processor.
- Analyze the wait chain: see which threads in the processes are waiting. This shows which processes and threads are waiting to use a resource being used by another process and is a useful debugging tool for programmers to diagnose hangups.
- UAC Virtualization: Enable or disable UAC virtualization for a process. This feature fixes applications that require administrator access by virtualizing their access to system files by redirecting their file and registry access to other folders. It is mainly used by older programs, such as those from the Windows XP era, that were not written for modern versions of Windows. This is a developer debug setting and you don’t need to change it.
- Create a dump file: take a snapshot of the program’s memory and save it to disk. It is a useful debugging tool for programmers.
- Open File Location: Open an explorer window showing the process executable.
- Web Search: Search Bing for the process name.
- Properties: View the file properties window. exe process.
- Go to Services: Show the services associated with the process in the Services tab. This is especially useful for svchost.exe processes. Services will be highlighted.
If you right-click on the headers and select Show Columns, you’ll see a much longer list of information you can show here, including many options not available on the Processes tab.
Here is what each possible column means:
- Package name: For Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, this displays the package name of the app the process is from. For other applications, this column is empty. UWP apps are typically distributed through the Microsoft Store.
- PID: A unique process identification number associated with this process. This is related to the process, not the program – for example, if you close and reopen the program, the new software process will have a new process ID.
- Status: Shows if the process is running or paused to save power. Windows 10 always “pauses” UWP apps you’re not using to conserve system resources. You can also control whether Windows 10 suspends traditional desktop processes.
- Username: The name of the user account under which the process is running. You will often see system user account names here, such as SYSTEM and LOCAL SERVICE.
- Session ID: A unique number associated with the user session in which the process is running. This is the same number that is displayed to the user in the Users tab.
- Job object identifier: “the job object in which the process is running.” Job objects are a way to group processes so that they can be managed as a group.
- CPU: The percentage of CPU resources the process is currently using on all CPUs. If nothing else is using CPU time, Windows will show the system idle process using it here. In other words, if a system idle process is using 90% of your CPU resources, that means that other processes on your system are using a combined 10%, and it has been idle 90% of the time.
- CPU Time: The total CPU time (in seconds) used by the process since it started. If the process is closed and restarted, this will be reset. This is a good way to detect CPU consuming processes that may be idle at the moment.
- Cycle: The percentage of CPU cycles the process is currently using for all CPUs. It’s not clear exactly how this differs from the CPU column, as the Microsoft documentation doesn’t explain it. However, the numbers in this column tend to be very similar to the CPU column, so it’s likely that the same piece of information is measured differently.
- Working set (memory): The amount of physical memory that the process is currently using.
- Peak working set (memory): The maximum amount of physical memory used by the process.
- Working set delta (memory): The change in working set memory since the data was last updated here.
- Memory (Active Private Working Set): The amount of physical memory used by a process that cannot be used by other processes. Processes often cache some data to make better use of your RAM, but can quickly give up that memory if another process needs it. This column does not include data from suspended UWP processes.
- Memory (Private Working Set): The amount of physical memory used by a process that cannot be used by other processes. This column does not exclude data from suspended UWP processes.
- Memory (Total Working Set): The amount of physical memory used by the process, which can be used by other processes as needed.
- Commit Size: The amount of virtual memory that Windows reserves for a process.
- Paged Pool: The amount of kernel paged memory that the Windows kernel or drivers allocate to this process. If necessary, the operating system can move this data to the paging file.
- NP Pool: The amount of non-paged kernel memory allocated by the Windows kernel or drivers for this process. The operating system cannot move this data to the paging file.
- Page Faults: The number of page faults generated by the process since it started. This happens when a program tries to access memory that is not currently allocated to it, and this is normal.
- Delta PF: Change in page fault count since last update.
- Base Priority: The priority of the process – for example, it can be Low, Normal, or High. Windows prioritizes scheduling processes with a higher priority. System background tasks that are not urgent may have a lower priority than, for example, desktop program processes.
- Handles: The current number of handles in the process’ object table. Handles represent system resources such as files, registry keys, and threads.
- Threads: The number of active threads in the process. Each process starts one or more threads, and Windows allocates CPU time to them. Threads in a process share memory.
- User Objects: The number of “window manager objects ” used by the process. This includes windows, menus, and cursors.
- GDI Objects: The number of graphics device interface objects used by the process. They are used to draw the user interface.
- I/O Reads: The number of read operations performed by the process since it started. I/O means input/output. This includes file, network, and device I/O.
- I/O Writes: The number of write operations performed by the process since it started.
- Other I/O: The number of non-read/write operations performed by the process since it was started. For example, this includes management functions.
- I/O Read Bytes: The total number of bytes read by the process since it started.
- I/O Write Bytes: The total number of bytes written by the process since it started.
- Other I/O Bytes: The total number of bytes used in non-read/write I/O operations since the process started.
- Image Path Name: The full path to the process executable.
- Command line: The exact command line that started the process, including the executable and any command line arguments.
- Operating system context: The minimum operating system that the program is compatible with, if any information is included in the application’s manifest file . For example, some applications might say “Windows Vista”, some say “Windows 7”, and others say “Windows 8.1”. Most will display nothing at all in this column.
- Platform: 32-bit or 64-bit process.
- Elevated: Whether the process is running in elevated mode, in other words, with administrative privileges or not. You will see either “No” or “Yes” for each process.
- UAC Virtualization: Whether UAC virtualization is enabled for the process. This virtualizes the program’s access to the registry and file system, allowing programs designed for older versions of Windows to run without administrator access. Options include Enabled, Disabled, and Not Allowed for processes that require access to the system.
- Description: A human-readable description of the process from within it. exe file. For example, chrome.exe has the description “Google Chrome” and explorer.exe has the description “Windows Explorer”. This is the same name that appears in the Name column on the normal Processes tab.
- Data Execution Prevention: Whether Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is enabled for the process. This is a security feature that helps protect applications from attacks.
- Corporate context: In domains, this shows what corporate context the application is running in. This can be a corporate domain context with access to corporate resources, a “personal” context without access to work resources, or a “release” for Windows system processes.
- Power throttling: Enable or disable power throttling for the process. Windows automatically limits some apps when you’re not using them to save battery power. You can control which apps are throttled from the Settings app.
- GPU: The percentage of GPU resources used by the process, or more specifically, the maximum utilization of all GPU cores.
- GPU Core: The GPU core that the process is using, or more specifically, the GPU core that the process is using the most. See the GPU information on the Performance tab for a list of GPUs and their engines. For example, even if you only have one GPU, it most likely has different engines for 3D rendering, video encoding, and video decoding.
- Dedicated GPU Memory: The total amount of GPU memory that the process is using across all GPUs. GPUs have their own dedicated video memory built into the discrete GPUs and a reserved portion of regular system memory on the integrated GPUs.
- Total GPU Memory: The total amount of system memory shared with the GPU that the process is using. This refers to data stored in your system’s regular RAM that is shared with the GPU, not to data stored in your GPU’s dedicated built-in memory.
Working with services
The Services tab displays a list of system services on your Windows system. These are background tasks that Windows runs even if no user account is logged on. They are controlled by the Windows operating system. Depending on the service, it may start automatically at boot or only when needed.
Many services are part of Windows 10 itself. For example, the Windows Update service downloads updates, and the Windows Audio service is responsible for sound. Other services are installed by third-party programs. For example, NVIDIA installs several services as part of its graphics drivers.
You should not contact these services unless you know what you are doing. But if you right-click them, you’ll see Start, Stop, or Restart Service options. You can also select “Search the Web” to search Bing for information about the service online, or “Go to Details” to display the process associated with a running service in the “Details” tab. Many services will have an “svchost.exe” process associated with them.
Tools panel columns:
- Name: The short name associated with the service.
- PID: The process ID number associated with the service.
- Description: A longer name that provides more information about what the service does.
- Status: Service “Stopped” or “Running”.
- Group: The group in which the service resides, if applicable. Windows loads one group of services at startup. A group of services is a collection of similar services that are loaded as a group.
For more information about these services, click the “Open Services” link at the bottom of the window. In any case, this task manager panel is a less powerful service administration tool.
Process Explorer: A More Powerful Task Manager
If the built-in Windows Task Manager isn’t enough for you, we recommend Process Explorer . This is a free program from Microsoft; it is part of the SysInternals set of useful system tools.
Process Explorer has features and information not found in Task Manager. For example, you can see which program has a particular file open and unlock the file. The default view also makes it easy to see which processes have which other processes open. Check out our detailed multi-part guide to using Process Explorer to learn more.