Windows Task Manager

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Task Manager
A component of Microsoft Windows
Windows 8 task manager.png
Screenshot of Task Manager in Windows 8
TypeTask manager, system monitor and startup manager
Included withMicrosoft Windows NT 4.0 and onwards
ReplacesSystem Monitor
Related components
Resource Monitor, MSConfig
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Task Manager
A component of Microsoft Windows
Windows 8 task manager.png
Screenshot of Task Manager in Windows 8
TypeTask manager, system monitor and startup manager
Included withMicrosoft Windows NT 4.0 and onwards
ReplacesSystem Monitor
Related components
Resource Monitor, MSConfig

Windows Task Manager is a task manager, system monitor and startup manager included with Microsoft Windows, that provides limited information about computer performance and running applications, processes and CPU usage, commit charge and memory information, network activity and statistics, logged-in users, and system services. The Task Manager can also be used to set process priorities, processor affinity, forcibly terminate processes, and shut down, restart, hibernate or log off from Windows. Windows Task Manager was introduced with Windows NT 4.0. Previous versions of Windows NT included the Task List application, which had far fewer features. The task list was capable of listing currently running processes and killing them, or creating a new process. In Windows XP only, a Shutdown menu is also present that allows access to Standby, Hibernate, Turn off, Restart, Log Off and Switch User.

Earlier versions of Microsoft Windows (Microsoft Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows 98) had a program known as tasks to display the programs currently running. This file was executed by running the taskman.exe file from the C:\Windows directory.[1]

Property sheets[edit]

Task Manager on Windows XP, showing the System Idle Process


The Applications tab in Task Manager shows a list of programs currently running. A set of rules[specify] determines whether a process appears on this tab or not. Most applications that have a taskbar entry will appear on this tab, but this is not always the case.[citation needed]

Right-clicking any of the applications in the list allows (among other things) switching to that application, ending the application, and showing the process on the Processes tab that is associated with the application.

Choosing to End Task from the Applications tab causes a request to be sent to the application for it to terminate. This is different from what happens when End Process is chosen from the Processes tab.


The Processes tab shows a list of all running processes on the system. This list includes services and processes from other accounts. Prior to Windows XP, process names longer than 15 characters in length are truncated.[2] Beginning with Windows XP, the Delete key can also be used to terminate processes on the Processes tab.

Right-clicking a process in the list allows changing the priority the process has, setting processor affinity (setting which CPU(s) the process can execute on), and allows the process to be ended. Choosing to End Process causes Windows to immediately kill the process. Choosing to "End Process Tree" causes Windows to immediately kill the process, as well as all processes directly or indirectly started by that process. Unlike choosing End Task from the Applications tab, when choosing to End Process the program is not given warning nor a chance to clean up before ending. However, when a process that is running under a security context different from the one of the process which issued the call to TerminateProcess, the use of the KILL command line utility is required.[3]

By default the processes tab shows the user account the process is running under, the amount of CPU, and the amount of memory the process is currently consuming. There are many more columns that can be shown by choosing Select columns... from the View menu.


The performance tab shows overall statistics about the system's performance, most notably the overall amount of CPU usage and how much memory is being used. A chart of recent usage for both of these values is shown. Details about specific areas of memory are also shown.

There is an option to break the CPU usage graph into two sections: kernel mode time and user mode time. Many device drivers, and core parts of the operating system run in kernel mode, whereas user applications run in user mode. This option can be turned on by choosing Show kernel times from the View menu. When this option is turned on the CPU usage graph will show a green and a red area. The red area is the amount of time spent in kernel mode, and the green area shows the amount of time spent in user mode.


The Networking tab, introduced in Windows XP, shows statistics relating to each of the network adapters present in the computer. By default the adapter name, percentage of network utilization, link speed and state of the network adapter are shown, along with a chart of recent activity. More options can be shown by choosing Select columns... from the View menu.


The Users tab, also introduced in Windows XP, shows all users that currently have a session on the computer. On server computers, there may be several users connected to the computer using Terminal Services. As of Windows XP, there may also be multiple users logged onto the computer at one time using the Fast User Switching feature. Users can be disconnected or logged off from this tab.

Update interval[edit]

The update interval can be set to High (0.5 s), Normal (2 s), Low (4 s), or Paused. Once changed in Windows XP, the default update rate of 1 s can only be reset by editing the Registry binary data in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\TaskManager\Preferences. The interval is stored in Milliseconds at offset 04, "e8 03" sets it to 1000 ms.


Applications tab[edit]

Processes tab[edit]

The layout can be configured by the user by selecting "View" then "Select Columns..." from the menu. Up to thirty different columns (depending on the version of Windows) can be selected for display including various memory and I/O options and the number of handles and threads in use.

Performance tab[edit]

Tiny footprint mode[edit]

Task Manager has an alternate interface without any menu options or tabs. This is called the Tiny Footprint mode. Double-clicking on any empty space besides the data and/or menus changes Task Manager into this mode; double-clicking in the border switches it back.[5]
Tiny Footprint mode shows the data of the tab selected when Tiny Footprint mode is entered. In some versions of Windows, the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Tab, Ctrl+Shift+Tab or Ctrl+PageUp/PageDown may be used to cycle through the Tiny Footprint view for each tab normally visible outside of this mode. Tiny Footprint mode does not show the memory usage graph if the tab selected is Performance.

Security issues[edit]

Task Manager is a common target of computer viruses and other forms of malware; typically malware will close the Task Manager as soon as it is started, so as to hide itself from users. Variants of the Zotob and Spybot worms have used this technique, for example.[6] Using Group Policy, it is possible to disable the Task Manager. Many types of malware also enable this policy setting in the registry. Rootkits can prevent themselves from getting listed in the Task Manager, thereby preventing their detection and termination using it.

Tasks under Windows 9x[edit]

A Close Program dialog box comes up when Ctrl+Alt+Del is pressed in Windows 9x. Also, in Windows 9x, there is a program called Tasks (TASKMAN.EXE) located in the Windows directory. TASKMAN.EXE is rudimentary and has fewer features. The System Monitor utility in Windows 9x contains process and network monitoring functionality similar to that of the Windows Task Manager. (Also, Tasks program is called by clicking twice on desktop if Explorer process is down.)

Windows Vista changes[edit]

Windows Task Manager has been updated in Windows Vista with new features, including:

Windows 8 changes[edit]

A compilation of images of different parts of taskmgr.exe included in Windows 8 (TOC in the bottom-right)

In Windows 8, Windows Task Manager has been overhauled and the following changes were made:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Computer Hope web site.
  2. ^ Magic 15 with GetProcessesByName on Windows 2000[dead link]
  3. ^ "Cannot End Service Processes with Task Manager". 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  4. ^ "Process counter column headings", Windows XP Task Manager Help (Microsoft Corporation), Memory Usage: In Task Manager, the current working set of a process, in kilobytes. The current working set is the number of pages currently resident in memory. On the Task Manager Processes tab, the column heading is Mem Usage. 
  5. ^ "Task Manager Menu Bar and Tabs Are Not Visible", Help and Support (Microsoft), 2007-05-07, retrieved 2007-08-07 
  6. ^ Task Manager, MSCONFIG, or REGEDIT disappears while opening
  7. ^ "Using Task Manager with 64+ logical processors". Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  8. ^ "How to Get the Most out of New Windows 8 Task Manager?". Retrieved October 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]