Most Windows users only pull up the Task Manager when a program freezes/hangs and they need to stop it. While it’s perfectly fine to use the Task Manager this way, you’re also missing out on some useful features if you never look deeper.
The Task Manager has merited some serious improvements since the days of Windows 7. Let’s take a look at the best Task Manager tricks for Windows 10 that you should know.
How to Quickly Bring Up Task Manager
Even if you know how to get to the Task Manager, you may not be aware of the different methods of doing it. Although you can press Ctrl + Alt + Del to open the security screen and launch Task Manager that way, it’s a slow method.
Here’s how to quickly pull up Task Manager: use shortcuts Ctrl + Shift + Esc. This will immediately launch the app without the need for additional clicks. It’s also how you bring Task Manager to the front when it’s minimized.
If you want to use the mouse instead, you can right-click on an empty spot on your Taskbar and select Task Manager.
Finally, you will find a shortcut to Task Manager on the Power User menu. Right click on the Start button or press Win + X to open this. This is a handy Windows Task Manager shortcut because it works great whether your hand is on the mouse or the keyboard.
Once you have opened the Task Manager, make sure to click More details to display the full interface, if it is not already active.
Find Out Why Apps Freeze/Hang
As mentioned earlier, the most common reason for opening the Task Manager is to kill frozen programs (though you can force close apps without Task Manager). But next time you’re in that situation, you can do more analysis first. It’s possible that the program didn’t freeze, but that it just took a moment to process the task.
Prematurely stopping active apps can result in data loss, so it makes sense to wait and see if the frozen process resolves itself. Here comes the features Analyze Wait Chain in the Task Manager is useful. It can notify you when a process is stuck waiting for another process, which can help you identify why an app is not responding.
To see which process is the real cause, switch to the tab Details and find the process you want to observe. Right click on it and select Analyze Wait Chain to see the details. If the application is waiting for another process, you will see it in the resulting window.
Restart Windows Explorer
The Windows Explorer process is responsible for many Windows UI elements, such as the Taskbar, File Explorer, Start menu, and the like. If you have problems with any of these elements, your first thought might be to restart your PC. While this will solve the problem, it is better to just restart Windows Explorer.
To do this, search Windows Explorer on tab Processes from Task Manager. Right click and select Restart to kill the task and run it again. You’ll see the Taskbar and other elements disappear momentarily, which is normal. After they return, everything should return to normal.
Performance and Resource Monitor
While Task Manager provides an overview of all running processes and applications, it also has several tools to effectively monitor your system performance and resource allocation.
Jump to tab Performance to see it. Once you’re there, check out the following tips.
Along the left sidebar, you will see fields for CPU, Memory, Disk, and other resources on your computer. Click one to see a real-time graph of its usage.
If you want to keep an eye on this information without leaving the Task Manager open, right-click anywhere on the left sidebar and select Summary View to show only that sidebar. Instead, you can right-click anywhere in the right pane and select Graph Summary View to display only the current graph.
Copy Diagnostic Info
With any resource type selected on the left, right-click anywhere and select Copy to place a diagnostic snapshot on your clipboard. You can then paste this into Notepad to save as a baseline or share it in online forums for troubleshooting help.
Access Useful Details
Each resource type has some interesting details that may be useful. Under CPU, you will find Uptime, which indicates how long it has been since the computer was restarted.
In Memory, you can check the number of used Slots to see if you have room to add more. Read Speed and Write speed under Disk gives you an idea of how fast your storage media is performing as well.
Open Resource Monitor
If you want more details that Task Manager doesn’t show you, click Open Resource Monitor at the bottom of the window. This utility is a powerful way to view real-time data about your system, including threads used, disk response times, details of RAM used by processes, and more.
Search Online For Suspicious Processes
Sometimes, you may encounter suspicious-looking process names in the Task Manager. Most of the time they’re legit, but it’s always wise to check out ones you’ve never seen or heard of before.
Windows can help with this: just right click on any process and select action Search online. This will launch a Bing search in your browser with the process and application names. The results will help you determine whether it is safe or not.
Add Extra Columns for More Details
By default, Task Manager displays only a few columns in the Processes tab. While this covers the most important details, you can actually add a few more columns by simply right-clicking the header area.
- Type, which tells you if the process is a process App, Background process, or Windows processes
- Publisher, which indicates the developer of the program.
- Process name, which is often an executable file. This will look familiar if you have used the Task Manager in Windows 7 or earlier.
While you may find some or all of them useful at times, Process name very useful. It’s easier to spot suspicious apps by their process name than by their app name, and they’re also often easier to research.
Note that you can also add additional columns to the tab Startup. Use this for troubleshooting purposes (such as CPU at Startup to measure impact) or just to see startup processes that are still running (with column Running Now).
Switch Between Value and Percentage
When browsing the list Processes, the CPU column only shows in percentage. However, you can change the other three default columns between absolute values and percentages.
Percentages are better when you need an understanding of how resources are being used compared to the total available. It’s nice to know an app is using 50MB of RAM, but seeing this as only two percent of all RAM on your system puts it into perspective.
To toggle this, just right click on any process, navigate to the submenu Resource values, select the type of resource you want to change, and select Values or Percents.
Manage Windows Apps
Task Manager is far from the best window management tool available, but it does have a few actions you might find useful. To access it, you have to click on the arrow next to the item you want to manage to show all the processes. This only works for items listed under section Apps on tab Processes, and it didn’t work for all apps in our tests.
Once you’ve expanded the item to show all processes, right-click the indented entry and you’ll see this window action for that application:
- Switch to: Brings apps into focus and minimizes Task Manager.
- Bring to the front: Puts apps in focus, but doesn’t minimize Task Manager.
- Minimize: Minimize programs.
- Maximize: Maximize the application.
- End Tasks: Stop the process.
Open Application File Location
Do you often feel the need to navigate to the installed location of a particular program? Maybe you want to change some configuration files, or need to copy the file paths for some reason.
Crawling through File Explorer is one way to do that, but it requires a lot of clicking. If the program is already running, Task Manager can help you get there faster.
Just right click on any process and select Open File Location. This will take you directly to the folder containing the process’s executable file. This is quite convenient, especially since the software can live on your entire filesystem.
It works for Apps, Background Processes, and Windows Processes allows you to quickly access anything that appears under a tab Processes.
Customize Task Manager Options
Task Manager has several preferences that you can adjust to make the experience smoother. Under Options, you can activate Always on top to keep Task Manager on top of other windows unless you manually minimize it. Also in this menu, select Set default tab to choose what Task Manager should show when you open it.
See below menu View to make Update speed faster or slower. You can even pause if you need to check the snapshot in time.
Task Manager Is A Valuable Resource
For the average user, Task Manager is more than enough to give you the system information you need to keep things under control. Whether you want to keep an eye on resource usage or easily track process location, Task Manager has you covered.