What is Windows Task Manager? (and what you can do with it)

Shaant Minhas

windows laptop

The Task Manager is a Windows program that lets you see and manage different programs and applications running on your Windows computer. Interestingly, for most people, their first encounter with the Task Manager is when something goes off in their PC, and they end up with a hanged up system. In fact, that’s what most people think is the use of Task Manager: a way to terminate unruly programs.

While this is partly true, as the Task Manager is indeed a good way to close any Windows program, that’s not its only utility. However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of using Task Manager, let’s look at how you can launch it in the first place.

How to open Task Manager?

There’s a host of different ways to launch the Task Manager in your Windows computer. So many in fact, that in the past we’ve devoted an entire article to do just that.

Here, though, we’ll focus on the easier methods to launch the Task Manager. We’ll first look at how you can successfully open the Task Manger with just a simple keyboard shortcut. Here’s how:

Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete key together and a new window will pop open. This is called the Windows Security screen/page. There, you’ll see different options or buttons to play with; Task Manager will also be there.

As soon as you click on the Task Manager, the Task Manager’s window will be launched.

If, for some reason, this method doesn’t work, then you can rely on the Windows Start menu search bar. Here’s how:

  1. Head to the Start menu search bar, type in ‘task manager,’ and select the Best match.
  2. The Task Manager will be launched.

On a rare chance, if this is the first time you’re using the Task Manager, then you might be seeing the simpler, compact version of Task Manager. Click on More details to see the complete Task Manager.

compact task manager

full version of task manager

Making the most out of Task Manager

As shown above, when you click on More details you’ll get taken to a different screen, with critical information on the Background processes, Performance, App history, and so on.

Let’s look at all the fun things you can do with the Task Manager.

1. Diving inside the Processes tab (or how to kill processes with Task Manager)

The Process section of Task Manager is what makes it infamous. In short, from here you not only get a brief overview of all the processes running on your PC—big or small—but also the ability to terminate them. Here’s how:

  1. Once you’re in the Processes tab, select any process you’d like to terminate.
  2. Then click on End Task.

killing a task in task manager

As soon as you do this, that specific process will get terminated. Apart from the two functions described above, the Task Manager can also help you launch new tasks.

  • Click on File option from above and select Run new task.
  • A new dialog box will pop open; enter the task you want to launch and hit Enter. For instance, I’ll type in ‘control panel,’ and click on OK

creating a new task in task manager

As soon as I do that, the Control Panel will be launched. You can follow the same process for opening other types of processes.

2. The Performance tab

Performance tab is right next to the Process tab. When you click on it you’ll see all it does is inform you about the information on all related hardware on your PC.

Be it the CPU, the Disk or even your router, the Performance tab keeps a check on them all.

For instance, when you click on CPU, you’ll see a barrage of information that, at first look, might even seem a little overwhelming. Let’s go over them quickly.

performance tab in task manager

Utilization: It’s a graph that denotes the overall utilization of your PC by showing the CPU activity from the graph.

Processes: Shows all the processes running on your PC. As you can see, my PC is running 95 processes right now!

Up time: This is the total time the computer has been running for since the last restart. So my PC has been running for 2 hours 24 minutes and 12 seconds.

Speed: Shows the pace on which your computer is working right now.

Threads: A thread is the smallest unit of processing that can be done in an operating system. This shows the number of such threads running in your PC at present.

Handles: A handle is basically a pointer that points to a resource which a program can later access. In our case, as you can see, there are 46815 different handles!

And the rest is simple statistical information about your PC. It includes things like:

Base speed: Denotes the upper limit on your CPUs’ processing speed.  

Sockets: A socket is what connects your CPU’s processing unit to a motherboard. My computer only has a single socket.

Cores: In short, a core is the process unit of your CPU chip. In the earlier days, there were only single cores in a CPU. Nowadays, however, CPUs come with even 32 cores.

Logical processors: It’s the number of cores perceived by your CPU. It’s a product of physical cores and the number of threads.

Virtualization: Virtualization is the process of running a single CPU as if multiple CPU are running.

In a similar fashion, the Memory, Disk and Ethernet sections give you a clue on the respective information contained within them.

3. App History

The App History tab briefs you about the resource utilization in your current user account. As you can see below, it’s giving me the resource usage report since 14/2/2022.

app history section in task manager

4. Startup

The Startup section gives you a list of apps that are launched automatically when you open your computer. It also gives out important information about these apps. Things like name of app creator, it’s status (i.e., enabled or disabled), and Startup impact.

Furthermore, conversely, you can enable or disable the apps you want to be launched on startup. Simply right-click on a specific app and then select Enable (or Disable).

startup tab in task manager

5. Users

The Users tab, as its name suggests, shows you about the different users signed in to your PC. In my case, there’s only a single user account on this PC, as demonstrated by the screenshot below. When you click on a specific user, you’ll also get to see all the processes running inside them, along with data on CPU, Memory, Disk and Network.

users tab in windows

6. Details

The Details tab is a comprehensive overview of all the processes loping on your computer. It includes everything from Status, Memory occupied, to the Architecture on which the system is running, including even the Description.

details section in task manager

7. Services

Windows Services are applications that run in the background, supporting the smooth running of your computer. From the Services tab, you’ll therefore get a good glimpse of all the programs running on your PC behind the scenes.

services tab

Everything you need to know about Task Manager

As you can see, the Task Manager is a handy tool to keep a watch on and control the apps and processes running in your Windows. But you need to be careful as well. Meddling with the wrong processes; system critical ones, for instance, is the surest way to mess up the smooth functioninf of your system.