How to use the Windows Task Manager

This guide will explain how to use the Windows Task Manager, a very helpful utility included with all versions of Windows. If your PC starts to slow down after you’ve been using it for a while, or one or more programs completely stop responding, you can use the Task Manager to help regain some of your system resources ..

The Windows Task Manager allows you to monitor the programs running on your PC – and close them (known as ending a task) if needed. It comes particularly in handy when a program completely stops responding or crashes (but doesn’t close).

  1. To launch the Task Manager, right-click in an empty space in your Task Bar and select Task Manager from the pop-up menu (or use the keyboard combination ctrl-alt-delete and then select Task Manager from the list of options that will appear).
  2. The “basic” version of the Task Manager will open.
  3. If a program says “Not Responding” or you want to end it because it won’t close normally, select it from the list and then click the End task button.
  4. Click the More details link in the bottom left corner of the basic Task Manager window. The full version of the Task Manager will appear. The default tab to open is the Processes tab.
  5. the Windows Task Manager expanded view
    click to enlarge

  6. All of the apps and Windows processes that are currently running will be listed, and can be sorted by a number of variables. Right-click somewhere inside the Name field and a list of all the variables will pop up. Some of the more helpful ones are: Status, Process name, CPU, Memory, Disk, Network and Power usage.
  7. If you select CPU all of the running apps and processes will be listed in order of their CPU usage. As illustrated in the screenshot below, Microsoft Edge is using the most CPU on my PC. If you select Memory the order the apps are listed in will change so that the ones using the most memory are listed first. It’s important to note that some programs simply require a lot of memory – just because something is using a lot of RAM that doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. Image and video editing software (Photoshop, Final Cut, Premiere, etc) typically use a lot of memory. Web browsers are also notorious for using a lot of memory.
  8. Windows Task Manager with processes sorted by CPU usage
    click to enlarge

  9. If you select the Performance tab, you’ll be presented with a series of graphs that represent various aspects of your computer – the CPU, Memory, Disk, Network etc. This lets you quickly identify which parts of your computer are being used the most.
  10. the Windows Task manager Performance tab
    click to enlarge

For more details on the Task Manager, check out this Microsoft Support Community post.


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