Microsoft Windows Task Manager

Microsoft Windows Task Manager is a component of  the Windows operating system (OS) that helps administrators and end users to monitor, manage and troubleshoot tasks. A task is a basic unit of programming that an operating system controls.

Task Manager is included with Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Each version of Windows makes slight changes to theutility's features and functionality, but Task Manager can always be launched with a Ctrl+Shift+Esc key combination, a Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination, or by right-clicking the taskbar and selecting Task Manager (or Start Task Manager) from the context menu.

As a monitoring tool, Task Manager displays basic performance data and graphical representations of CPU, swap-file and memory use. Later versions of Task Manager include disk and networking details as well. IT professionals can often check the Task Manager to quickly identify system bottlenecks that may be responsible for performance or stability problems before deploying more comprehensive or intrusive troubleshooting tools.

As a management tool, Task Manager reports on applications and other Windows Task Manager processes (such as services) currently running on a Windows system. IT professionals can use this data to identify unusual or unexpected software that could be malware or other unauthorized software. Task Manager allows administrators to terminate applications and processes, adjust processing priorities and set processor affinity as needed for best performance.

In addition, Task Manager allows the system to be shut down or restarted, which may be necessary when it is otherwise busy or unresponsive. Task Manager also lists end users who are currently logged onto a system. Users can be selected and logged off from the system to aid in logon or connectivity troubleshooting.

It's important to remember that Task Manager is a basic tool and is not capable of advanced monitoring or management such as alerting. But organizations can choose third-party Task Manager replacements to tackle more demanding roles. For example, an IT professional that requires detailed information about processes can use Process Explorer v15.31, which displays detailed information about open processes and Dynamic Link Libraries, along with graphic representations of CPU, memory, I/O and GPU activity.

Contributor(s): Stephen J. Bigelow, Senior Technology Editor
This was last updated in July 2013
Posted by: Margaret Rouse
View the next item in this Essential Guide: Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 or view the full guide: Windows 7 guide: Before, during and after migration

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