Process Explorer: Freeware outshines Task Manager

Please let us know how useful you find this tip by rating it below. Do you have a useful Windows tip, timesaver or workaround to share? Submit it to our tip contest and you could win a prize!

As useful as Task Manager is for seeing what processes are currently running and how much memory is available to the system, I find that it's severely limited in several respects.

For instance, it doesn't provide detailed information about processes or threads within a given process, or realistic memory consumption data. These are just two examples of the limitations it has when it comes to offering useful information when you are trying to diagnose problems.

Many people have written replacements for Task Manager, but the one that stands head and shoulders above all of them has to be Mark Russinovich's Process Explorer (PE), one of the many excellent pieces of freeware available through Mark's Sysinternals site. Like, Task Manager, Process Explorer provides you with a list of running processes and data associated with them, but PE has far more information available about each process.

When you run PE, you can elect to have it replace the existing Task Manager completely or you can run it as a standalone program when needed. The list of running processes is hierarchical, so you can get a better understanding of what programs have spawned what processes. Double-click on a process and you can inspect its security privileges (i.e., what user context it's running under and what privileges it has), resource strings within the executable image (useful for tracking down viruses!), thread and stack information, and even the TCP/IP thread stacks in use by the program.

PE does have one quirk that many people may object to: its System Information graph, which most closely resembles the old Task Manager memory tab, is a completely separate window. The old tabbed interface for Task Manager was a little less cumbersome to navigate, but the wealth of detail you get in PE makes up for it.

Serdar Yegulalp wrote for Windows Magazine from 1994 through 2001, covering a wide range of technology topics. He now uses his expertise in Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP as publisher of The Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter and writes technology columns for TechTarget.

This was first published in April 2005

There are Comments. Add yours.

TIP: Want to include a code block in your comment? Use <pre> or <code> tags around the desired text. Ex: <code>insert code</code>

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
Sort by: OldestNewest

Forgot Password?

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an email containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Disclaimer: Our Tips Exchange is a forum for you to share technical advice and expertise with your peers and to learn from other enterprise IT professionals. TechTarget provides the infrastructure to facilitate this sharing of information. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or validity of the material submitted. You agree that your use of the Ask The Expert services and your reliance on any questions, answers, information or other materials received through this Web site is at your own risk.