Microsoft

Investigating Windows 10's Task Manager: More simplicity, more power

If you're accustomed to the Task Manager features in Windows 7 and XP, you're in for a pleasant surprise when you upgrade to Windows 10. Here's a rundown of the enhancements and changes.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/hirenman69

If you skipped Windows 8.x and have just upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows XP, you're probably interested in learning more about the new features in Windows 10's Task Manager.

Task Manager comes in handy in a number of situations because at a glance it can show you the programs, processes, and services that are currently running on your computer. While the most common use for Task Manager is to end programs that are no longer responding, Windows 10's Task Manager allows you to monitor your computer's performance by checking the graphs and data on CPU, disk, and memory usage. You can also use Task Manager to view network status, and if more than one user is connected to your computer, you can see who is connected.

Windows 10's Task Manager is both simpler and much more powerful than the versions in Windows XP and 7. Average users will find it easier to perform the most common task—killing applications that are no longer responding—and power users will find that it puts more advanced features right at your fingertips.

In this article, I'll provide you with an overview of all the information that Windows 10's Task Manager provides. In future articles, I'll take more in depth look at the features on each individual tab.

Ending tasks

The primary reason most average users turn to Task Manager is to end unresponsive applications. So instead of launching in a power user mode, Windows 10's Task Manager initially appears with a simple user interface. Now, when you have an application that is locked up, you launch Task Manager and immediately see the doomed application and one button, End Task, as shown in Figure A. Just select the application, click the button, and close Task Manager.

Figure A

Figure A

To make it easy to use Task Manager for its primary task, the initial user interface is basic and straightforward.

Getting more detailed information

If you're a power user, you can click the More Details button and transform Task Manager into a much more comprehensive tool with a tabbed user interface that contains seven tabs: Processes, Performance, App History, Startup, Users, Details, and Services. Let's take a closer look.

Processes tab

On the Processes tab, shown in Figure B, you'll find a list that breaks the running process into groups titled Apps, Background Processes, and Windows processes. This is much better than the endless list of unsorted processes that you find in previous versions. To keep the list as uncluttered as possible, only the main process are displayed by default. Any process that contains related subprocesses will have an arrow next to it—just click the arrow and the list expands to reveal all the associated subprocesses. Not only does this make for a nicer display, but this organizational structure comes in real handy when you want to see all the services running under a Service Host process, as shown in Figure C.

Figure B

Figure B

The Processes tab features a heat map that makes it easy to identify applications using more resources than needed.

Figure C

Figure C

To keep the list as uncluttered as possible, all subprocesses are tucked away until you expand the list.

If you look back at Figure B, you'll notice that the main column headings CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network all show a percentage of use value. This provides you with an overview of resource usage. In the columns themselves, you'll find percentage of use values for each running process. You'll also notice that the values in those columns are color coded. Microsoft calls this color coding a heat map. The darker the color the more resources that process is using. This makes it easy to tell at a glance what process is using the most resources. In addition, the columns are sortable. Just click a column header to sort in either ascending or descending order.

Performance tab

On the Performance tab, you'll find data and graphs that show you detailed information on the current activity of the CPU, Memory, Disks, and your Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connections, as shown in Figure D. While I've combined them into a composite image, you can see that each component has its own page on the tab so that the information and graph for each one is easily readable.

Figure D

Figure D

The Performance tab shows data and graphs of the CPU, Memory, Disks, and Ethernet.

App History tab

On the App history tab, shown in Figure E, you'll find a list showing how long you've used an app, measured in CPU Time. You'll also see how much system resources the app has used over that time period.

Figure E

Figure E

The App history tab provides you with detailed information about how an app uses system resources over time.

Startup tab

The Startup tab, shown in Figure F, provides you with a list of the applications that are configured to run by default every time you start the operating system. In addition to the Publisher and Status information, the Startup Impact information can come in handy when troubleshooting startup problems. In previous versions of Windows, you have turn to the System Configuration tool (msconfig.exe) to obtain such a list. Now, it's accessible right in Windows Task Manager.

Figure F

Figure F

The Startup tab show you a list of applications that are configured to launch with the operating system.

If you want to remove an application from startup, just select it and click the Disable button. The button will then toggle to Enable so that you can re-enable the application if you need to.

As you'll notice in this screenshot, which was taken on a tablet, there is a measurement in the upper-right corner called Last BIOS Time. This measurement shows the amount of time it took to load the BIOS. The BIOS allows the operating system to communicate with the hardware, and this measurement shows how much time it took after power on to prepare the hardware before Windows could begin loading. This information might be useful in troubleshooting slow startups.

Users tab

On the User tab, you can see a list of anyone who is logged on to the system, along with a complete list of the programs they're running, as shown in Figure G. You can also see the same type of current resource usage data found on the Processes tab.

Figure G

Figure G

The Users tab show a list of logged-in users and the applications they're running.

Details tab

The Details tab, shown in Figure H, looks just like the Processes tab in previous versions of the Windows operating system. It shows the name of each running process, measures of their performance, and a description.

Figure H

Figure H

The Details tab shows all running processes.

Services tab

The Services tab, shown in Figure I, provides you with a convenient way to quickly view the services that are running, just like the Services tab in previous operating systems. You can start and stop individual services, as well as launch the full Services Console tool.

Figure I

Figure I

The Services tab shows all running services.

What's your take?

What do you think about Windows 10's Task Manager? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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