If you’ve used the Windows operating system, chances are you’ve
had to use the built-in Task Manager. If applications refuse to close or you
need to troubleshoot why your machine has slowed to a crawl, you need the Task
Manager. For some, the default does just fine. For others, the default client
isn’t powerful enough or doesn’t offer the necessary options to really take
control of a machine. Fortunately, for the power users, there are options
available that not only duplicate the features of the Windows default Task
Manager, but improve upon them.

Five Apps

I have located five such tools that any administrator (or
power user) would be remiss to not try. Each of these tools can serve as a
drop-in replacement for the default Windows Task Manager. Let’s find out if any
of these will fit your needs.

1. Process Explorer

Process Explorer
was created by the Microsoft Sysinternals team, so you know it’s a solid piece
of software. This app improves on the default by offering a powerful search
tool, a two-pane view mode (for faster access to more information), DLL-Mode
(what DLLs and memory-mapped files the process has loaded), Handle-mode (what
handles the process has selected), set affinity and priority, and even can be
used as a portable solution. By hovering the mouse over certain areas (such as
the CPU monitors) you can get instant popup information about your system.
Process Explorer is free and can run on Windows XP/Server 2003 and higher.

2. Process Hacker

Process Hacker
offers a better detailed overview of your processes than does the default
Windows apps. You will also find nice graphs and plenty of statistics to give
you more information than you probably need to know about the processes on your
system. The main process list is a customizable tree view and even offers a
services, network, and disk tabs where you can get even more information about
the system state. From the Disk tab you can quickly see what is writing to the
disk and where it’s writing to. Advanced features of Process Hacker include
viewing of heaps, symbolic access masks, and GDI handles, injecting and
unloading DLLs, and detaching from debuggers. Process Hacker is free and runs
on Windows XP and up.

3. System Explorer

System Explorer
one-ups the default by including modules, startups, IE addons, uninstallers,
drivers, connections, and opened files into the mix of the detailed view. With
System Explorer you can also check for suspicious files through a file and
virus database search. Another feature which System Explorer adds into the mix
is the ability to disable processes from starting at bootup as well as the
ability to find out what process is locking a file and track system changes.
System Explorer is free and runs on Windows XP through Windows 8.

4. AnVir Task Manager

AnVir Task Manager one
ups the default Task Manager by allowing you to set up delayed start times for
applications and services, monitor your memory battery, and offers a system “tweaker”
which allows you to fine-tune Windows 7 system settings. These features are all
included with the Free version. There is also a paid version which adds
numerous other features, such as: hard drive temperature, remaining life for
SSD drives, video card load, download/upload speed, and the ability to
permanently block unwanted processes. The paid (Pro) version is $49.95 and runs
on Windows XP and up. There is also a portable version available.

5. What’s Running

What’s Running
offers numerous improvements over the default Windows Task Manager. Included in
these improvements are: Detailed information on drivers, manage all startup
programs/services, get information on all modules that have loaded a specific
DLL, get quick real-time data on IP connections, recent RAM, CUP, and I/O
activity, and a “Check on-line” option which will give you detailed
information about the process (simply right-click a process to get to this
feature). Another nice feature is the ability to take a monthly snapshot so you
compare with other snapshots. What’s Running is free and works with Windows
2000/XP/2003/Vista/Windows 7.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a replacement for the Windows Task
Manager that offers more features and flexibility, than look no further than
these five options. With any of these, you’ll be happily managing your system
processes with more power and reliability.