How to view and manage the running processes with the Task Manager from Windows

The Processes tab found in the Task Manager from both Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, gives users detailed information about how programs use system resources. There’s no question that this tab is useful, but it’s not exactly generous with the details it shows. If you want to delve into a sea of information with details on each process running on your Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 computer or device, you need to head to the Task Manager’s Details tab. Here’s what you’ll find in it and what you can do with it:

NOTE: The information shared in this tutorial applies to Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. For simplicity, we will use screenshots taken in Windows 10.

How to access the Details tab in the Task Manager

Finding the Details tab is as simple as clicking or tapping a button, but you'll need to launch the Task Manager before you can do it. There are many ways to get this tool to start, but the fastest is to hit “Ctrl + Shift + Esc” on your keyboard. Click or tap on the “More details” button from the Task Manager if it starts in its compact view.

Then, select the Details tab.

How to customize the data displayed on the Details tab

The Details tab shows a lot of data in its default view. When you first load the tab you'll find the following columns:

  • Name - The name of the running process.
  • PID - A unique numerical ID number used by Windows to identify the process.
  • Status - Displays whether a process is running or suspended. Universal Windows Platform apps are suspended to conserve resources when they are not used.
  • User name - The name of the user account the process is running under.
  • CPU - Percentage of CPU used by the process.
  • Memory (Private working set) - The amount of memory used and reserved for the process.
  • Description - A short text description of what the process is.

If you are happy with the data displayed but want to change the order in which it appears, click (or tap) and drag a column header to move it left or right.

If you want to add more information to the tab, you have a lot to choose from. To see what you can add, right-click or long-press a column header and click or tap on “Select columns.”

You'll now see the “Select Columns” window. It displays all of the columns available to add to the tab. The total list includes almost 40 choices including detailed information about memory, CPU, disk reads/writes and much more. We can't go into detail on so many options, but suffice it to say that if you need to know it, you'll find it on the list.

If you have a column open that you don't need any longer, you can hide it by right-clicking or long-pressing the column's header and select “Hide column.”

How to end processes from the Details tab in the Task Manager

One of the most common uses for this tab is to stop processes quickly, to free up system resources. To end a task, just select it and click or tap “End task” from the bottom-right corner of the window.

You can also right-click or long-press the process name and click or tap “End task.” This method also gives you the option to select “End process tree.”

This will not only end the process you right-clicked but also every other process associated with it.

How to change the way processes run, using the Details tab

While terminating processes is useful and a common task, you can do a whole lot more with the Details tab. Access the context menu by right-clicking or long-pressing a process. Then, you can select some options to change the way that process runs on your Windows computer.

Select “Set priority” to increase or decrease the priority your system gives a process when resources are divided up. Raising the priority will make the chosen process run better, but it could destabilize the rest of your system and even cause a crash. To avoid performance issues, never raise priority more than a single step at a time. If you want to raise it up even higher, test each step before progressing further.

Select “Set affinity” to link your selected process to a particular processor or core on your system.

Choose the core or cores you want the process to run on and then click or tap on OK.

While it may seem a better idea to let Windows divvy up the load evenly among all cores, certain older applications like old games from the 90s or 2000s that were designed for a single-core processor might run better when pushed onto a single core.

How to troubleshoot problem processes using the Details tab

Not only can you change how programs run on your computer using the Details tab, but you can also get information that will help you resolve issues that may arise. If you have a program lock up and become unresponsive, select “Analyze wait chain” from the context menu in the Details tab.

This will examine the process and list all subprocesses that are currently attempting to complete a task. Killing these subprocesses will often free up the parent process allowing you to save data that might otherwise be lost. You can also research the offending subprocesses to see why they may be using resources so heavily.

If you have a process that is giving you trouble such as performance issues, freeze ups or errors, you can create a dump file that will provide a detailed account of everything that your process is doing in memory at the time the dump file is created. Right click or press and hold, then click or tap “Create dump file.”

The generated file can be opened with debugging software such as WinDBG, but most users will get more value from this feature by sending the dump file to a tech support agent. Remember the path shared by the Task Manager, then click or tap OK.

You'll need to enable hidden files to access the folder where this file is stored.

How to enable UAC process virtualization in the Task Manager's Details tab

Another option you'll find in the context menu of the Details tab is UAC Virtualization. This option allows you to enable User Account Control virtualization for a particular program. While most users won't interact with this very often, it does serve an important purpose.

Some older applications are configured to write directly to important system locations and require your user account to have admin credentials to run. If you don't want to grant admin rights to such an app, you can enable virtualization from the Task Manager. This will cause Windows to recreate important locations such as the System32 directory and system registry keys in a virtual environment to prevent potential problems from affecting your actual system files.

To enable this feature, select “UAC virtualization” from the context menu after right-clicking or long-pressing on a process name.

Click or tap “Change virtualization” to enable or disable the feature for the selected process.

How to learn more about a process using the Details tab

The rest of the options on the context menu are identical to those on other tabs. Again, this menu is shown when you right-click on a process or long-press on it.

You'll be able to use these to learn more information about a given process if the description column doesn't provide enough details.

  • “Open file location” - This launches File Explorer and takes you to the location where the selected program's executable file is stored.
  • “Search online” - This opens your default browser or a new tab if it is already open and searches for the process' name in your default search provider.
  • Properties - This opens a properties dialog that shows you more information about the program's executable.
  • “Go to service(s)” - This switches you over to the Services tab and selects any services that are associated with the chosen process. If there are no such services, it just switches to the services tab and selects nothing.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a lot of detailed information to be found in the Details tab of the Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. The wealth of detailed information available on this tab is invaluable for power users and tech support agents, while the primary uses such as closing processes and researching process names will help anyone control and learn more about what is running on their system. If you have any questions about the Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, don't hesitate to leave a comment.