View running processes with the Task Manager and kill those that hog resources

The Task Manager in Windows is a tool that many users work with. There are many tabs, displaying plenty of information. However, the bulk of your time will be spent in the Processes tab. This tab shows all of the processes running on your system and also how much of your system resources each is using. It is very handy when troubleshooting system slowdowns or when killing misbehaving processes. Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 have made this simpler than ever. Read this guide and learn how to view running apps and processes, the resource consumption of each process, which are hogging system resources and how to deal with apps that slow down your Windows computer or device:

How to view running apps and processes using the Task Manager

First, you need to start the Task Manager. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, check out this article for a run down: 10 Ways to start the Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. Do remember that the fastest way is to press the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keys simultaneously.

If you see the compact view of the Task Manager when it opens, you’ll need to click or tap “More Details”. For more information on this view, please take a look at this article: 9 Things you can do from the Task Manager's compact view.

When the full Task Manager opens, it will load the Processes tab by default. You’ll notice right away that it’s different from what it used to be in Windows 7. The first change you are likely to notice and appreciate is that the Processes tab lists each process with a descriptive name rather than an obscure filename. This helps you to see what’s what with very little fuss. You can click or tap each column header to reorder the list of processes by name, resource usage or any other available criteria.

You’ll find that processes are now grouped logically by type. You’ll find headings such as Apps , Background processes and Windows processes. We’re a fan of this new ordering system, but it may not be for everyone. If you want to switch it back to an alphabetically ordered list, read this guide and learn how it is done: Change the Data Shown by Processes Tab in the Task Manager.

Click or tap the Name column to organize your running processes by name. Clicking it once organizes the processes in descending alphabetical order for each of the three headings: Apps , Background processes and Windows processes.

Click or tap the Name column one more time and the Task Manager organizes the processes in ascending alphabetical order.

Click or tap on the arrow next to a given process or right-click/long-press the process name and click or tap Expand.

This will show a list of sub-processes under the main process. These can include things like multiple open tabs from your web browsers or multiple windows open in an Office application.

This feature also helps you see how system and background processes and subprocesses are organized, as well as how they are consuming system resources.

How to identify which processes slow down your Windows computer or device

One of the primary uses for the Processes tab in the Task Manager is for quick troubleshooting of a system slowdown . If you suddenly find that your Windows device is taking forever to load a web page, open an application or complete a task, go there and take a look.

Your first glance should be to the top right corner of the Task Manager window. There you can view the percentage of each system resource be ing used. If you find that one resource is running high, that’s likely the cause of your bottleneck. In the screenshot below, our processor was the cause of our troubles.

Click or tap on the resource that is giving you trouble to order your list of processes by resource usage. This will bring whatever applications that are hogging your resources to the top of the list. In our case, we clicked on the CPU resource.

The process or the app that is slowing you down is now likely the one on the top of the list. If you aren’t sure what it is, try right-clicking or long-pressing the process name and then pressing Search online. This will launch your default web browser and run a web search of the process name to help you out, using the Bing search engine.

In our case, with 99% processor usage, we wouldn’t have much luck launching a web browser. You could try clicking Properties in the right-click menu, to get a bit more information about the process, but in this sort of situation you’d be better off killing the process and then checking up on it later. Simply select the offending process and click or tap End task from the bottom-right corner of the Task Manager window.

Be cautious when killing system processes however, as ending an important task could crash your system causing you to lose unsaved information. A good thing is that, if you try to kill something essential you’ll be warned by Windows, with a message saying that ending the process will cause Windows to become unusable or shut down.

While this will keep you out of trouble for the most part, if you’ve got a file open that you haven’t saved, try and save it before you start killing processes all willy-nilly.

What do the colors in the resource columns tell you?

By now you’ve likely noticed that your resource columns are colored in the Processes tab of the Task Manager. While this does look nice, it actually serves an important purpose. Processes that are hogging resources will show up with a darker shade of orange than those with minimal usage. The varying shades give you a quick visual cue as to what processes are hogging resources no matter how they’re sorted.

Conclusion

As you can see in this tutorial, the Task Manager in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 has new features to enjoy in the Processes tab. The sorted lists with expandable sub-processes makes it easier to see what’s running, the new color coded resource columns let you see bottlenecks at a glance and the Search online feature makes finding out what a process is a snap. There’s a lot going on here, especially considering that this is only the first tab that’s displayed by this complex tool. If you are looking for more useful tips and tricks about the Task Manager , don’t hesitate to read the articles recommended below.