The Windows 10 Task Manager is undoubtedly one of the most useful software tools present by default in the various versions and editions of the Microsoft operating system.
It is almost useless to list all the features of the new Windows 10 Task Manager. Much better, however, to highlight which are the best features allow you to understand what does not work on the system in use and solve “blocking impediments”.
How to Open the Windows 10 Task Manager
The easiest and fastest way to open the Windows 10 Task Manager is the same for all versions of Windows: just use the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+ESC.
Alternatively, you can right-click on the Windows 10 taskbar and choose Task Manager.
Again, you can press Windows+R and type taskmgr followed by pressing the Enter key or use the CTRL+ALT+DEL key combination and click on Task Manager (but, at this point, why not remember to use the simple CTRL+SHIFT+ESC key combination?).
Windows Task Manager, a Valuable Resource for Diagnosing and Solving Problems
As we have highlighted in the articles How to speed up Windows 10 in a few steps and Lighten Windows 10 by deactivating unnecessary functions, the Windows 10 Task Manager is the first tool you should use to determine which applications use the most resources.
When you start Windows 10 for the first time, the Task Manager for Windows 10 is really very essential: only the applications that are running are shown.
Clicking on More Details opens up a truly complete and versatile Task Manager: seven tabs where all the information is collected: Processes, Performance, Application History, Startup, Users, Details and Services.
Processes and Performance are the most interesting tabs in the Windows 10 Task Manager.
When you open the Task Manager in the Windows traybar area, at the bottom right, you will see an icon that graphically expresses how busy the processor is: in the case of multicore CPUs, the expressed value is an average of the workload detected on the various cores. Leaving the mouse pointer on this icon for a few moments, the occupation of other resources such as memory, disk and network is summarized.
A glance at the icon shows whether the system is overly busy or not.
To get an instant and punctual analysis of what is happening, just refer to the Processes and Performances tabs.
The percentage values in the CPU, Memory, Disk and Network columns on the Processes tab help you determine how your individual resources are actually used.
If the CPU remains actively engaged for a long time without the system being used by the user, there is certainly a problem. The occupation of the processor, which never goes to sleep, is determined by some running process (one or more).
To find out, it is usually enough to click on the CPU column header so that the Windows 10 Task Manager lists applications in descending order based on processor occupation (the arrow in the header must look down).
With this simple check it is possible to know the name of the application that is occupying the processor so aggressively.
To know the specific process responsible for the excessive workload on the CPU, just refer to the Details tab and then click on the CPU column, exactly as seen above.
The Finish task button, once the process causing problems has been selected, allows you to ask Windows to force it to close. If you click on the Processes tab, the Finish Task button allows you to immediately close all processes that belong to the same application: a very useful feature that avoids the use of the command taskkill /im /f from command prompt.
The processor that is actively engaged or that reaches frequent peaks of occupation at 100% is not always an indication of a problem: if you are using the system to perform heavy processing it is normal for the CPU to be permanently engaged even for periods of time not short.
The problem, if anything, could arise when the system is not used by the user to perform any demanding processing and the CPU appears to be busy in an abnormal way. In these situations the Windows 10 Task Manager is useful to investigate the causes.
What is anything but infrequent is the occupation of the system by superfluous software components that sometimes act as spyware/adware and are often integrated into some popular applications. One of the best software to detect and remove such objects remains AdwCleaner, in Malwarebytes’ portfolio: Remove toolbars with AdwCleaner, now owned by Malwarebytes.
If, on the other hand, memory usage is always at a high level even when the system is “unloaded” (in idle), it is very likely that the machine’s RAM equipment is scarce for the system you are running: see RAM Memory, how to choose it and when to extend it.
Again, however, before drawing hasty conclusions, it is a good idea to check which programs and, specifically, which processes are occupying the most RAM memory.
To determine this, just click on the Memory column to get applications and processes that use more memory.
This way, you can eventually recognize superfluous programs that are loaded when Windows starts, that remain running in the background and that continue to occupy resources.
Right-clicking on any item opens a context menu that allows you to quickly navigate to the folder that contains the file (Open file path) or search the Network for information about the identity of the program (Search online).
In the case of Windows 10, however, it is not advisable to install the operating system on a system that has only 2 GB of RAM (see the requirements indicated by Microsoft on this page).
When increasing the RAM, it should be noted that not all Windows editions support the same amount of memory: we explained this in the article RAM memory, how to choose it and when to extend it.
Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most “permissive” operating system: 64-bit editions allow – all of them – to get up to 2 Terabytes of RAM so, in fact, they do not impose limitations. Only Windows 10 Home 64 bit allows you to get up to 128 GB of RAM, a value already very high.
The most serious limit remains only for 32-bit Windows editions that do not support more than 4 GB of RAM (see How to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows).
The Performance tab of the Windows 10 Task Manager not only lets you know how much resources have been used over time, but also gives you access to an overview of the machine’s configuration.
By clicking on the CPU icon, you get a graph of the processor occupation as well as all the technical data (maximum clock speed, instantaneously detected clock speed, number of physical and logical cores, cache,…).
You can also know if the extensions for virtualization are present and have been enabled by BIOS (useful when using Hyper-V, VMware, Virtualbox, …).
With a right click on the CPU occupation graph, choosing Change graph in, Logical processors, you can instantly check the workload of each logical core in use.
With a click on Memory, you can check the amount of memory installed (sum of values In use, compressed and available) and how much RAM is actually usable by the operating system and applications. The Reserved for hardware item shows the memory that cannot be used by the software.
We who use to keep dozens of cards open in Google Chrome sometimes make use of The Great Suspender extension to free up RAM in case of need, for example when using virtual machines: Google Chrome tricks, how to make the most of your browser. The benefits of using The Great Suspender will be immediately verifiable in the Performance, Memory and Task Manager tabs.
The Disk column of the Processes tab allows you, of course, to understand which applications are performing read/write operations.
In case the memory is not enough, Windows will start to use the virtual memory overwhelmingly and to lean on the hard disk to store information that should be accessible (quickly) in RAM.
This is, of course, the situation to avoid because the whole system would be negatively affected. However, if you should detect frequent access to the hard disk by installed applications, during normal use of the system, switching to an SSD will speed up the machine in a resolutive way.
For more information, we suggest reading the article Check which programs are writing to disk.
Regarding the change from hard disk to SSD we recommend the following readings:
- Installing SSDs instead of a traditional hard drive
- SSD alignment, what it is and how to verify it
- Hard disk or SSD, features and differences
- Are SSDs slower if they are less roomy?
Identify the most burdensome programs in terms of performance and energy consumption. Using the Graphics Processor (GPU)
With the release of Windows 10 Update of October 2018 (build 1809), the Task Manager saw the addition of the columns Status, Power Consumption and Power Consumption Trend. The presence of a green leaf in the Status column indicates the UWP (Microsoft Store) applications that use techniques to reduce energy consumption; the other columns summarize the overall impact and trend over time.
The GPU column indicates whether the selected application or process was using the graphics processor more or less intensively.
By clicking on the Performance tab and then on the GPU pane, you can learn more about and control how the workload on your graphics card is distributed. As explained in the article Update Video Card Driver: How to Improve Performance, the Task Manager gives you an overview of how the various GPU “engines” are used.
The graphics processor can be thought of as a stand-alone unit that can program tasks to run in parallel: the Copy engine, for example, can be used to transfer data while the 3D engine is used for three-dimensional rendering.
If your Internet Connection is Slow and You’re the Only One Using it
If sending and receiving data packets over the Internet is really tiring, the Task Manager allows you to find out which application is engaging the bandwidth available upstream and/or downstream.
To determine this, simply go to the Processes tab of the Task Manager and click on the Network column, ordering the values, as always, in descending order.
Checking the value expressed in Mbps, it is possible to go back immediately to the application that is currently exchanging more data.
Checking the Applications Loaded at Windows Startup
The Windows 10 Task Manager, in the Start tab, displays the list of applications loaded each time you enter the operating system.
As mentioned above, these applications can not only slow down the loading of Windows, but they can also stay running by unnecessarily taking up hardware resources.
Of course, not all applications on the Start tab should be turned off or removed.
However, by right-clicking on an application, you can disable it from loading once its identity has been established.
To do a more accurate job and evaluate which applications to remove from the Windows startup, we suggest to follow the instructions in the article Speed up Windows 10, all the steps to follow in the paragraph Check the programs loaded when starting Windows 10.
Finally, the Users tab of the Windows 10 Task Manager simply collects the running applications by user. If there is only one active work session on the machine, Windows 10 will obviously display only one user name.
The Services tab then collects the list of services installed in Windows 10, both Microsoft and third-party services. In this regard, it is much more useful to use the free Autoruns application, which immediately highlights which services are not Microsoft.
To deepen, we also suggest reading the article PC slow, how to establish the processes that cause problems.