What is Windows Task Manager and what does it do?

Task Manager in Windows 10 is an application that allows you to keep track of running applications, processes, and services. It also allows you to see what pressure is being put on your PC’s CPU, and how much RAM is being used. You can also use it to quit misbehaving apps and processes.

Most people don’t even think about the Task Manager until Windows starts running slowly, or behaving erratically. And then when you launch it, there are so many tabs and graphs and pieces of data that it it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Don’t worry, though, it’s not difficult to use. Just follow our guide below.

How to launch Windows Task Manager

There are lots of ways to launch Task Manager in Windows 10 and it’s worth knowing a few of them. Here are our favorite three.

  1. The fastest way: press Ctrl+Shift+Esc
  2. The easiest way: Click on the Start menu and type “Task Manager” into the search box, then click it to open it
  3. The old school way: press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to display a range of options, then choose Task Manager

How to quit a struggling application in Task Manager

This is probably what you’ll use Task Manager for most of the time. When an app is struggling and unresponsive, Task Manager may be the only way to get it to quit.

  1. Launch Task Manager using one of the methods described above
  2. When you see the list of applications, click on the one that’s giving you trouble
  3. Press End Task
  4. Windows will close the application immediately.

Review running processes

The Task Manager's window that opens has the Processes tab selected. You’ll see a list of all the processes that are currently running. There will be a lot of them, and many will have obscure names. Don’t be put off, however. What you’re most interested in is which tasks are hogging CPU cycles or taking up lots of RAM.

The easiest way to discover that is to click the appropriate column: CPU or Memory. That will order the processes from those that are consuming most of whichever resource you clicked, to the one that’s using least. If you see a process that’s occupying close to 100% of CPU cycles, for example, it’s likely that something has gone wrong and that you should quit it. Before you do, if you don’t know what the process does, Google its name.

Use the Performance tab for a graphical overview

If long lists of numbers bring you out in a cold sweat, click the Performance tab. Those numbers are replaced by graphs that give you an overview of four elements: CPU; Memory; Disk; and network. Click on the one you want information on and you’ll see a graph along with a handful of statistics. 

For example, CPU shows a graph of utilization over time, allowing you to see how much load your CPU has had to deal with over the last minute or so. And it displays the speed of your CPU, along with the number of processes and threads that are currently running.

Find out which apps are resource hogs with App History

The App History tab logs the total CPU time and network usage for all the apps you have installed. It’s a good way of tracking whether a particular app is using more CPU time than it should – which might indicate a problem with it – or if an app you don’t expect to be using a network connection is “phoning home.” Under normal circumstances, you would expect the apps you use most often to appear at the top of the list, so if an app that you hardly ever open is near the top, you know there’s something wrong

Identify startup items

Several apps on your PC launch automatically at startup. Sometimes this is necessary for the app to function properly, and sometimes it’s just bad manners on the part of the program or process. Click the Startup tab to see which apps are configured to autorun. To prevent an app starting up when you boot, select it and press Disable.

Tip: Did you know there’s an even easier way to prevent apps from autorunning? CleanMyPC allows you to do it at the press of a button. With CleanMyPC's Autorun you can turn off the startup programs temporarily or remove them from the startup list. This simple feature can help your PC run more quickly and smoothly.

The Task Manager is a hugely useful, but often over-looked tool in Windows 10. It can help you track down, and in some cases, fix problems with Windows 10. If nothing else, it provides a fascinating overview of what’s happening on your PC at the current time. And remember, for problems that Task Manager can’t solve, you can download CleanMyPC and see how it easily gets you more PC space, speeds system booting, or cleans Windows’ Registry database.


Makes your PC clean and lean