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How to Use the New Task Manager in Windows 8

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The Task Manager in Windows 8 has been completely overhauled. It’s easier-to-use, slicker, and more feature-packed than ever. Windows 8 may be all about Metro, but the Task Manager and Windows Explorer are better than ever.

The Task Manager now manages startup programs, shows your IP address, and displays slick resource usage graphs. The new color-coding highlights the processes using the most system resources, so you can see them at a glance.

Launching the Task Manager

The Task Manager can still be launched in the traditional ways. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete from anywhere and you’ll see a link to launch the Task Manager.

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You can also right-click the taskbar and select “Task Manager.”

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Managing Processes

The Task Manager’s default interface lets you easily view and end active applications, without any clutter getting in the way. It shows both Metro-style apps and desktop apps.

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Click the “More details” button and you’ll see much more information. Resource-usage statistics are color-coded – the darker the color, the more resources used.sshot-5

You can expand an app to see its windows, if the app has multiple windows.

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The list of processes is divided into three sections – apps, background processes and Windows system processes.sshot-6

If you’re not sure what a processes is, you can right-click it and select “Search online” to search for it in your default search engine.

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System Statistics

The Performance tab shows slick graphs of your system information. You can select either of the options at the right to see more information. The new interface shows much more information than the old Task Manager showed.

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You can actually see your system’s IP address without digging through the Control Panel. This used to require a lot of clicks.

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You can still open the Resource Monitor application in one click. It hasn’t been updated in Windows 8, but it shows even more information than the Task Manager does.

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App History

The Processes tab only shows each process’s current resource usage. The “App history” tab shows how much CPU time and network bandwidth each Metro app has used, so you can identify the resource hogs.

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Startup Programs

The Startup tab shows the applications that automatically start with your computer. Windows finally has a way to easily disable startup programs. Windows also measures just how long each application is delaying your startup, so you can make informed decisions.

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Users

The Users tab breaks down your system’s resource usage by user account. You can expand a user’s name to view that user’s processes.

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Advanced Process Details & Services

The Details tab is the evolution of the old Processes tab on previous versions of Windows. It doesn’t have a pretty interface – although application icons have been added. It exposes exposes advanced options not found on other tabs, including process priority and CPU affinity. (CPU affinity determines which CPU a process runs on, if your system has multiple CPUs or a CPU with multiple cores.)sshot-14

The Services tab has been prettied up and now includes an option to quickly restart services.

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You can click the Open Services link to use the Services application, which contains the advanced options you won’t find in the Task Manager.

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The new Task Manager is a huge step up, both in features and presentation. It’s particularly exciting that average users finally have a way to manage their automatically starting programs.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/16/12

Comments (12)

  1. Greg

    Does task manager display CPU differently? I see that yours is pegging a few times in the pictures and I noticed that mine is running high too. High 80 to low 90% with Windows Explorer and Microsoft Windows Search Filter Host mostly splitting it. It is a fresh install.

  2. peter

    May be I am wrong, but in the new task manager there is no way to see the full image path to a process and the command line arguments. In the old task manager (which is by way still there in windows 8), you could see these and more as optional columns.

  3. Greg

    I think that you can see them. Try right clicking on the column bar in the view that is starts up with and you will see more that you can add.

  4. nc

    “You can actually see your system’s IP address without digging through the Control Panel. This used to require a lot of clicks.” Yeeeeeeah. Exactly 0 clicks. Start key->cmd->enter->ipconfig->enter

  5. Cubkyle

    ctrl + shift + esc brings up the Task Manager as well, without having to go through the ctrl + alt + del security screen to get to it first. Great to know for anyone who likes keyboard shortcuts.

  6. brian carr

    nice is it compatible with win 7? if so is there a download link for it if someone extracts the program and zips it up ??

  7. pbug56

    The sad part about Windoze 8 is that if it wasn’t for the MUTRO interface it would make a great Win 7 SP2 or SP3.

  8. fubeca6

    Windows 8 is such a horrible horrible joke. Why do we keep seeing articles about it? I have no more intention of re-installing it than I do of letting a crooked-toothed goat bite off my fingers.

  9. Chris Hoffman

    @Greg

    I pegged it just to show the color-coding. It’s also running in a virtual machine (VirtualBox,) so it’s going to struggle more.

    @nc

    Yeah, that’s another way to see it. I use that way, myself. But this way, my parents could actually find their IP address. The command prompt and ipconfig scare people.

    @Cubkyle

    Nice, thanks! Somehow I forgot about that one.

    @brian carr, pbug56

    It is sad. The desktop parts of Windows 8 are the best Windows desktop yet (if you ignore the lack of the start button). It’s more optimized, the task manager is much improved, windows explorer has more features like native mounting and burning of ISOs, etc.

  10. Mike

    Yup, the mutant interface really sucks. My only observation is “What TOOK SO LONG!” This type of functionality should have shown up in say Windows 98 or at the latest XP. Why diddle the GUI, all it does is piss off the most common and largest group of users. By that I mean people who don’t live a breath computer. The average guy how has been forced to use a computer as part of his job who JUST WANTS TO GET THE WORK DONE! So he can get to the fun stuff.

    By making his job harder by having to re-organize his work routine to deal with the new GUI, Microsoft is building a burning resentment and when people find a good replacement they will jump ship in droves.

  11. Roger

    Well written article on Task Manager. Thanks. In my (v-Boxed) copy of W8 I hadn’t noted the color coding, and was very pleased to see the startup pane.

    If I had the magic wand to wave over it, I would like to see a longer than 1 minute option for the graphs. Somethings take longer to happen than just a single minute.

    Has anyone figured out if it will run in W7?

  12. william Gale

    interestin but will wait and see what happens am in no hurry to upgrade just got win 7 working the way I want

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