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The Best Free Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager

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The Windows Task Manager is a built-in tool that allows you to check which services are running in the background, how much resources are being used by which software programs, and the all-to-common task of killing programs that are not responding.

Even though the Windows Task Manager has several useful tools, there are many free alternatives available that provide additional or expanded features, allowing you to more closely monitor and tweak your system.

Process Explorer

Process Explorer is a free program created by the Microsoft Windows Sysinternals team. It displays information about running processes on your Windows system. The display in Process Explorer can be split into two panes using the View menu. The top pane shows a list of the currently active processes and the bottom pane displays different information about a selected process from the top pane, depending on the mode selected for the bottom pane in the View menu. In DLL mode, the DLLs and memory-mapped files the selected process has loaded. In Handle mode, the handles opened by the process selected in the top pane.

Process Explorer also provides a powerful search capability that quickly shows you which processes have particular handles opened or DLLs loaded.

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Process Hacker

Process Hacker is a free, feature-packed tool for tracking and manipulating processes and services running on your computer. It offers almost all the same functionality as Process Explorer, but adds more advanced features. The processes are listed in a customizable, tree view that shows you the processes currently running on your computer. Process Hacker also allows you to view detailed system statistics with graphs, view and close network connections, and view, edit, and control services, including services not listed in the standard Services console.

Process Hacker also offers advanced features not available in other programs, such as viewing GDI handles and heaps, injecting and unloading DLLs, and detaching from debuggers.

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AnVir Task Manager

AnVir Task Manager is a Windows Task Manager replacement program that monitors processes, services, startup programs, internet connections, the CPU, and hard disk drive temperature and load. It also provides a tweaker that allows you to enhance and tune up Windows 7, Vista, or XP. The tweaker gives you direct access to hundreds of Windows settings, including settings that can only be tweaked by directly editing the registry.

AnVir Task Manager also allows you to speed up your PC and the Windows startup time. All programs that run when Windows starts display on the Startup tab. Use this tab to disable or delete programs you don’t need. You can also use the “Delayed Startup” feature that allows you to set any startup program to run a few minutes after Windows starts up. This allows you to begin using your computer sooner.

There is a free version of AnVir Task Manager, as well as a paid Pro version ($49.95) that has additional features.

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System Explorer

As its name indicates, System Explorer is a free program for Windows 7, Vista, and XP that allows you to explore and manipulate system processes, but it also has many other useful functions. Use it to manage which programs automatically run when Windows starts, and explore system add-ons, drivers, services, and more. You can also search for additional information about processes online in a file database and check the processes against virus databases to help you determine unwanted processes or threats, and find out which process is locking which file or causing your system to be unstable.

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Daphne

Daphne is a small, free, portable tool that runs in the system tray and allows you to manage Windows processes. You can kill a process in multiple ways, including right-clicking the process name in the main process list and dragging a “crosshair” icon from Daphne to the application you want to kill and release it.

Another useful tool in Daphne is the Find tool. Sometimes it’s hard to match up a program with a process name. Using Daphne, you can drag the Find tool over the application window and the underlying process is highlighted in the main process list.

Daphne offers a new feature called Traps, which are pre-specified rules that allow you to automatically modify or kill processes. Set traps to automatically hide or kill an application when it launches. You can also use traps to set priority levels, transparencies, the always on top setting, etc.

Daphne runs in Windows 7, Vista, and XP, including 64-bit versions.

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What’s Running

What’s Running is a free program for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and 2000 that displays the processes running on your computer and allows you to simply click a process to display a graph showing its recent RAM, CPU, and I/O activity. This information is very useful for identifying programs that are hogging your system resources. You can start and stop processes and services and manage your startup programs.

Process names don’t always make it obvious which program started that process. What’s Running provides a “check online” option, available by right-clicking on a process, that compares the process name against an online database of common processes, providing more information about the process.

What’s Running provides a useful feature that allows you to save a snapshot of the information one month and then compare that snapshot with another month to see how your system has changed or what process might be causing instability in your system.

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Moo0 SystemMonitor

Moo0 SystemMonitor is a free program that allows you to monitor the system resource usage on your computer. It displays a vertical bar on your Windows desktop that shows you the status of the resources on your system. It supports the display of many kinds of information, including CPU, network, memory, and HDD usages. The program itself uses a minimum amount of resources.

Moo0 SystemMonitor is available as an installable and a portable program.

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WinUtilities Process Security

WinUtilities Process Security is a powerful Task Manager replacement program shows all the active processes on your computer. The program indicates whether a process is safe or not and you can put a process into quarantine, if it is unsafe. You can also search the internet from within the program for additional information about each process. You can terminate any unwanted processes or malware with a single click.

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If you’ve found any useful Windows Task Manager replacement programs, let us know.

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 11/3/12

Comments (21)

  1. afuhnk
  2. Dji

    And where is Comodo killSwitch?

  3. Jim

    The full version of AnVir’s Task Manager frequently turns up on GiveAwayoftheDay.com I got it from there and I really like it

  4. fulltext

    I’ve used most of the above in the past, but now use Process Lasso. Its features go beyond.

    http://bitsum.com/prolasso.php

  5. awesomesauce

    any portable one?

  6. Ray

    DTaskManager is another great alternative.

  7. Meena Bassem

    Process Explorer is the BEST

  8. Ezaafi

    only Process Explorer
    thanx

  9. StevenTorrey

    I clicked on SYSTEM EXPLORE–changed my toolbar, wrecked havoc on the computer–had to delete it as soon as I downloaded it. A PIECE OF JUNK!

  10. Dooley

    I’ll be trying out most of them, but: BEWARE OF SYSTEM EXPLORER… it’s a junk site.. selecting any of the DOWNLOAD buttons would get you ‘PCCleaner’ or ‘DownloadManager’ or ‘MYturboPC’ or you could end up like STorrey.. Never did find the real Download System Explorer – if there was one!!

  11. Art€

    I’ve found ESET sysInspector also very useful; especially if you think you’ve got a virus or anything untoward on you PC. It has a very nifty ‘slider’ which allows you to check the ‘riskfactor’ of any of the running processes.

    I’ve also got SystemExplorer all in portable versions which are very good in keeping your PC free of any ‘gunk’.

  12. John

    To all those who say Process Explorer is the best – you must not have tried Process Hacker. I used Process Explorer for years until I found the Process Hacker project on Sourceforge. It’s the same program with the exact same “feel” and look but it has better options and just works better. It’s the first program I install on any new Windows installation.

  13. selfassuredwithnorealknowledgebase

    @awesomesauce

    AnVir has a portable version.

  14. Indianatone

    @ StevenTorrey @ Dooley
    that is what Adblock Plus is for in Firefox.

  15. beergas

    Thanks for tip. Seems most don’t mention Win 8 Pro. I’d be careful since it is a more radical change than earlier ones, Tried a test installation and thru a combo of not setting a Local Account right and the mobo sata II & III ports I lost access to D internal storage drive. Rolling back to W 7 x64 Ultimate image and redo the W 8 Upgrade option that seems to keep 95% of look-feel on W7.
    Just be careful if have changed mobo from bios to new UEFI and other things from version to version. I pushed UEFI onto W 7 originally tho really designed for W 8. And have all the upgraded
    files, esp video drivers, mouse bk, etc. Brother printer works tho W 8 says no drive found.
    Careful not the easy sell unless on a fully purchased package. W 8 DVD wouldn’t roll back the
    saved to D drive system image for example even when tried in safe mode (which is pain to
    access now w/o a script method or task mgr option. Fast system tho and dynamic tiles are nice eye candy but who really uses that stuff.

  16. Andrej

    You forgot Security Task Manager – A program without alternatives.

    @awesomesauce, ProcessExplorer from Sysinternals is definately portable. It doesn’t even have an installer.

  17. StevenTorrey

    SYSTEM EXPLORER not only ran havoc on the computer, it messed up the email. Had to use system restore to restore email functionality. Like Dooley said, there are all kinds of ‘downloads, but seemingly none for the actual product. Best to stay away from the site completely.

  18. MikePrescott

    The reason System Explorer tore up your system is that the link points you to a server that attempts to install a Trojan. Fortunately for us, our SonicWall is more awake than I am this morning.

    SKIP THE SYSTEM EXPLORER LINK UNLESS YOU LIKE DOWNLOADING TROJANS FOR SPORT.

    Mike “Mr Desktop” Prescott

  19. spike

    @awesomesauce: Actually, Process Hacker also works fine portable.

    Don’t know what’s wrong with System Explorer for everyone else- I use this- yes it’s a real download, and it works great.

  20. David

    Auslogics Task Manager (free) adds a couple of things:
    - list of all locked files and the locking process
    - an unlock file feature
    - access to a database (but perhaps rather incomplete – only seems to recognise very well known ones)
    - a rating ‘Trustworthy’, ‘Uknown’ etc – presumably based on this database.
    - network activity – graph overall and per process
    - disk activity – graph overall and per process

    Uses a lot of CPU time!

  21. C3r3alKill3R

    Advanced Task Manager from Innovative Solutions is an equal match. Check it out!

    http://goo.gl/jrJro

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