How-To Geek

Stupid Geek Tricks: 6 Ways to Open Windows Task Manager


Bringing up Windows Task Manager is not much of a task itself, but when a virus disables Ctrl+Alt+Del and takes it hostage, how else are you going to open task manager? Or maybe you’re just looking for some diversity in your life, so here are 6 different ways to open Windows Task Manager.

1) Ctrl+Alt+Del

Readers will probably be most familiar with the three-finger salute (AKA Ctrl+Alt+Del). Up until Windows Vista was released, pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del brought you directly to Windows Task Manager. Since Windows Vista, Ctrl+Alt+Del now brings you to the Windows Security screen which provides users with five different options including Windows Task Manager.


2) Right-Click Taskbar

Arguably the fastest way to bring up Windows Task Manager is by right-clicking the taskbar and choosing the Start Task Manager option. It’s just two clicks and voilà! You’re staring at Task Manager in no time! Of course, you could always create an AutoHotKey script to bring up Windows Task Manager even faster with a click of a button.


3) Run taskmgr

The Run command is a great tool for accessing shared folders, but you can also use it quickly up programs such as Registry Editor or a Command Prompt. Click the Start button then the All Programs folder. Under the Accessories folder click the Run command. You can also press they Windows Key + R on your keyboard or enable the Run command in your Start Menu. Finally, simply type “taskmgr” and hit Enter.


4) Ctrl+Shift+Esc

Another quick keyboard shortcut to bring up Windows Task Manager is Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Besides bringing up Windows Task Manager while using Remote Desktop, you can also use Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bring up the task manager while working locally.


5) Browse to taskmgr.exe

This is definitely the longest way of opening the task manager, but if it’s your only option then it’s better than nothing at all. Open up Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\System32. The location of taskmgr.exe should be the same in all recent versions of Windows. Scroll down (or search) for taskmgr.exe and double click it.


6) Create taskmgr.exe Shortcut

And last on our list is creating a nice, accessible shortcut to the Task Manager on your desktop. Right-click on your desktop and choose New then click Shortcut. A new window will pop up. Browse to the same path as above, C:\Windows\System32. Scroll down until you see taskmgr.exe, highlight it, and then click OK. Click Next, type a name for your shortcut, and finally click Finish.


That’s the end of our list! Some methods are obviously more efficient than others, but if you’re in a tough situation battling a virus, any method is a good one. You can also check out our guide on how to start Task Manager in minimized mode during startup, so it will always be open when you turn your computer on.

Image by moonstar909

On the south side of Chicago born and raised. On the computer is where I spent most of my days. Nerding out, haxing, maxing my CPU. And all writing some How-To's is now what I do.

  • Published 06/28/11

Comments (57)

  1. Ali

    Extremely stupid geek trick xD

  2. Anish Sane

    Set following registry key & you will not be able to open taskmgr.exe with any of the methods described; (i.e. without renaming it to something else.)

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\taskmgr.exe]

  3. Just sayin

    I issue a voice command to open tsmngr ; computer->TASKMANAGER and it opens!

  4. Mister Boss

    Win7 only. Go to Log Off-Screen and click on “Open Taskmanager”

  5. Jimmy de G.

    I have it pinned on my taskbar.

  6. John M

    I have it start minimized in the notification area. That way I can always see what my processor is up to and I can open it with no delay. I learned that Ctrl+Shift+Esc and that is helpful too.

  7. Gavin R

    the statement about ctrl alt del on OS below vista is incorrect, the same could be done on XP

  8. Alvin W

    god, only 3 of them are actually useful.

  9. Travis

    Jesus quit your bitching. Not everyone is as “1337” as you

  10. Don

    Thanks for the tips Patrick. I learn a little something new everyday following the How-To Geeks. Well worth taking my time to scan over the daily Newsletter.

  11. Bob

    Run Rkill to stop the process of the virus, then you can run taskman or use something better like process explorer.

  12. grodriguezjr

    “Just saying”….dude you are the Geekiest!!

  13. Anita

    Thanks. I have Win 7 and I hated waiting for the log off screen just to get to the task manager.

  14. brianzion

    great tips well done !

  15. QueenR

    Thanks for the tricks.

  16. Peter

    I use 7 Taskbar Tweaker which allows me to double-click or middle-click an empty area of the taskbar to launch task manager.

  17. cactusdr

    Here’s the method I use to open not only Task Manager but I use it to launch Firefox, Gimp and Iron and also use it to Empty the Recycle Bin. All can be launched by right clicking the desktop. Here’s how:
    1. Start > Run or search for regedit.
    2. In the registry go to the following: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\directory\Background\shell. Right click shell > New > Key. Type in a name for the program you want to launch. In this case, type Task Manager. Enter.
    3. Right click the new Key name and click on New > Key. Name the key ‘command’ (without the ‘). Enter.
    4. Click on ‘command’ to highlight the word. In the right-hand column, double-click the value (Default).
    5. Enter the following for ‘Value data’ in the editor that pops up: “C:\Windows\System32\taskmgr.exe”
    6. Click OK and close the registry editor.
    Now when you right click on the desktop, Task Manager can be launched from the context menu. And like I said, you can follow these steps for any executable you want to start.

  18. vgamesx1

    I find it nice to use right-click, taskmanager.
    been using that since vista I think.

  19. JDHH

    Now this is really a useful tip! Thanks cactusdr

  20. Nohaybanda

    i have a shortcut on my taskbar

  21. Michael A. Foresto

    Right click on the taskbar is the only shortcut you need to the task manager. The other five methods are just fodder to give you enough to write an article…

  22. allanrockwell

    Well, its worth remembering crtl+shift+esc= taskmgr…

    Now. how about more detours ? Here’s one :: ingulge in a quick 8 ounces of strong alcohol > wait 4 minutes > hit every side of the screen until you find the taskbar > click the button with a Windows logo > look in awe at All Programs > > repeat the steps above > make sure you’re not looped in the alcohol option > Accessories > Command Prompt > try to write taskmgr > pause and roll and burn 1/2 a gram > see if you still care > enter > now you should have the task manager > New task…> enter: taskmgr > nothing happens, i’m out of a punch, and out of here.

  23. allanrockwell

    Seriously, here’s a fast no-mouse way: Win key > type: taskmgr > Enter, “et voilà…” You most probably won’t have to add .exe. If you really need it ran as Administrator, press ctrl+shif+enter.

    Now, i love cactusdr’s context menu idea. I wish i could find registry documentation for non-programmer, exactly for that kind of trick…

  24. edmenje

    I have done the same registry trick as cactusdr, I have also added quick access to System Restore, Registry Editor, Lock, Restart and Shutdown…my context menu is much more functional with these additions.

    You could also add to the desktop shortcut trick by going into properties of the shortcut and setting shortcut key to an alternative to ctr+alt+del for another keyboard shortcut to taskmgr…set the icon to hidden and you now have a new shortcut that can’t be seen on the desktop, but will run from the keyboard combo. I have done this trick with System Restore and Task Kill (especially useful to kill unresponsive programs even when they’re running full screen).

  25. Doc

    “Up until Windows Vista was released, pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del brought you directly to Windows Task Manager.” Not so, Windows NT and Windows 2000 used the “Windows Security” panel as well.

  26. andres

    methods 2 and 4

  27. Tangomouse

    Re-Enable v2 will repair task mgr after virus as disabled it , there’s also the option to launch task mgr from Re-Enable

    It’s got a lot of features and is currently in it’s second release , I will be starting work on the next version soon and be coded in C++

  28. dEVIL

    ctrl+shift+esc shortcut and running taskmgr was helpful one…. but others are extremely stupid ones…

  29. DaFoo

    Ctrl+Shift+Esc is all I ever use.

  30. Jack McGann


    5. Enter the following for ‘Value data’ in the editor that pops up: “C:\Windows\System32\taskmgr.exe”

    But leave out the quotes when entering

  31. Brumm

    tasklist is more powerful command line tool. many programs which were not shown in taskmanager will show there. and most important if taskmanager is disabled by a virus we still can use tasklist, taskkill and tskill very helpfully.

  32. Subrahmanyaam

    Thanks GEEK.. I think, I need to scan all the emails that comes from you.. they really are helpful.

  33. datachef

    Didn’t know about CTRL-SHFT-ESC. thanks.

  34. Tanjoodo

    Pinning the Taskmgr.exe to the taskbar, pressing Win+R and typing taskmgr.exe, typing taskmgr.exe in the start menu search bar… :D

  35. Frank

    good tip Geek thanks

  36. Dharmesh Vegad

    another way to open this thingy is “Ctrl+Shift+Esc”

    this is most easier than all mentioned above…


  37. Patrick Bisch

    @Dharmesh Vegad, Ctrl+Shift+Esc is mentioned above ;)

  38. Kevalin

    Thanks. I’ve had reason to need taskmanager of late and only knew about a couple of the above ways to open it. These will be useful, especially when Windows Explorer is being snotty… which is “all too frequently” when it comes to Windows 7.

  39. UncleDavid

    Consider this,fanboys.
    HOWTO is a private site. It is researched,composed, then compiled and published pro bono.

    Some of the comments here are arrogant,petty and childish.
    ” The other five methods are just fodder to give you enough to write an article. ”
    “….but others are extremely stupid ones…

    Are you kidding me? I’ve gotten a paycheck in IT for 20 years now. I teach and I don’t know everything about abything and I peruse beaucoups sites for anything I can find useful. A couple of things in this article are useful to me.

  40. cactusdr

    Jack McGann – You can leave them. Does not affect the command.

  41. UncleDavid

    …and no, I can’t spell worth a damn sometimes.

    If you can’t contribute something positive and useful,skip the punk attitude, read on and STFU !
    Do feel free to comment ON MY POST at will.

  42. Hanshi

    You are not a true Geek if you don’t like to see all possible alternatives to do something. Each method teaches something about the computer/OS/software…..

    If you didn’t like the alternative methods even if you knew them, you probably shouldn’t be reading this newsletter. I’m sure you miss most of the ideas being shown.

  43. rangerevo8

    I had pinned it on my Taskbar too..

  44. OldBob

    Great tips – for any other users with disabilities, CTRL-ALT-DEL doesn’t work with the OSK, but CTRL-SHIFT-ESC works like a charm!

  45. purpleFiasco

    Too stupid.But more can be added.See you can user your windows explorer and open run and then browse for taskmgr without actually typing it.It’s just a stupid waste of time.!!!

  46. edskiosk

    Here is the trick that I currently use. To open (for example) Mozilla Firefox, by assigning shortcut keys you can easily open Mozilla or any other programs.
    1. Start> All Programs ‘right click’ Mozilla Firefox then Properties
    2. On the shortcut Tab, go to Shortcut Key: Ctrl + Alt + M (that’s my assign key)
    3. then OK.
    Every time you press Ctrl-Alt-M, its automatic to launch the program. You can use it also to any program you want to assign keys.

  47. Lilian

    I have tried all the five steps above, at no avail. When I go to Windows explorer->System 32> I cannot locate taskmgr on the list under Windows\System32. Two days ago, I had a problem with malware (trojan) and I just clean the system up. I cannot launch Task Manager yet. Any other idea? Thanks.

  48. cactusdr

    Any chance you have the Windows CD or DVD? If you’ve tried all methods and it won’t launch, it was removed from your system.
    There’s a program called Process Explorer that is a very good replacement for taskmgr. You may wish to download it and give it a try.

  49. Im A Cat

    I just use Process Explorer, it gives much more details (:

  50. ElementalNeo

    For someone that is only used to useing downloadable software (such as project64 &pcsx2) this is intersting and at times can be useful. although the right-click doesn’t work for me.

  51. ElementalNeo

    scratch that… I was clicking desktop. LMFAO

  52. savedlema

    Wow! Great tips. I never knew Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
    Thanks for sharing, God bless you all.

  53. Ivydapple

    I never knew about ctrl+shift+esc. Handy!

  54. Lilian

    Great! Thanks for the input. I will try to download process explorer.

  55. Man

    I did not now about the Ctrl+Shift+Esc. One thing I hate about Win7 is that when you press Ctrl+Alt+Del you afterwards need to click on Task Manager. This made my day :D

  56. Shirls

    I love the right clicking of taskbar. What could be simpler? Mind you, It took a while to find an empty space on it!

  57. Bernard

    Thanks for the ctrl + shift + Esc. I didn’t know about that and it seems the quickest one to use.

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