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Replacing Task Manager with Process Explorer in Vista

If you are unfamiliar with the Sysinternals Process Explorer utility, you should really check it out… it gives you so much more information than the default task manager, including a tree view of all the processes so you can see which processes launched other processes. You can look at pretty much every piece of data concerning a process, including associated registry key handles, open files, dlls. There’s even a search function.

You can also replace Task Manager with Process Explorer through the Options menu, which is the specific subject of this article, since it doesn’t always work right in Vista.

Here’s the default screen… take special note of the little tiny graphs there.

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If you click on those little graphs, or hit the Ctrl+I key combination, you’ll bring up the System Information dialog, which gives you even more information. Just try moving your mouse over any of the spikes in the graph… it’ll show you which application caused that spike.

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Update

The latest version of Process Explorer doesn’t have any problems with Vista, so everything below this point is for informational purposes only.

The problem comes in when you try to choose the Replace Task Manager option under Windows Vista with UAC enabled.

note: If you’ve disabled UAC, no need to read beyond this point.

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If you haven’t disabled UAC, you’ll get this error message:

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The problem happens because by default Task Manager isn’t launched with administrative permissions, so the replacement for it isn’t either. What we’ll need to do is re-map the registry entry so that you can run it through the Start++ utility’s sudo command to elevate it to administrator before we start it.

First, make sure that you download and install Brandon Paddock’s Start++ utility, which contains the sudo command we’ll need for this. (You could also use the elevate powertoy if you were so inclined)

Now you’ll need to open up your registry editor and browse to the following key. You should note that if you want to turn off the replacement of Task Manager you need only delete this key.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\taskmgr.exe

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Now look for the “Debugger” value in the right-hand pane and change it to point to this command string, which you’ll need to modify to match your username, and the location where you put process explorer. The key thing here is that it needs to be the full path to sudo.cmd as well as the full path to process explorer.

c:\users\geek\AppData\Local\Start++\CMDs\sudo.cmd c:\users\geek\bin\processexplorer\procexp.exe

Note that there should only be a space between the two paths. After that, you should be able to replace task manager with process explorer just fine.

Download Sysinternals Process Explorer from Microsoft

 

note: Thanks to the great and wonderful Steve for the heads up on this one.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/27/07

Comments (16)

  1. Barron

    Great tip! A simple tweak with a huge payoff.

  2. Ryan Wagner

    That’s pretty weird, I would have thought that you could run the Process Explorer as an elevated process and it would have worked.

  3. The Geek

    The problem is that you can’t run the process explorer without it being elevated… when you run Task Manager, it runs by default in non-elevated mode, so that’s why you have to use the sudo command to allow elevation before it’ll work.

  4. Bcell

    That’s weird. It only works 1 time for me. After modifying the reg, ProcessExplorer starts when I start TaskManager (right click on task bar), but once ProcessExplorer is started, it mods the reg key, removing the sudo cmd. The next time I try to start TaskManager, I’m back to step 1.

    Anyone else see this?

    Another problem: I lose the ability to start TaskManager (or its replacement) using ctrl+shift+esc.

  5. jd2066

    This tip is now longer needed as the latest version of Process Explorer (v11.02) supports replacing Task Manager in Vista.

  6. Davide Baroncelli

    Well, it should support replacing it, but in my case it doesn’t work (elevation required), and using this sudo approach only works the first time (then procexp seems to erase the sudo part). Sigh.

  7. jd2066

    Did you try using Process Explorer v11.02 to replace task manager?
    Replacing task manager works without the need for this sudo approach in v11.02 as it starts in a non elevated mode.

  8. Davide Baroncelli

    Yes, I just tried with 11.02 and it does not work. Weird.

  9. sahlgoode

    Having Process Explorer on your box, is almost as great as having HTG added to your bookmarks!

  10. dingens

    In order to start proecess explorer in elevated mode just go to the mentioned registry key and edit the debugger key, by extending the content with ‘/e’ e.g.
    “c:\users\geek\bin\processexplorer\procexp.exe” /e
    AS soon as you start Proecess Explorer you will be ask for elevation.
    Handy if you need to know all details on your PC

  11. yogesh

    it was a woderful experience when i came to know aout the issue and then all my 99 % issues were resolved.

  12. Yogesh Shinde

    Great tip! A simple tweak with a huge payoff.
    it was a woderful experience when i came to know aout the issue and then all my 99 % issues were resolved.

  13. Cobra

    I’m kinda late to the ballgame, but here it goes: if you’re having problems replacing Task Manager with Process Explorer in Windows 7 64-bit, that’s probably because the path that’s being put in the Registry key mentioned in the post is pointing to the 64-bit EXE of Process Explorer (PROCEXP64.EXE) — a file that gets deleted everytime you close Process Explorer.

    The workaround for this is simple: open the Registry Editor and edit the Debugger key and replace PROCEXP64.EXE with PROCEXP.EXE. Should start working from then on.

    Cheers,
    Cobra.

  14. mohammad

    thx it’s helpful

  15. nailpounder

    I am trying process exp. now and don’t really like it. I open this new monster and it takes me a minute just to catch up to all movement-numbers blinking, colors flashing, graphs I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ll try for a while, maybe it’ll grow on me—-

  16. AJ

    Thanks

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