The Best Free Alternatives to the Windows Task Manager

By Lori Kaufman on November 3rd, 2012

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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 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
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