Software Windows

How do I open the Windows 10 Task Manager?

Task Manager
No, not Taskmaster, Task Manager

If you run into a problem with your computer, you might have heard an obnoxious techie like me tell you to “kill it in the Task Manager”. But what is the Task Manager? How do you open it? And what does the Windows 10 Task Manager actually do?

Open the Windows 10 Task Manager

There are a stupid number of ways to open the Task Manager, so we’ll concentrate on a few of the easier ones.

Perhaps the easiest method of all is to hold down Ctrl + Alt + Del and select Task Manager from the list of options that appear on the blue screen.

If you’re running Windows 10 on a tablet without a keyboard then type “task” into the Windows 10 search box; the Task Manager should appear at the top of the search results.

Alternatively, right-click on the Windows Start button in the bottom-left corner and select Task Manager from the list of power-user options that appear there.

Task Manager

What does the Windows 10 Task Manager do?

The Task Manager’s most useful role is to kill off programs that have crashed or are bogging down your computer. Sometimes an application gets to the point where it has completely frozen, but you can’t shut it by simply clicking the little x in the top right-hand corner of the window. This is the perfect time to call for the Task Manager.

A brief warning before you do this. Killing off applications in Task Manager is a bit like yanking the plug out of the wall. It simply stops the program dead. Any unsaved data you have in the program will likely be lost, unless it has some sort of auto-save facility, such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. Consider killing programs in Task Manager as a last resort, not standard procedure.

How to kill programs in the Windows 10 Task Manager

To kill a program in Task Manager, select it by clicking on its name. Task Manager calls programs apps, as shown in the screenshot below. Here, I’ve selected Microsoft Outlook: if I then hit ‘End task’ at the foot of the window, Task Manager will immediately shut it down. Task Manager - End Task

You can normally see if you’ve got a problem program, because it will be thrashing either the CPU (a techy name for the processor) or memory. Everything is OK in the screenshot above, but CPU/memory hogs are normally highlighted in red.

You get no second chances or ‘are you sures’ here. Once you press the button the program will be zonked, so if you’ve got loads of unsaved data in an app you might want to give it a minute or two to see if it comes back to life. Even when a program has ‘Not responding’ in its title bar, the software can come back to life if left for a few minutes. Show some British stoicism, make yourself a cup of tea, and see if things have repaired themselves before you finally take the plunge.

Be very wary of killing off background processes, especially if you’re not sure what they are. Windows has all kinds of weird and wonderful (mainly the former) processes running in the background. Killing the wrong one could crash your computer.

Now click here: What should I do if Windows won’t boot after an update?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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