Computing Group – The Windows Task Manager Explained

Useful Documents

We have put together a document (PDF) and a FlipBook, that explains this below. Click on either and you can read more about how the Task Manager works. There is also a video that demonstrates how the Task Manager works.

About This Page…

To see all of this page you need to scroll down.

We have created a short pdf on the various ways to open the Task Manager for Windows. Click the button below and it will open up a Portable Document File (PDF) in a separate window. If you wish you can then download this document to your own hard drive.

7 Ways to Open Up The Windows Task Manager

The picture below will open up in a separate window on your PC/MAC as a FLIPBOOK

The picture above will open up in a separate window on your PC/MAC as a PDF

On the right is a link to a page that has a video which talks through the Windows Task Manager. We have also placed a link to the written explanation on Wikipedia.

Windows Task Manager Wikipedia Page

Checking the Health of your PC

Sometimes a computer may slow down and not perform as well as you want it to. This has a number of causes, not least the fact that we, as ‘users’, often demand too much. We may have a lot of programs open at once. If we do this the computer then creeks and complains and it may end up running slowly. (Sometimes, very slowly!)

If this happens there are things you can do to check if the computer is being given too heavy a burden to cope with.

Gary gave an overview of how the Central Processing Unit (CPU), as the brain of any PC, can be checked to see how it’s coping with the load we put on it.

On a PC running Windows this is done by using the software utility program called Task Manager.


Think of someone who uses the gym for their regular exercise. Most fitness fanatics use several methods to wear themselves out. Running machines, rowing machines, weights and so on. What they usually do is move from one bit of kit to the next. What they don’t do is use all of the kit at the same time! If they did (yes, we know that’s not possible!) Trying to use all the kit it would soon grind them down to a frazzle. (Our advice is to do walking regularly. Less expensive and every bit as good if you do it with others and have a good chat!)

When we use a computer (and it applies to both PC’s and the Apple Mac, the two main operating systems) we have a tendency to forget that if we have a Web browser running, and a word processing app., and a spreadsheet app., and a photo app., and lots of other ‘apps’ etc. This has to be managed by the ‘memory’.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

The Random Access Memory (RAM) is the component that is responsible for doing the 'managing' of the stuff you want to do. If there is too much of a load on the RAM the computer will start to run more slowly. Eventually the overload is like wading through treacle!

This can cause frustration and take up a lot of time. The more RAM you have in your PC/Mac the better it will run. Even so, if you do have a lot of programs/applications open at the same time it will slow down, even if you have a lot of RAM. The minimum required for modern computing is at least 4gb. Anything less and it will start to creek under the weight of the tasks you want it to do.

What Happens When I Switch My Computer Off?

Unlike the CPU which has permanent stuff inside it, the RAM only stores information whilst we have the PC/Mac switched on and running. Once you turn the machine off all of the information stored in the RAM is lost.


A bit of history: it’s not that long ago that multi-tasking wasn’t possible. All you could do is run one program at a time. But now the amounts of RAM that most PC’s have is pretty vast; this means we can do lots, run lots, and get confused lots!

To run the Windows 10 Operating System (OS) they recommend at least 4 gigabytes. But, in truth, for the OS to run efficiently, you should have a lot more. The more RAM you have the better your PC will cope.

The key to not allowing your PC/Mac to slow down is to go easy on the number of ‘tasks’ you ask it to do! (We’re all guilty of doing this aren’t we? All you have to do is say ‘yes’ and we’ll move on. ?)

What is Multi Tasking?

Multitasking refers to the simultaneously performance of multiple tasks and processes by hardware, software or any computing appliance. It enables the performance of more than one computer process at the same time with minimal lag in overall performance and without affecting the operations of each task. Multitasking is also known as multiprocessing.

  • Multitasking is implemented in coordination with the base/host operating system (OS) that allocates, sends and manages overall tasks and processes to the central processing unit (CPU).
  • In multitasking, a computer never performs more than one task at a time, but the processing ability of the computer’s processors is so fast and smooth that it gives the impression of performing multiple tasks at the same time.
  • The computer uses scheduling to manage the selection and processing between different tasks, where tasks are sorted according to different criteria, such as task delivery time and priority.

Monitoring the Health of the PC - The Windows Task Manager.

Gary demonstrated how, by using the Task Manager it’s possible to do some simple delving ourselves to find out what is using the computer’s RAM. By doing this it’s possible to improve the performance of your PC.

The Windows Task Manager enables you to monitor the applications, processes, and services currently running on your PC. You can use Task Manager to start and stop programs and to stop processes, but in addition Task Manager will show you informative statistics about your computer's performance and about a network if you’re connected to other computers

The Task Manager can be run on any PC and it shows how much of the ‘brain’, i.e. the CPU, is being used at any one time. It gives a list of the components that are running on your PC and indicates which ones are using more resources than others. Clearly when you run large complex programs like Word Processing apps, say Microsoft Word, or other programs which, by definition are large, they do take up a lot of the CPU’s capacity.

Microsoft Windows Task Manager is a component of  the Windows operating system (OS) that helps administrators and end users to monitor, manage and troubleshoot tasks. A task is a basic unit of programming that an operating system controls.

Task Manager is included with Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Each version of Windows makes slight changes to theutility's features and functionality, but Task Manager can always be launched with a Ctrl+Shift+Esc key combination, a Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination, or by right-clicking the taskbar and selecting Task Manager (or Start Task Manager) from the context menu.

Advanced Stuff (Not for the squeamish so ignore this if you want to.)

As a monitoring tool, Task Manager displays basic performance data and graphical representations of CPU, swap-file and memory use. Later versions of Task Manager include disk and networking details as well. IT professionals can often check the Task Manager to quickly identify system bottlenecks that may be responsible for performance or stability problems before deploying more comprehensive or intrusive troubleshooting tools.

As a management tool, Task Manager reports on applications and other Windows Task Manager processes (such as services) currently running on a Windows system. IT professionals can use this data to identify unusual or unexpected software that could be malware or other unauthorised software. Task Manager allows administrators to terminate applications and processes, adjust processing priorities and set processor affinity as needed for best performance.

In addition, Task Manager allows the system to be shut down or restarted, which may be necessary when it is otherwise busy or unresponsive. Task Manager also lists end users who are currently logged onto a system. Users can be selected and logged off from the system to aid in logon or connectivity troubleshooting.

It's important to remember that Task Manager is a basic tool and is not capable of advanced monitoring or management such as alerting. But organisations can choose third-party Task Manager replacements to tackle more demanding roles. For example, an IT professional that requires detailed information about processes can use Process Explorer v15.31, which displays detailed information about open processes and Dynamic Link Libraries, along with graphic representations of CPU, memory, I/O and GPU activity.