Go Directly To The Task Manager Using Your Keyboard

Go Directly To The Task Manager Using Your Keyboard
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Windows: Everyone knows how to open the task manager: press Control + Alt + Delete and click “Task Manager,” right? Still, the entire point of using keyboard shortcuts is to avoid having to use the mouse. Press Control + Shift + Escape to bypass the menu that appears and go directly to the task manager.

Photo remixed from an original by Charles Dyer.

To be fair, on Windows XP systems where the welcome screen is enabled, both shortcuts take you directly to the task manager. On any other Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 system, pressing Control + Alt + Delete will bring up a series of options, and the task manager is one of them.

The beauty of Control + Shift + Escape is that you skip the options screen and the task manager simply appears on your screen. That can be a big relief if the whole reason you want to open the task manager is to kill a program that’s hogging system resources – system resources your computer would need to display that pesky options menu.


  • I thought Ctrl + Shift + Esc would have been common knowledge amougnst LifeHacker readers…?

    Anyway, does anyone know why Microsoft decided Ctrl + Alt + Delete would better serve being remapped to take you to the system options screen from Windows XP onwards?

    I’ve always used Task Manager far more frequently than sytem options, and find Ctrl + Alt + Delete a more comfortable series of keypresses – ie. using 2 fingers on one hand, 1 on the other, on opposite ends of the keyboard; as opposed to having to stretch 3 fingers on one hand between various keys, or having to bring my right hand to the wrong side of the keyboard.

    In my oppinion, Microsoft mapped the shortcuts to the wrong programs.

    • If you’ve got a full sized keyboard then you can use the Ctrl and Shift on the right hand side of the keyboard. I must admit that I default to the left hand keys and tend to forget about the right hand alternatives too.

    • Its actually not different. XP was built as the successor to Windows NT and 2000, as well as the 9x series. NT based operating systems always used the control-alt-delete shortcut to access the system/user management options that you see in XP Vista and 7 these days.

      If anything, it was the 9x windows that were not the normal behavior seen in windows machines.

  • Extremely useful tip. The options screen has frustrated me ever since I got Windows 7. I mostly use Ctrl-Alt-Del to try to get out of a horribly crashing program or as a last resort – what on earth do I want that daft screen for?

  • Another handy time saver that may or may not be well known, is to access the System Properties via the Win-Break keyboard shortcut.

    Handy if you work on different PCs and regularly need to check simple hardware details or computer names, and much easier than right-clicking on My Computer which is what I’ve seen most other people do.

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