Windows 8 brought a brand new task manager with many new features, but it can be a little bit confusing if you were accustomed to the old way of doing things. Here are a few ways to customise the interface.
Tagged With task manager
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.
GoogleUpdate, ctfmon, iPodService—these rascally, auto-starting services and others like them can drive a memory-sensitive Windows user bonkers. Process Blocker does what it sounds like, with a DIY but simple method of choosing targets. As noted in the instructions, Process Blocker runs as a system service, watching for certain processes and killing them off if it finds them running. The app won't provide you a list of background services or apps for selection, though—this is a text affair. If you look in your Task Manager (Control-Shift-Escape), or your super-charged Process Explorer replacement, and notice that, for instance, GoogleUpdate.exe refuses to stop starting up, even after you've told it not to do so with Revo Uninstaller or another app, simply add it to the list.txt file included in Process Blocker's program folder. More detailed instructions on adding and re-starting the service are at the program site. You'll know it's working if you see a system tray pop-up noting that "SuchAndSuch.exe is blocked" when it tries to jump in and drink up a little memory. You'll definitely want to make sure the processes you're trying to block can and should be blocked off, so making a few trips to Process Library wouldn't be a bad idea. And if you just want to throttle back an auto-starting app's memory use, not kill it entirely, try the previously mentioned Process Lasso, or dig through our guide to reclaiming memory by mastering Windows Task Manager. Process Blocker is a free download for 32- and 64-bit Windows systems (2000 and later).Process Blocker for Windows
Windows only: Oddly named system utility Yawffer can freeze an out-of-control process in place, letting you shut down other running applications or save your work. Yawffer is actually meant to be a system monitoring tool, but it frankly doesn't do that terribly well-the killer feature is found by right-clicking on the tray icon and choosing Freeze a Process from the menu, at which point you can click on a process in the list and Freeze it. If you want to test this feature out for yourself but don't have a problem app at the moment, you can use Max CPU to peg your processor at 100%, and then freeze the process using Yawffer, which will immediately drop your CPU usage back to normal levels. This application could be a useful addition to your toolkit the next time your favourite Windows application goes out of control and you'd like to just pause it momentarily. For a more automated solution, you can use previously mentioned Process Lasso, or you can always free some memory by mastering Task Manager.Yawffer
Windows only: Extended Task Manager —a robust Windows Task Manger replacement—will help you get a clear view of what is going on with your system, from random disk writing to locked files. Extended Task Manager goes above and beyond the basics of the default Windows Task Manger to give you information on disk activity, network usage, which ports are open, and more. All the graphs have mouse-over support, so if you see a spike in CPU usage, you just put the mouse over the spike and see which program was chewing up your cycles, and the same goes for disk usage and networking. If you're new to tinkering in the bowels of a task manager, check out our guide to mastering the Windows Task Manager; all of the principles there apply to the souped-up Extended Task Manager. If you're interested in trying out other task manager alternatives, take a peek at previously reviewed TaskExplorer. Extended Task Manager is freeware, Windows only.Extended Task Manager
Windows only: AnVir Task Manager, a veritable Leatherman multi-tool of a system utility, is available in its full edition today only through the Giveaway of the Day web site. The app features all of the abilities and tools that Adam dug about the free version, but adds a few unique features, most noticably "improved memory usage" and a built-in database of Windows processes and what they do, along with on-the-spot, up-to-date virus checking. Even if you only run once to fine-tune your newly-installed system, AnVir is worth the slim download. AnVir Task Manager is for Windows systems only; the Giveaway protocol requires downloading, installing, and activating the software before the offer expiration.AnVir Task Manager 5.4.1
The problem with many online to-do list managers is that they don't support sub-lists for tasks that involve several steps—but outliner webapp Checkvist does just that, and with a clean interface that supports tons of keyboard shortcuts. Sign up for a free account at Checkvist to make your first list (hit Enter to add a task). Each list node can have a note attached to it, and any number of sub-nodes (Shift+Enter to enter one). Reorder your list items (Ctrl+arrow) and mark an item complete by selecting it and hitting the Spacebar. Export your lists from Checkvist to plain text, HTML, or OPML formats, and invite others to collaborate on the list with you. Here's what the Checkvist intro list (with some additions) looks like.
Windows only: Free application Process Manager adds an entry to your right-click context menu that adjusts an application's priority or kills the app. Once Process Manager is running, the kill and priority options are only available when you've right-clicked a window's taskbar item. That's pretty much all there is to it. The app runs in your system tray and eats less than 1MB of RAM. While Process Manager doesn't do anything you can't already do from the Windows Task Manager, it does provide quicker access to a couple of handy functions and is worth a try if you do much force-quitting. Process Manager is a free download, Windows only.Process Manager
The Tech-Recipes blog points out a Windows Vista feature that's great for anyone who wants to monitor how they're computer's running at a glance without installing a dedicated background app. Launch the Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), choose a panel like Performance or Networking, and double-click anywhere inside the window's blank space. You get a not-easily-closed, always-on-top widget you can keep anywhere on the desktop for a quick read on how your desktop is holding up, and it's a good deal more informative than Task Manager's system tray icon. Double-click inside the gadget to restore that standard task manager.Vista: Use the Task Manager as a Desktop Gadget
If you're stumped trying to figure out where a rogue background process on your Windows system came from, and what it does, the Los Angeles Free-Net's web site will likely have your answer. On a page meant to help volunteer mentors of the non-profit ISP, there's seriously comprehensive list of programs and processes, easily searched with a Control-F text find. It's based on the well-linked PacMan's list, and combined with the more system-based Process Library database, there's not a listing in Task Manager that can't be identified and dealt with swiftly. For a guide to getting built-in process lookups and more details on what your system's running, try our guide to reclaiming memory by mastering Windows' task manager. Thanks, kgeissler!.Startup Programs and Executables Listing
The first thing you'll probably notice, and possibly complain about, in the free online task manager TaskFive is that it limits you to five to-dos for each day. If you see that as more of a creative/realistic constraint than a hindrance, you'll probably like its other features. TaskFive sports a seriously clean design, with a one-week calendar view and simple click-to-edit tasks. You can set up SMS and email notifications for task due dates and daily agendas, and companies can set up group task calendars for multiple users—though TaskFive charges a per-user fee after more than two are added. For individual task management without too much fuss, though, TaskFive seems like a pretty great solution. TaskFive is a free service, requires a sign-up to use.TaskFive
When Google released a couple of gadgets for the Gmail sidebar and provided an open means of making more, long-time users of Remember the Milk might have guessed the task manager that tries to be everywhere would be all over it—and they were right. The Remember the Milk gadget lets you add, complete, edit, and postpone tasks, as well as single out a task list to show in the sidebar. It doesn't have the second-brain, star-equals-task power of RTM's Firefox extension, but it's a nice, unobtrusive way to add task management to your email/calendar/docs landing page. Hit the link below for instructions on installing RTM (which requires a free accont) in your Gmail sidebar.Remember the Milk for Gmail Gadget
Windows only: When you want to manage your PC's processes, startup items, network connections, windows, tasks, open files, and installed software, you can do that all using the free all-in-one monitoring tools System Explorer. The long list of functionality in System Explorer's broken down into four categories: Monitoring, Autoruns, Software, and Settings (they're tabs across the top). From there you can drill down and manage running processes, files, tasks, and more. While we've seen a few souped-up task manager type apps (like TaskExplorer), System Explorer packs in even more features with a small memory footprint and USB drive-friendly portable version. Check out a few screenshots of System Explorer in action.
Windows only: Closing applications that have become unresponsive usually involves opening the Task Manager and hoping you "End Process" before it ends your desktop. Windows xKill, a free stand-alone utility, aims to give you more firepower in shooting down buggy apps. Once it's running, you hit Control-Alt-Backspace to activate the skull-and-bones cursor, and simply click on the flailing app's window to kill it, similar to the Linux xkill command. Windows xKill does add an annoyingly blinking icon to your system tray, but you can set your system tray to always hide it if you'd like. Windows xKill is a free download for Windows systems only.Windows xKill
Windows only: Free application MKN TaskExplorer is a Windows Task Manager replacement packed with options, system information, and pretty graphs. We've highlighted tons of alternative task managers in the past, but TaskExplorer still manages to stand out with a great, uncluttered interface and easy to read stats. MKN TaskExplorer is freeware, Windows only.MKN TaskExplorer
Windows only: AnVir Task Manager Free is a Windows Task Manager replacement boasting an enormous feature set. This utility can manage startup applications, running applications, processes, services, and oh-so-much more. When you select a running process in the top pane, the bottom pane provides a wealth of information about the process, from a brief description of what it does to the network connections it's making and DLLs it's using. One of my favourite unusual features is the Check with AntiViruses on VirusTotal right-click option—which streamlines my favourite method of determining if a file really has a virus. You can find tons of Task Manager replacements out in the wild, but AnVir still manages to stand out. If you want even more functionality, this free download is also available in a Pro version with a kitchen sink full of features.AnVir Task Manager Free
Windows only: Free program Task Manager Extension 2.0 adds tons of functionality to the built-in Windows task manager. The extension beefs up the right-click menu with 14 menu entries instead of the default four. If you've ever needed more from your task manager than the basic End Process and Set Priority options available, Task Manager Extension 2.0 packs on options like additional process details, viewing dependencies, and finding files in use. Using the Find File/Module tool is extremely useful for ferreting out a file that Windows won't allow you to delete. A small word of caution when using Task Manager Extension: it allows you to shut down processes that the default Windows task manager would normally restrict you from touching. Shut down a core process and you can crash your machine. For more information about processes and how to tame them, check out Kevin's excellent guide to mastering the task manager. Task Manager Extension 2.0 is a free download for Windows only.Task Manager Extension 2.0