Task Manager in Windows 7 is a simple tool that enables you to see all the stuff that is running in the background in Windows and there is a lot of it. Right click the taskbar and select Task Manager to run it. You can see the programs that are running and the processes (background items). You can view the CPU and memory usage and network throughput.
Windows 8 Task Manager is more powerful and is far superior, but even so, you might want to take a look at System Explorer, which takes things to a whole new level of usefulness.
It is a free utility from systemexplorer.net and on the downloads page is a standard Windows installer and a portable version. My own preference is for portable software whenever it is available, but it is up to you. It is not that I want to carry it around on a USB stick, I just prefer to install as little software as possible into Windows.
The portable version can be unzipped and run in the Downloads folder, but I have created a C:\Users\Public\Portable folder for portable software, so after unzipping it, the folder was moved there. Open the folder and right click the program. It needs to be run as an administrator (Windows ignores the fact that you have logged on as an administrator), so select it on the menu.
The program asks if you want to perform a security check and this is recommended. It checks all the programs, services and drivers that are running against an online database to see if there are any unknown items or bad ones.
The results open in a web browser and it looks like this.
Luckily there are no threats or suspicious files on this PC. This is just the summary of the security report and there is a long list of every file found, how common it is, and a link for information about it.
The program itself opens and there are four tabs. The Processes tab is similar to the Processes tab in Task Manager and it shows everything that is running. However, it is more detailed and it shows sub-processes started by main processes in a tree structure.
There is a lot more to this than can be seen in the screenshot and double clicking an item opens a new window with Details, Modules and CPU usage tabs. You can see the CPU usage for an item on the Processes tab for the last minute, hour and day. This could be useful for tracking down runaway apps that hog the processor, causing the computer to get hot and the fan blow like a hair drier.
Click the Windows button just under the Processes tab and it will hide a log of regular Windows processes that are not important. If you are not sure what an item is, click the Details link in the Security column and a web page opens with a description. That is very useful for learning what all the various processes are for.
Select the Performance tab and it is similar to Task Manager’s Performance tab. It has more information though, and in addition to processor usage (each core and virtual core has its own chart), you can see the used RAM and swap file, I/O reads and writes, and more.
There are many more tabs and clicking the plus button in the top right corner provides a list. You can add any of these tabs and close ones you don’t need. Suppose you want to check what programs are starting with Windows. Just select the Autoruns tab. If you want to see scrolling charts of the bytes sent and received over the network or internet, just open the Networking tab.
Clicking the right mouse button accesses a menu that varies depending on the tab. On the Processes tab for example, you can end processes, restart them, and suspend them. You can view the file details, search Google for them and more.
System Explorer is a great tool for technical people that want to dig beneath the surface of Windows and see what is going on. It could be useful for tracking down spyware, adware and viruses, or for identifying rogue processes that are stealing all the processing power.
Non-technical users might find the information incomprehensible, but the more you explore the system, the more familiar you will become with it, and this makes it easier to identify and solve problems when they crop up. Grab a copy of System Explorer and use it occasionally to check out the computer.
Title: System Explorer
Developer: Mister Group
Windows: XP, Vista, 7, 8 32/64-bit