Task Manager is one of the most useful tools in Windows. It is the program you turn to when you want to review the performance of your PC, speed up a slow computer, optimize your boot speed or even save battery power.
It’s a control panel, if ever there was one!
However, like many other built-in Windows tools, there are alternatives available that either offer a more streamlined experience or an expanded feature set. This makes these programs ideal for power users that want more than what the default tool in the operating system offers.
We take a look at 6 of the best free Windows Task Manager alternatives, and see how they stack up against the Microsoft solution.
Wise System Monitor
Pretty much your best bet if you want a modern task manager that comes with a stylish UI and makes performance monitoring accessible. System Monitor has that sleek, inviting look and feel, which even the new and improved Task Manager in Windows can’t offer.
A smart design brings together all the tools you need — making the utility feel comprehensive.
A nicely tabbed interface has the options divided into dedicated panels. Each process displays a large icon, while information like processor usage and to data sent and received is given plenty of room. This means that unlike other programs, you don’t have to squint and scroll to see what’s going on.
There are two tick boxes at the bottom that can be used to filter out Windows or Internet processes. And killing any process is simply a matter of locating the small down arrow and choosing End Process. It is also possible to view detailed information or block network access for a process.
The program continues to monitor processes in the background as long as it is on. And while Wise System Monitor is very easy to navigate, the Windows Task Manager does things a bit better by categorizing Apps and Background processes, which makes management easier.
Hardware and OS information
Does not categorize apps and background processes
Lacks some advanced options
Download: Wise System Monitor
If you have been using Task Manager regularly over the years, you will feel right at home with System Explorer and its old school layout. It displays a continually shifting list of processes, much like the default Windows tool.
Navigation is simple using the tabs spread across the top and these can be easily customized to your liking. You can add or remove 14 additional categories here, from Autoruns to Drivers and Security Info to Networking.
Hover over the icon in the notification area and the program reveals pretty much everything you might want to know. Some of these details are also visible at the bottom of the main window. There is an ample amount of information on display — suitable for beginners and advanced users alike.
Perhaps the best feature is the ability to click and drag to select window, where System Explorer highlights the process onscreen. Killing, suspending, restarting or prioritizing that process is as easy as a button press.
One feature that sets this program apart is its built-in Security Scan option that reviews and shows potentially threatening processes. Overall, this is a beast of a program that is sure to delight power users with its plethora of options and powerful capabilities.
Offer security scanning
Clunky, if customizable, interface
Developer: Mister Group
Download: System Explorer
A longtime favorite of many, Process Explorer is not all that different from System Explorer. Just like that program, this one comes with extras like a Crosshair tool and virus scanning option. Its interface is also rather busy, but that has got more to do with its classic roots than anything else.
The main screen offers little direction on what to do and where to go.
And while ease of use may not be its immediate strength, Process Explorer squeezes all pertinent information into the main window. This helps increase efficiency for power users but at the expense of you really having to drill down to see all the details.
If you are after something stylish and usable like Wise System Monitor, you’ll not find it here. What you’ll find is a sheer volume of data on display, with each column being color coded, as well as the option to add new ones and change fonts and colors.
One unique feature here is the ability to check the digital signatures of any executable file you are running. Also handy is the option of killing an entire process tree at once.
Familiar user interface
Tons of visible data
Developer: Mark Russinovich
Download: Process Explorer
Think of this as a more refined alternative of Process Explorer, with a better look but fewer features. One handy option here is the ability to scroll to new processes — this makes system monitoring a breeze for power users and professionals.
Four tabs display the Processes, Services, Network and Disk options.
You can also view load time and load reasons for process modules on Windows 8 and above. For example, if a long running process like Explorer.exe develops a problem, you have the option of sorting its modules by load time to get a clue about the cause of the issue.
Right-clicking a service provides helpful options like opening the key of a process in the Regedit, or opening its file location on the disk.
Good use of colors and icons throughout the window means you can be up and running in a snap. But at the end of the day there are better and more powerful choices available. There are programs that do more than Process Hacker, despite not looking as good.
Clean, usable UI
Shows load time and load reasons
Not as powerful for advanced users
Developer: Wen Jia Liu
Download: Process Hacker
WinUtilities Process Security
More than just a task manager, WinUtilities Process Security bills itself as a packaged solution for all basic Windows utilities. You will find disk cleanup, registry backup and even an uninstall manager packed into a single program.
In terms of UI, this program certainly feels like last decade.
But at least, it does a good enough job of putting everything in front of you to manage. One very handy function in this program is that it displays the security level of every process running, and it works perfectly fine to provide you with hints on shady applications.
The program lists details like CPU, memory and page file usage on the left side, while the main window provides you with access to information and properties of the running processes on your system. You can also end processes, set priority and generate reports from here.
Displays security details of processes
Shows hardware insights on the left
Old fashioned UI makes usage cumbersome
Comes as part of a suite
Developer: YL Computing
Download: WinUtilities Process Security
With a fancy name like Daphne, you would expect a stellar program. Well, the truth is, this application may not be stunning, but its real appeal is its ability to kill processes politely. That is to say, it tells programs to quit after they are finished doing their task.
It is also possible to kill processes in bulk.
And that familiar Crosshair option over a window is also available that lets you decide whether to end, hide or change size of an application. The ability to set transparency for windows or set any to be always on top is also on offer.
There may not be enough here for a full and dedicated Task Manger replacement, but as the first open source alternative, Daphne is worth a look for its power and simplicity. The UI may need some time getting used to, but at the very least all the options are neatly tucked away in menus.
Good for killing processes quietly
Tons of additional management options