Microsoft has updated the Task Managerin Windows 8, offering a new look as well as some new scenarios and a new way of tuning the tool for "both ends of the spectrum" in terms of end-users and those that need very fine-grained control over what is going on with their PC.
Ryan Haveson, the group program manager of Microsoft's "In Control of Your
PC" team, provided details about the new Task Manager.
Starting with the appearance, Microsoft tried to add new functionality
without overwhelming users. To solve this, the company pivoted around a
"More/Fewer details" button similar to the new copy file dialog model.
The default view ("Fewer details") is built around the core scenario of
finding an application and closing it. Microsoft removed everything not
focused on the core task of killing apps. No tabs will appear in this view,
it shows just the apps and removes individual windows that can't be killed
anyway. Microsoft also took out things such as resource usage stats and
technical concepts that most users don't understand. In addition, if you
click "End task" the system ask you, "Are you sure?" - it will just kill
In the "More details" view Microsoft stayed with the existing tabbing model
of Task Manager and focus on improving the content of each of the tabs.
The most noticeable difference in the new "More details" processes tab is
the new heat map, which represents different values with color. The nice
thing about a heat map is that it allows you to monitor anomalies across
multiple resources (network, disk, memory, and CPU utilization) all at the
same time, without having to sort the data. It also allows you to find the
hot spot instantly without needing to read numbers or understand concepts or
The new Task Manager also shows network, Memory and Disk resources at the
same level of detail as memory and CPU.When a particular resource is being
used at a rate above a threshold number, the column header will light up to
draw your attention to it. Think of this as a warning indicator, letting you
know a good place to start looking if you are experiencing performance
issues. Below, you can see that the CPU column header is highlighted to draw
your attention to the fact that you may have multiple applications competing
for CPU time.
The new task manager also shows more user-friendly names for the background
processes. For example, the line item for "splwow64.exe" showed in the old
Task Manager will now appear as "Print driver host for applications".
But if you still want to see the executable name, of course you can add it
back as an optional column.
In today's Task Manager, it is hard to know which processes correspond to an
application (apps are generally safe to kill), which are Windows OS
processes (killing some of these can cause a blue screen), and which are
miscellaneous background processes that may need to be explored more deeply.
The new Task Manager shows processes grouped by type, so it is easy to keep
these separated while still providing an ungrouped view for situations where
you need it.
In the old Task Manager is that the Applications tab was a flat list that
included all of the top-level windows from all processes in the system.
While the list of top-level windows is interesting information to have, it
is often overwhelming to look at and sometimes a single window cannot be
killed without closing all the other windows for that process. To address
this, the new Task Manager now groups top-level windows under their parent
process. It allows for a much cleaner view for typical usage, helps you
focus on killable processes, process resource usage, and allows you to see
which windows are owned by each process so you know what will be closed if
you kill it.
The new Task Manager also integrates a search context menu on right-click,
so you can go directly to your default search engine (which you can
customize) to see more details and relevant information. This can make a
huge difference when deciding whether a background process is doing
something useful or just wasting cycles.
If you open up Windows 7 Task Manager to the Processes tab and select "Show
process from all users," you will probably see eight seemingly identical
instances of "svchost.exe". This is one of the most commonly noted "not very
informative" sources of information Microsoft provided. With the new Task
Manager, the operating system shows all of the services grouped by process
with friendly names for each of them, so you instantly can see what is going
on when an instance of svchost is consuming a lot of resources: