How can I find what's running on my Windows computer?

Windows Task Manager

The Microsoft Windows Task Manager is a general, quick, and easy method of seeing what is running on the computer.

Tip: You can access the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del on your keyboard, then select Windows Task Manager. You can also right-click with your mouse on the Windows Taskbar and select Windows Task Manager.

As you can see in the picture below, the Windows Task Manager opens with the Applications tab selected, displaying the applications currently open and running on the computer. From here, you can end any application that may not be responding or can't be closed by normal means (i.e. clicking the X in the upper right corner of the application window) by selecting the application and clicking the End Task button.

Microsoft Windows Task Manager

Note: The Applications tab is not present in the Windows 8 Task Manager.

Clicking on the Processes tab not only displays the applications that are running on the computer, but also all Windows processes that are affiliated with programs, drivers, and other hardware installed on the computer. In addition to seeing a list of processes, you'll also be able to identify what processes are consuming your resources by clicking on "CPU" or "Mem Usage" (may also be titled "Memory") column headers to sort by highest to lowest.

Windows Task Manager Processes list

Windows process tool

Unfortunately, not all processes and services can be seen by the Windows Task Manager. If you're concerned about hidden background programs or other malicious software, you may want to try running a utility such as HijackThis and processing the log it generates through the Computer Hope Windows process tool to get a full understanding of what is installed and running on your computer.

Additional information