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How to find what is running on a 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 Task Manager. You can also right-click with your mouse on the Windows Taskbar and select 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 and Windows 10 Task Manager.

Clicking on the Processes tab displays the applications that are running, as well as all Windows processes that are affiliated with any installed programs, drivers, and hardware. You can also 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 malicious software, run a utility such as HijackThis, process the log, and use our Windows process tool for a better understanding of what is running.

Additional information