How to find what is running on a Windows computer

Updated: 04/12/2021 by Computer Hope

Windows Task Manager

The Microsoft Windows Task Manager is a general, quick, and easy method of viewing what programs, background processes, and apps are running on the computer. If your computer is running slowly, this is a beneficial tool to see a program potentially takes up too much CPU (central processing unit) or memory resources on your computer.


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

As shown in the picture below, in Windows 8 and Windows 10, the Windows Task Manager opens with the Processes tab selected. In Windows 7 and earlier, the Task Manager opens with the Applications tab selected. In both cases, the applications currently open and running on the computer are displayed. From here, you can end any application that is not responding by selecting it in the list and clicking the End Task button.

Microsoft Windows Task Manager


The Applications tab is not present in the Windows 8 and Windows 10 Task Manager.

The Processes tab displays applications that are running, and Windows system processes. You can identify what processes are consuming your resources by clicking the "CPU" or "Memory" (titled "Mem Usage" in Windows 7 and earlier) column headers. Doing so sorts the process list by how much of that resource they are using. Click the header multiple times to toggle between highest-to-lowest and lowest-to-highest sort order.

Windows Task Manager Processes list

Windows process tool

Unfortunately, not all processes and services are displayed 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.