How to find what is running on a Windows computer

Updated: 05/23/2017 by Computer Hope

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, 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

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

In all versions of Windows, 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 identify what processes are consuming your resources by clicking on the "CPU" or "Memory" (titled "Mem Usage" in Windows 7 and earlier) column headers. Doing so will sort 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 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