Process Hacker: A Better Alternative to Windows Task Manager

Windows Task manager is good for general users, but if you want in-depth information about currently running Windows processes, services or running applications – you will need a better task management utility.

There are tons of task management apps available for free but Process Hacker seems to be the most feature rich and popular among PC users. The best part of the application is that it’s portable and thus can be used from a removable drive on multiple computers without installation.

Why use another Task Management Program ?

Process hacker provides some unique features which are not present in the default Windows task manager. Some of the important features are listed below:

  • View a hierarchical tree view of running processes – not present in Windows task manager.
  • Restart a particular process, without ending it and running it manually from command prompt or from “New Task”
  • More control on the affinity and priority of a process.
  • View process heaps, DEP status and other environment variables.
  • Use different methods to terminate running processes.
  • Bypass different forms of process protection.

There are more features too, if you are a power user and want more control on how the running processes are handled, how much memory is allocated to each program and other parameters. Process Hacker is the way to go.

Usage

Once you have downloaded the package, extract it and open the X86 or X64 folder – this depends on the ID of your operating system. Then double-click the ProcessHacker.exe file to launch the Process Hacker task management window. Here is how it looks like:

Process hacker Application Window

Managing Running Processes

All the running process are listed in the process tab in a tree view – thus listing all the sub processes in hierarchical manner. Right clicking a process gives you some useful options -

  • Changing the process priority – high, normal, low, real-time, above normal, below normal and idle.
  • Terminate the active process or the whole process tree
  • Bring the application window to front, minimize, maximize or restore it.
  • Changing the affinity controls – determining which CPU threads are allowed to execute the process.
  • Create a process dump file
  • Run the process for a separate user, determine the I/O priority or completely detach it from the debugger

Process Hacker - managing Running Process and Program Properties

The best part is the “Properties” window which shows a graphical view of the process performance. You can know the memory consumption and CPU performance for a particular process, along with the Input Output threads the process is currently handling. This feature is not available in default Windows task manager.

Another advantage of using Process Hacker is that you can know which applications will immediately close if you terminate a system process. This is because all the applications or programs using that process will be listed in the tree view.

The Services Tab

The services tab shows a list of Windows services installed on your computer. Most of these services are either drivers or important updates installed from Microsoft Update.

There are some useful pieces of information available next to each service.  Here are some common examples:

  • You can know the exact installation path of a running service by right clicking a service -> properties -> Binary path
  • Know whether the service auto starts with Windows or not – from the “Start Type”
  • Know for which user account the service is triggered.
  • Know whether the service is a driver, a shared process or a registered Microsoft service.
  • Which DLL files are associated with the concerned service.
  • Which permissions are granted to the running service – switch to the “Security” tab and check the “System Permissions” section.

Process Hacker Manage Windows Services

All these details are not shown in Windows task manager, if you are really interested in knowing the inner details of running Windows services – Process Hacker will not disappoint you.

The Network Tab

One of the most impressive features of Process Hacker is the ability to know detailed information about incoming and outgoing network connections. You get to know about the network protocol associated with a particular process, which local address or remote address the process is using, what is the current state and the remote port of the running process.

The details get updated in real-time and whenever the state of a process changes – a highlight is automatically reflected, an example is shown below

Process Hacker - Managing Windows Network properties

This is very useful when you want to know which programs are transferring data to the internet through your computer’s network connection.

There are other useful features as well, this includes searching for a process by name, viewing the pagefile history, showing all the hidden processes or filtering file handles and shared DLL’s. This program is definitely not for novice users, geeks will find it extremely useful.

What’s your favorite task management utility for Windows? Please share your ideas in the comments section.