Regaining Control of Your System

by Barry Dysert
(last updated April 20, 2015)

Wilson notes that he sometimes needs to work with custom programs developed by his company's development team. Periodically these programs will "hang," and Wilson needs to restart his computer to gain control of his system. He wonders if there is a way to regain control without the need to restart all the time.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this problem—use the Task Manager. The Task Manager is a system application that runs at a higher priority level than normal applications, and it has sufficient privileges to terminate other applications. You can start the Task Manager in any of these ways:

  • Right-click the Taskbar and select Start Task Manager from the Context menu
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and select Start Task Manager from the resulting screen
  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc

Regardless of how you start the program, the Windows Task Manager dialog box appears. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Windows Task Manager dialog box.

Note that of the six tabs present in the Task Manager dialog box, the "Applications" tab is current. As can be seen, my system has four applications currently running, and they are sorted alphabetically by task name. If you want them sorted in reverse order, click on the heading of the Task column. If instead you want to sort the window by status, click on the heading of the Status column. Regardless of how the tasks are displayed, if one of these were hung, you would see "Not responding" in the Status column.

To terminate a process, click on the process that's shown. If, before you end it, you want to go to that process's window, you can click the "Switch To" button to verify that you've selected the correct process. When you're sure that the selected process is the one you want to terminate, click the Task Manager's End Task button. The process will quickly be terminated and the Task Manager's display will reflect this. You can then close the Task Manager window by clicking the Close button.

 This tip (12115) applies to Windows 7.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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