The creator of Task Manager shares handy tips 26 years after its debut

David Plummer has taken to Reddit with a handy guide for the application killer

The creator of the Windows Task Manager has posted a handy guide of tips and shortcuts that go way beyond the 'Ctrl-Alt-Delete' most users have come to rely on.

David Plummer, the man who built the tool that lets you stop runaway applications, posted 'I wrote Task manager and I just remembered something...' on Reddit this week, some 26-years after its creation.

The tool is for killing programs in their tracks and also checking the status of others, but many will be pleased to know what else it can do.

"Figured I should write this stuff down before I forget it all," the ex-Microsoft developer said.

"I'm the Microsoft (Redmond, '93) developer that wrote TaskMgr at home in my den in about 1994 and then the NT silverback devs let me check it into the main tree even though I was a greenhorn at the time. So that meant I got to bring it into work and polish it up and make it an official part of Windows, where it remains to this day. So I got to define my own day job, actually, which was nice!"

Plummer's TaskMgr advice is all based on XP and starts with a trick for rebooting the tool if it ever "hangs or crashes". Users should press 'ctrl-shift-esc', which will prompt Windows to look for an existing instance and try to revive it for up to 10 seconds. If the users old TaskMgr doesn't come out of its lull within that time, another will be launched.

TaskMgr is one of the very few apps that won't just "fail and bail", according to Plummer, and it can load in a reduced mode if resources are short. It may only load the Process page if that's what's needed to get up and running. It can also be killed by simply holding down ctrl-alt-shift. This will reset all internal settings to factory fresh.

There should be nothing that TaskMgr can't kill, according to Plummer, who suggests that it can even escalate and debug privilege to attach to and kill apps that way if needed. Users can also add many additional columns, remove others and drag them around to reorder. "On the notion that there are some things that Taskmgr can't kill, there were post-XP for sure but they were intentional limits," Plummer wrote. "I remember something about journalists making news by using TM to kill the root Winlogon session, for example, which would bugcheck the machine intentionally. But the fact you could bluescreen NT didn't look good, I suspect, so they likely started to protect people from themselves by disallowing killing win32k.sys and other essential components."

Plummer's shortcuts also include:

  • Ctrl-Shift-Esc: this will launch Task Manager if Explorer is stuck and your system tray is down. 
  • Ctrl-Alt-Shift while restarting Task Manager: This will reset all internal setting to the factory originals.
  • Double-click dead space in the client to switch back to normal mode if only the graph loads. 
  • The binary for any executing process in the process table can be found by right-clicking and selecting "Show File Location". 
  • Columns can be added, removed or reordered by dragging and dropping them.
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