The Secret History Of The Windows Task Manager

Windows Task Manager

One of the most used applications in the OS, the Windows Task Manager has seen a lot of action in recent releases of the operating system. Microsoft has been adding neat little features left and right.

And while beginners rarely use it, the app is a mainstay of IT pros.

Power users use it daily to keep an eye on what’s running on their machine, kill processes that are misbehaving, and get more information on hardware and network resource usages — all without the need of third-party programs.

We don’t often hear Microsoft talk about the history of the Task Manager, or how it got to where it is now, and what roads it did not take during development.

Fortunately, developer Dave Plummer is here to save the day.

A former Microsoft employee, who worked at the Redmond company for more than a decade, he is the one that built the Windows Task Manager from the ground-up. And just for the record, Plummer is also the one who brought us ZipFolders and the super popular Space Cadet pinball table.

Task Manager

Anyway, he has a few golden nuggets to share regarding the secret history of the Task Manager.

Including how the application was initially supposed to be offered as a shareware, before eventually ending up as a free program bundled with Windows — and one of its most used ones, at that.

Plummer emphasizes a fact that everyone should keep in mind. That being, the Task Manager should be able to kill any process running on the operating system:

“There should be nothing that TaskMgr can’t kill – it will even escalate privilege and (if you have it) enable debug privilege to attach to and kill apps that way if needed. If TM can’t kill it, you’ve got a kernel problem.”

He also talks about how the Task Manager has been designed in a pretty clever way, in that if system resources are hitting their limits, then Windows will launch it in a reduced mode that limits the capabilities or only shows the Processes tab.

And then there’s a handy little tip that if the Windows Shell and Explorer are dead, you can still press Ctrl + Shift + Escape to bring up another instance of the Task Manager and restart the two processes.

The whole Reddit thread is a delight to read, so be sure to give it a go.

As for the trusty old Task Manager, it’s a much more complex app than people think. And this is solely due to the reason that it was developed from the very beginning as a wholesome and powerful solution.

Thank you, Dave Plummer!

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