Process Explorer: Knowledge is power

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There are times when the Windows default tools are just not enough. Even if most of them have been designed for beginner to intermediate users, in some cases you feel the need for specialized features, such as when attempting to track down a process inside Windows Task Manager.

Process Explorer is a small but highly-functional system utility designed to be the advanced version of the default Task Manager. This tiny, free tool comes with a bunch of life-saving features that will allow you to easily identify running processes along with detailed information about them.

Installation & Requirements

Besides the small size of this download (only 1.8 MB) you will be glad to find out there is no install process for this simple tool: all you have to do is run the procexp.exe file.

System requirements are not something to worry about as they are the OS itself. Process Explorer is compatible with all Windows server versions starting with Server 2003 and client versions starting with XP.

Interface

Process Explorer’s interface comes with a vast amount of info and can be confusing for beginners as this utility is more suitable for average and advanced users. The GUI is designed in Windows-Explorer style and it displays the running processes in a tree view along with detailed information regarding them. Holding your mouse over a process name will reveal even more info such as its full path and the services that are using it. To ease up your searching tasks, the top menu “Find” option allows you to track down handles or DLLs.

Right-clicking on a process will display a pop-up menu with all the actions you can perform: set affinity/priority, kill process/process tree, restart, suspend, create dump, properties and search online. You might be wandering what the last feature is for. Well….it automatically searches Google for that process, allowing you to find out exactly what that process is in a quick and easy manner.

The System Information window contains real-time graphs with CPU, memory, I/O and GPU usage. Even if the default Task Manager also comes with graphs, the ones of Process Explorer are much more detailed. You can even see the real-time performance graph of a specific process by accessing its right-click menu (under Properties – Performance Graph).

The amount of info that Process Explorer can display about processes is extensive and power users will most likely be thrilled. Even though the program has a comprehensive Help file, novices will have a hard time getting used with it.

Pros

– Very small program with no installation required.

– Provides extensive information about processes, DLLs used by each process, process performance and the list goes on.

Cons

– Although the program is intended for power users, the interface is a bit too cluttered. There are many features present in multiple locations which may be confusing for lots of users.

Alternatives

Process Explorer is a highly capable system utility but it’s not the only one. There are a couple of very appreciated free programs with similar functionality such as Process Hacker, System Explorer and Extended Task Manager.

Conclusion

The overwhelming amount of information that Process Explorer offers is hard to compete with. While the default Windows Task Manager and many other similar system utilities have a lighter, friendlier GUI, most of them are miles away in terms of functionality when compared to Process Explorer.