What is Process Explorer and how to use it in Windows 10/11?

by Ivan Jenic
Ivan Jenic
Ivan Jenic
Troubleshooting Expert
Passionate about all elements related to Windows and combined with his innate curiosity, Ivan has delved deep into understanding this operating system, with a specialization in drivers and... read more
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Every Windows user has used Task Manager at least once. It’s an essential, built-in utility that gathers important information about active processes and resource consumption, coming in handy when something goes wrong when terminating a process.

Yes, Task Manager is a valuable tool for all Windows users, but only for beginner and intermediate users who find it suitable for everything they need to do. However, if you’re an advanced user, you’ll probably need more features.

Simply put, where Task Manager’s capabilities end, Process Explorer shines. The freeware advanced task manager and system monitor is powered by Microsoft and created by one of the most famous Windows enthusiasts, Mark Russinovich. Today, we present you a detailed explanation of this tool and all its features.

How to use Process Explorer

Download and installation

First things first, Sysinternals, the developer behind Process Explorer, has a whole suite for various system tasks. You can either download the whole suite or download certain tools individually. The same goes for Process Explorer, the most-used tool in the bundle.

You can download an archived file for both system architectures or directly download the .exe file.

User Interface

When compared to Windows 10’s Task Manager, Process Explorer’s interface is a bit confusing and not as user-friendly. While simple tasks shouldn’t present a problem. However, in order to perform more complex tasks, you’ll need to understand the program’s layout, something that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

On the left side of the main window, you’ll see active processes with a detailed subprocess list presented in a tree-view. On the opposite side, you may see standard Task Manager-like columns of distinctive processes. Of course, you can customize columns to meet your needs or use them to track certain consumption. The special emphasis goes to Company name column. It’s the best way to round-up trusted services, and terminate ( later remove) the ones that may be a malware.

Above the right side of the main window, you’ll see the monitoring features of  Process Explorer. There’s real-time system information with CPU and RAM usage and HDD and GPU activities. On the left side, above the process tree,  you’ll see available options that are mostly similar to a standard Task Manager.

If you want to examine a certain process, you can pause the updates with the Spacebar and press Ctrl + H for Handle View panel.


For now, you may conclude that this is just a badly designed Task Manager but you’d be wrong. Featurewise, this tool is much better for advanced tasks especially when it comes to malware hunting.

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First, with Process Explorer, you can terminate an entire process tree instead of a single process. You’ve probably encountered Chrome/Firefox crashes and navigated to Task Manager to stop those shenanigans and there, instead of one process, you saw 5-10 processes running. With Process Explorer, you just kill a process tree and that’s it. You can use this function by right-clicking on the wanted process and selecting Kill Process, or you can use the Shift+Delete keys combination for same results.

You’ve also probably tried to delete/move/rename certain processdx but the system prompted you with ”This file is open in another program” message. And sometimes you’ll know which program is preventing you from taking further action, but occasionally you won’t. Process Explorer comes in handy here, allowing you to determine the process that blocked your file. Just open Process Explorer, press Ctrl + F, and type the name of the file. Kill the process and continue with previous actions.

In addition, this tool may be used as an antimalware solution. But, instead of scans, you select suspicious processes and check them with Virus Total. Virus Total is ‘virus search engine comprised of a combined database contributed to by all major antivirus developers. You can single out one process (right-click, select Check VirusTotal) or check all active processes in ”Options > Check VirusTotal.com”. Once you toggle the Check VirusTotal, any new process will be automatically checked. The first number stands for virus confirmation and the other for the number of antivirus companies. If you, for example, get 50/57, it means that 50 out of 57 companies flagged the process as a malware.

Replace Task Manager

Although Process Manager is a third-party tool, you can set it as your default task manager. Yes, you heard right: Process Explorer can completely replace your built-in Task Manager. You can start it with Ctrl + Alt + Delete or Ctrl + Shift + Escape, just the same way as native Task Manager before. But there are both positive and negative sides to that.

  • Positive: Superior features, better insight into all-around system performance, customization possibilities.
  • Negative: You won’t be able to organize startup and manage services on Windows 8.1/10; old-fashioned design.

To replace Task Manager with Process Explorer open Options and click Replace Task Manager. Have in mind that you’ll need administrative permission in order to complete the action.

Wrap Up

That should wrap it up. If you are keen to improve your overall control over PC, look no further. Process Explorer will help you immensely in many ways. And for free.

Have you tried Process Explorer?

Tell us your opinion in the comments.


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