Original Dev Documents Task Manager History, Tips

Posted on May 27, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Windows with 5 Comments

The original developer of the Windows Task Manager has provided a nifty history of the application and some great tips for using.

“I’m the Microsoft developer that wrote [Task Manager] at home in my den in about 1994 and then the NT silverback [developers] let me check it into the main tree even though I was a greenhorn at the time,” a Reddit user identified as daveplreddit writes in his post. “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! I don’t know if it’s still like that, but great culture and people.”

(Thanks to Ondra Kelka for the tip!)

Among his tips for using Task Manager, which work through at least Windows XP, are:

  • If Task Manager ever hangs or crashes, you can start another by typing Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
  • If Task Manager ever becomes internally corrupted, you can close it and restart it while holding down the Ctrl, Alt, and Shift keys. Task Manager will reset all internal settings.
  • If the shell can’t start something or is hung, try Task Manager. It has a mode where it will load without any references to shell32.dll and will allow you to start programs like CMD.EXE without the Start menu.
  • There is nothing that Task Manager can’t kill, and it will even escalate privileges and enable debug privilege to attach to and kill apps that way if needed. After Windows XP, however, Microsoft did make some changes so that Task Manager can’t kill critical processes like win32k.sys and trigger a blue screen.
  • Many don’t realize that you can add many additional columns, remove others, drag them around to reorder, and so on.

The author also notes that he wrote/ported Space Cadet Pinball and ZIP Folders for Microsoft, and that he worked on the Start menu, shell, Calculator, OLE32, product activation, and even MS-DOS. Amazing stuff, and a great read.

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Comments (5)

5 responses to “Original Dev Documents Task Manager History, Tips”

  1. reefer

    Great read, only thing i miss about the task manager is the ability to print the info out to a console window, a text version that is. Running taskmgr from cmd only starts it, no command switches are avaliable.

  2. dftf

    Have to admit, I do like the Windows 10 Task Manager, though it is slower to load than the classic (NT4 to 8.1) versions. It's useful on the Performance tab, if you go to Memory, that it summarises how many RAM slots a machine has, how many are in-use and what type of chip is currently in each one. It's also nice in the CPU section to see things like the cores/threads/L1/L2/L3. Saves having to use third-party utilities!

    The reduced view is also a nice callback to the Windows 9.x Task Manager.

    One thing I don't like though is how you have to go to Options > Set Default Tab and choose a tab there if you want it to always open on that tab. The classic Task Manager simply remembers the one you were last on... not sure why this couldn't also be true for the Windows 10 one? Feels like an unnecessary option to need...

  3. mrdrwest

    First...working from home has its privileges.