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Reactivate a Disabled Task Manager

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 by | Filed Under: System Tune-Up Help

The Task Manager is an application included in Windows operating systems since Windows NT. Its job is to allow you to easily troubleshoot your PC and receive detailed information about the programs and services running in the background.

Opening the Task Manager in Windows is much like popping the hood of your car, it allows you access to the inner workings of your computer while its running.

Whenever a program misbehaves and freezes, you always depend on the trusty Task Manager to terminate that program and restore order.

However, what if one day, you find that the Task Manager itself misbehaves and you can’t access it?

You press Ctrl + Alt+ Del and get the message: The task manager has been disabled by the Administrator.

Now, if you work in a network environment and actually have an Administrator looking after your computer, he might have disabled the Task Manager and other Windows components for security reasons.

However, the primary cause for this error message showing up is most likely virus and spyware activity on your computer.

Because the Task Manager allows you to see what programs are running on your computer (and terminate them), viruses and spyware applications frequently disable the Task Manager to protect themselves.

The good news is that you can restore the Task Manager using the Group Policy Editor and the Registry Editor.

I’ll show you how, in the next steps.

First, let’s open the Group Policy Editor.

Go to the Start Menu and click on the Run command, situated above the Turn off Computer button. Then type the command gpedit.msc in the Open box (or the search field in Vista and 7) and click the OK button.

Note: To access the Group Policy Editor in Windows Vista and Windows 7 you must log in with an administrator account.

The Group Policy Editor will now open.


On the left side of the window, under User Configuration, double-click the Administrative Templates folder.

Then, under Administrative Templates, double-click the System folder.

Finally, under System, click on the Ctrl + Alt + Del Options folder.

On the left side of the window, double-click the Remove Task Manager option.

In the Remove Task Manager Properties window, under the Setting tab set a check mark next to Disabled and click OK.

Then close the Group Policy Editor by clicking the red X (close) button on the top right.

Go to the Start Menu and click on the Run command again (or the search field in Vista and 7).

Type in gpupdate /force and press Enter from the keyboard.

Next, we need to open the Registry Editor.

Warning! Before we go any further, I’d like to point out that messing around with the Windows Registry is not meant for beginners. Editing the Registry directly can have serious, unexpected consequences that can prevent the system from starting and require that you reinstall Windows. If you feel that you do not understand or are unable to perform the steps below, please seek expert advice.

Also, I recommend backing up the Registry before attempting any modification.

To back up the entire Registry in any Windows version, open the Registry editor (see below), click on the My Computer (or Computer for Vista and 7) key at the top and select File in the top left corner of the window. In the File menu select Export…, give it a name like registry backup and choose a safe location to save your file.

If something does go wrong while editing, you can restore the Registry by navigating to where you saved the .reg file and simply double click on it.

Now that you have backed up the Registry, you can proceed with the rest of the article.


Go to the Start Menu and click on the Run command again (or the search field in Vista and 7). Then type the command regedit in the Open box and click the OK button.

Alternatively, type regedit in the search field of the start menu, right-click on regedit.exe and select Run as administrator.

Note: To access the Registry Editor in Windows Vista and Windows 7 you must log in with an administrator account.

The Registry Editor will now open.

The setting we need to change is located in the Registry structure, at the following address:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

Click the plus sign next to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and scroll down the list until you locate SOFTWARE.

Then click the plus sign next to SOFTWARE and look for Microsoft.

Then click the plus sign next to Microsoft and look for Windows NT.

Then click the plus sign next to Windows NT and look for CurrentVersion.

Finally, click the plus sign next to CurrentVersion and left-click on Winlogon.


On the right side of the window look for the DisableCAD value and double-click on it.

Under the Value Data field, replace the 1 with a 0 and click OK.

Now close the Registry Editor by clicking File and then Exit from the menu and restart your computer.

After the restart, you should be able to access the Task Manager.

Note: Because virus activity is the main cause for this problem, after restoring the Task Manager (or before), you should run a full system scan with your anti-virus program of choice.

~Cosmin Ursachi

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