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Windows Processes – How Can I Understand Them?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms, I've Always Wanted To Know...

Richard from Colorado writes:

Everything listed in the various windows is in shorthand, so to speak. How does one know what it represents and whether they should/could stop the process/service, etc.

Dot from NC writes:

How do I find out what is ok to let run on task mgr. and what to remove?I am so glad for this info but still do not know what to do now.

Lillian asks:

You’ve told us what each tab contains, but you didn’t say if a person should get rid of any thing under the specific headings. If there are programs that need to be deleted, which ones would that be? I’m always afraid to take anything off of my PC in case it’s the wrong thing.

Glad to see that lots of you read my article on understanding the Task Manager.

But I see that many of you are concerned about the things listed in the task manager. And I will give you the same caution I did about checking Event Viewer. Unless you are having some kind of issue with your computer, you probably don’t need to worry about all the processes running. There are going to be a lot of them. That doesn’t mean there’s a problem.

I can’t give you a list of what every process running on a computer might or might not be, because every system is different. But there is a way you can get a better idea of what a process is associated with.

Applications are usually pretty straight forward. You’ll see what’s running.


You can right-click and select Go to process.


And you’ll see the process associated with the application in the processes tab.


You can also use the Description column under the process tab to get a better idea of what program a process is associated with.


You can adjust the size of the task manager by dragging the corners and the width of the description column by dragging the edge to get a better view of the descriptions.


If you don’t understand a particular process, I highly suggest that you check out the Process Library.   You can enter the name of the process in question and look it up.


The result will explain the source of the process.


This can be educational, but it can also be time-consuming if you decide to check out every process on your computer. I would say that you don’t really have to worry so much about ending a task or stopping a process. You aren’t deleting anything from your computer.  You’re just stopping the process. 

Unless you are having some type of issue with your computer, resist the temptation to open up task manager and babysit every process as it starts and stops. If you had a monitor that showed you every process going on in your car as you drive or every process involved in video coming through your cable box and into your TV, it would appear as if a multitude of concerning things were going on, when it’s really just business as usual.

~ Cynthia

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2 Responses to “Windows Processes – How Can I Understand Them?”

  1. MIke Aguilar says:

    Some good information here Cynthia, but I’ve got to interject something regarding your last statement regarding cars and TVs.

    Incorrect. You CAN monitor all the processes that are monitored by your car’s computer with the proper, expensive piece of equipment or, nowadays, software and cabling. Although the names and functions of those processes would be cryptic, they can all be fairly readily identifiable as being related to the operation of the car. Nothing would seem untoward.

    As for the Cable box and TV: Same thing. You would see data that is the image being broadcast. Next, you would see data that would be telling your TV how to display that data. If you were watching a network or station that uses the moving ribbon at the bottom of the screen, you would also see information and data on how that imagery is to be displayed. These pieces of information are called VBI lines.

    • cynthia says:

      I did not say that you couldn’t monitor your car or your TV, I said that if you had a monitor that could monitor every process that the amount of data could be overwhelming and probably alarming, if you weren’t a mechanic or an electronics expert.

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