Best Free Process Viewer

 
Introduction

Since Windows 95, Microsoft has included the Windows Task Manager in all of their operating systems to help users troubleshoot problems or just see how much of their precious memory is being used. Easily opened by a combination of hot keys (ctrl+shift+esc, or ctrl+alt+delete), this small tool isn't good for much other than killing processes.

It is because of this that many developers started creating their own versions of this utility, many of which added new features or refined the features Microsoft had already set as standard.

For many years, the Windows Sysinternals crew has offered the best product in this category, but the last couple of years has brought some great free and open source projects that are very deserving contenders for the top spot.

 
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Discussion

System Explorer was referred by a site visitor and was new to me, although it has been around a couple of years. It did not take me long to appreciate all that this program has to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to use.

This application has some truly useful features available, such as the ability to take and compare snapshots of your files and registry, to upload files to Virustotal, and to perform an online look up of files or processes straight from the GUI. This handy process viewer also gives you mouse over information on known files, as well as many options to further manipulate processes, files, and services. Everything you need to get to is organized in a left-hand column and you can view everything from your services and processes, Internet Explorer Add-ons, to protocol filters and handlers for Windows Explorer.

I admit a lot of this stuff you might not use very much and some software can get kind of bloated when there are this many features but it is no problem here, and everything fits together very nicely. In my opinion, System Explorer is absolutely the best free process viewer available even if it is missing a few of the more advanced features.

 

Process Hacker and Process Explorer share a very similar interface, the only difference being the drop down information bar in Process Explorer. However, this is the only feature that the SysInternal's crew wins at. Process Hacker is a feature rich application with the ability to terminate those pesky processes that you are not allowed to kill in the Windows Task Manager and even Process Explorer. It can also sniff out some hidden processes, allowing you to find some basic rootkits if you are infected. This tool offers loads more features than I have mentioned, and contains almost everything you will ever need in a process viewer.

 

I had a hard time moving Process Explorer from its top spot, and what it finally came down too was the lack of features. I'm sure some average users who just want to tame a process, kill a hanging program, or check on memory consumption will appreciate the lesser amount of features. The bottom line is that while this application did fall a few spots, it will remain one of the best and most solid choices for anyone who is looking for a little more than the Windows Task Manager offers.

 

Another tool that has been around for a long time is the AnVir Task Manager Free, which offers a ton of features. Unfortunately, by forcing all of these components into one unorganized interface it was very hard to figure out where everything was and I found it a little difficult to use. However, if somehow you can find a way to get familiar with everything and get past the clutter then you will soon realize the enormous amount of power, and possibilities that this tool has to offer.

 

Alternatively there is another choice for users who are just looking for a simple replacements to the Windows Task Manager. Auslogics Task Manager has all the basic attributes of a task manager plus it adds another column to the GUI that tells you if known processes are trustworthy or not. This program also has a component that gives a list of all open files and tells you if the open file is locked and which process or service has it locked, and it offers the ability to unlock the file. This application is good at what it does, which isn't much, but users looking for something simple and intuitive may appreciate this software.

 
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Quick Selection Guide

System Explorer
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Upload files to VirusTotal from GUI. Detailed information about files and processes. Take and compare system snapshots. Logs action history for monitoring processes activities.
Cannot detect hidden processes.
http://systemexplorer.net/
4.2.2.
1.96 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 8/ 7/ Vista/ XP

v4.2.2 released 16 May, 2013

Process Hacker
4.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Hidden Process Detection. Can forcibly terminate hooked processes. Ability to pause processes.
Some stability problems reported on Windows Vista.
2.30 (r5267)
2.4 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 7/Vista/XP

v2.30r5267 released 14 January, 2013

Process Explorer
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very stable. Good support.
Not a lot of features.
15.31
1.15 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows All

v15.31 released 04 June, 2013

AnVir Task Manager Free
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Ton of features. Detailed information on files and processes. Start-up manager.
Unorganized GUI. No support for free version. Performance issues.
?
6.6 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 7/Vista/XP
Auslogics Task Manager
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Tracks disk load. Ability to unlock modules. Easy to use.
Barely offers more features than normal Windows Task Manager.
2.2.1.0
4.98 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 7/Vista/XP

Warning: Downloads from Cnet (Download.com) now require the use of a proprietary installer.
v2.2.1.0 released 25 February, 2012
View the changelog here

 
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Tags

process viewer, process manager, task manager, process monitor, task manager replacement

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Comments

by davy on 9. February 2009 - 17:38  (15675)

tried a lot of taskmanagers but none better than anvir,even security taskmanager which you pay for, looks cheap compared to anvir.

by JimD on 20. February 2009 - 16:04  (16427)

Are there any free process monitors/explorers for monitoring remote machines? I have found a good tool called remote process explorer which is free for personal use, but you pay for commercial use.

http://lizardsystems.com/purchase/index.php#remote-process-explorer

Was hoping for a free for any use version.

by Anonymous on 10. March 2009 - 17:47  (17546)

+1 to anvir. after trying some of these and others, the basic features of anvir where just way ahead. Haven't seen any drawbacks in usability or performance as stated in the description; and one of the features I like is the info on disk load per process!!! sometimes you think your machine is slow: ram, cpu, registry access... but a lot of this slowness comes from HD load. If an app is accessing the disk it may cause a bottleneck for all other apps. anvir will show which process is eating all the HD bandwith!! it just works the way a process manager should work.

by Anonymous on 11. March 2009 - 23:29  (17637)

I'm sorry; but that software is really buggy!!! I had a perfectly stable system until I installed anvir taskmanager. Boy it was chaos. In a couple of days my machine froze at least twice per day, posing as being "busy" but in fact was crashing everything I had open... it even crashed the firewall. I had to force the shut downs to restart. Uninstalled this and voilá!!! all problems gone!!!. They should really make it simple: make a great taskmanager and remove all other useless features (like the tweaker, cleaner, anti-everything, etc.). In this cases... less is more!!.

by Anupam on 12. March 2009 - 5:26  (17649)

I think it was not the Anvir Taskmanager, it had something to do with the compatibility with the firewall. Which firewall are you using? I use Anvir Taskmanager, and it works great on my system.

Anupam Shriwatri, India

by Anonymous on 11. April 2009 - 23:35  (19708)

Process Explorer works with Windows 98 through version 11.11. After that, no go. You can download that version from FileHippo.

by Anonymous on 21. April 2009 - 11:11  (20228)

Sysinternals process explorer has been updated to 11.33 for some time

by PsychEroc on 1. May 2009 - 4:22  (20872)

Here's a couple others with more advanced functions:
Process Hacker
Process Lasso

by Bob on 20. May 2009 - 6:08  (21924)

Information on how to get full (paid) version of AnVir Task Manager for free: http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/free-anvir-task-manager.htm

by chris.p on 28. July 2009 - 10:13  (25863)

For me, one of the crucial tasks an app like this MUST do is be able to kill any process on demand. Task Manager can't do this.

So which one is best at identifying a process that needs killing, and killing it even if protected?

chris.p

by Anonymous on 2. August 2009 - 22:24  (26160)

Advanced Process Termination is all hype.

I tested it on one locked process, actually a few over time, & none of the methods it had were able to kill the locked process. How useless is that?

By the way, it is difficult to find something that will really kill advanced locked processes. Some just seem nearly impervious to anything you throw at them.

Dave

by Anonymous on 9. August 2009 - 8:42  (26681)

how about this?
http://yaprocmon.sourceforge.net/

It looks like a nice process viewer

by Anonymous on 12. August 2009 - 12:30  (26929)
by Anonymous on 11. October 2009 - 18:21  (34353)

I think you should consider process hacker, it has pretty much just as many features as Process Explorer.
http://processhacker.sourceforge.net/

by Anupam on 11. October 2009 - 18:50  (34357)

Saw this today at LifeHacker:
http://lifehacker.com/5378494/five-best-windows-task-manager-alternatives

Interesting read.

Anupam

by SaintSatinStain on 5. December 2009 - 17:45  (37908)

You are right that Process Explorer gives too much information for the ordinary user. I am a little bit beyond the ordinary, just a smidgen, and I find it useful when I investigate a problem. I find that ProcX is fine for daily use. It is over simplified, but sufficient as daily task manager use. I use both Process Explorer and Procx; it is easy to switch between them as task manager.

by morrig on 12. December 2009 - 18:14  (38413)

Just installed Process Hacker,it seems very good on first use,with very detailed info.The main reason was today had a process in my Temp folder named as Dayton and a rar file,which was opening running multiples process,very nasty making the Win 7 unusable,could not kill with Task Manager,and when tried to to unlock to delete with Iobit 360 it crashed.So only way out luckily was a System Restore which did the trick,hopping this will kill a process better than T/M?

by majoMo on 17. December 2009 - 18:40  (38891)

System Explorer here: http://systemexplorer.mistergroup.org/

Released v. 2.0.1.

by Anonymous on 27. January 2010 - 6:44  (42193)

Process Hacker needs DotNetFramework2 ---- tens of mega download

If you prefer the ability to see the rookit, I think icesword1.2 is a good choice. Just not need to run daily.

I would suggest the review include the cpu and memory usage of each, given the same update rate.

by DLC50 on 27. January 2010 - 19:15  (42226)

Thanks for your suggestions and I will work on including the memory usage etc in the review. Icesword hasn't been updated in a while and it is unstable and is not suited to detect the newer sophisticated rootkits. It is in fact not made to be a process viewer, but a anti rootkit tool. check out the rootkit review for a list of updated products. http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-rootkit-scanner-remover.htm

by Anonymous on 27. February 2010 - 18:40  (44666)

Please add to the review the fact that ProcessHacker needs .NET, since many of us won't touch that and need to know.

A great review, very interesting to see that ProcessExplorer is not the top pick now.

Thanks.

by Anonymous on 27. February 2010 - 23:42  (44685)

Thanks for the feedback and I will add this to the review asap.

by DLC50 on 6. March 2010 - 19:48  (45114)

I updated the review to include the bit about Microsoft .NET Framework. Thanks for the feedback and if you notice anything else or have anymore suggestions don't hesitate to post them here or send me an email. It is very hard to get everything right past a certain point so all of your feedback is very much appreciated. Thank You.

by Anonymous on 15. March 2010 - 0:53  (45580)

Hello,
thanks for the review and links, but I can't find any 64 Bit version of SystemExplorer on the download page.
I installed the program (version 2.1.2.2874 March 14th 2010) on my Windows 7 Pro 64 bit laptop and it is definitely 32 bit !
Can anyone confirm that ?

by MidnightCowboy on 15. March 2010 - 8:57  (45598)

This was listed in the changelog for V2.0.9 released on 13th February.

"This version contains improved Security Database Support, fixed many "Replace Task Manager" issues, added "Replace Task Manager" support for Windows 7, fixed settings saving issue, improved support for 64-bit operating systems."

There have been a further four releases since this one, the current being 2.1.2

by Anonymous on 7. May 2010 - 23:48  (49309)

There's a new version of Process Explorer.

by Anonymous on 24. June 2010 - 6:37  (52952)

there's also http://sourceforge.net/projects/processpriority/

by odong (not verified) on 9. July 2010 - 4:22  (53974)

nope, it's not used .net framework anymore on v2, check this: h t t p://processhacker.sourceforge.net/v2.php

by tonyh (not verified) on 23. August 2010 - 21:34  (56597)

I couldn't find any link to System Explorer on the download page above. All the links are to downloads of other programs. The site looks completely untrustworthy.
Maybe this needs reviewing.

by MidnightCowboy on 23. August 2010 - 23:00  (56601)

The site is green rated by WOT,

http://www.mywot.com/en/scorecard/systemexplorer.net

all the links are working and this is the Virus Total scan result for the .exe.

http://www.virustotal.com/file-scan/report.html?id=40278ccb7f6770c67dac7...

If your download requests are being redirected to another site it's possible your computer is infected.

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