Task managers help you kill zombie processes, items that are still running but don't have an active window. But they do more than that; they help you see what your computer's up to at any given time. They're a true power user's multitool.
A lack of visual polish doesn't hurt this utility that replaces the cumbersome Windows Task Manager by showing running processes in an intuitive tree format. Process Explorer makes the job a lot easier by including program icons and other data, such as description, image, and processor time.
It also can identify the process for a given application window or look up a process name in Google -- a handy way to spot spyware. Additional features offer detailed information on performance, DLLs, threads, handles, TCP/IP connections, security settings, and environments. Process Explorer is one of the best we've seen. Read full review
AnVir Task Manager Free (not to be confused with Avira AntiVir) offers a one-stop shop for managing your system's running processes and applications. Though it more than delivers the information it promises, it could really benefit from a more streamlined interface design.
AnVir uses tabs to distinguish system categories, such as start-up, applications, processes, and services. Command buttons at the top of the window give you the ability to kill processes, block processes, free memory, and select a parent process. The bottom of the window details CPU, memory, and disk usage, but it's hard to read. You can even use it to double-check if a program is infected with a virus against the online database VirusTotal. AnVir Task Manager Free does offer help through its Web site, but novices might still have trouble navigating the busy interface. This is a MacGyver-esque tool for managing your system processes, and is really aimed at power users. Read full review