Stalwart freeware Windows utility Process Explorer adds several advanced features in its most recent update. Version 12 expands on the must-have set of tools that previous versions have provided, making the lightweight tool even more useful.

Process Explorer 12 can identify which Internet Explorer processes are associated with which open tabs. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

If you've ever tried tracking down a process in Windows Task Manager, even in the latest version that's shipped with Windows 7, you know it's like looking for brevity in a shaggy dog joke. Process Explorer, which started out as an independent program but has been maintained by Microsoft for years now, makes the job a lot easier. It displays running processes in an intuitive tree format that includes not only process names and memory used, but also 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 or learn just what IGFXSRVC.EXE does. The latest version of Process Explorer, more than three years in the making, introduces several new features. You can now drill down into the multiple svchost processes and see what each one is controlling via mouse-over tooltip, learn which Internet Explorer 8 process controls which tab, and a new .NET assembly information tab under Properties for assistance in .NET troubleshooting.

Additional older features include detailed information on performance, DLLs, threads, handles, TCP/IP connections, security settings, and environments. It's still not the prettiest program around, but it doesn't need to be. It just needs to work and make the encyclopedic volume of information it provides easy to find, if not easy to understand. Without a doubt, Process Explorer is one of the best Task Manager replacements we've seen.