What Processes Can You Shut Down in Task Manager?

by Gregory Hamel

The Task Manager is a tool available in popular Windows operating systems such as Windows XP and Vista that allows users to perform various administrative and system monitoring tasks. One of the tasks the Task Manager can perform is ending computer processes; ending processes is a way to stop the computer from devoting resources to tasks that may be wasteful, but it is important not to end processes that are vital to your system.

Shutting Down Open Programs

One of the types of processes that are safe to shut down using the task manager are currently running programs that you launched yourself. Sometimes software experiences errors or glitches during use that may cause it to freeze up or become unusable. If this occurs you may wish to shut down the program process using the task manager. To call up the task manager hold down the control, alt and delete keys at the same time. Programs can be canceled under the "Applications" tab or the "Processes" tab.

Background Processes Run by Programs

Background processes run by the programs that you have loaded on your computer are another type of process that you may wish to shut down with the task manager. Any process that is associated with a program that you installed since buying your computer should be safe to end using the task manager. Programs like video players, instant messengers, BitTorrent clients and other popular software may run in the background and waste system RAM. In the processes tab in the task manager there are descriptions for each process that can help you determine which program it is associated with. While you can shut down processes associated with antivirus programs, it is best to keep antivirus program processes running to ensure that your computer is protected against malware.

System Processes

Shutting down system processes may cause system instability. When using the task manager, do not end processes that are designated with a user name of "SYSTEM" as it may shut down a process that is essential to your computer's function. Processes that should never be shut down include: explorer.exe, svchost.exe, services.exe, winlogon.exe, csrss.exe, smss.exe and the system idle process.


Each PC will have different programs installed and therefore will have different processes running, so the ones that can be safely shut down will vary from one computer to the next. The safest way to shut off processes is to only end processes associated with programs that you have loaded on your PC yourself.

About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.