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“A heisenbug (named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) is a computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when an attempt is made to study it.”

WindowsXP: Using the Command prompt to see and kill processes

If you are a WindowsXP user then you must be already familiar with the life-saving graphical tool called “Task Manager” on Windows. Whenever the PC starts hanging and the processes start eating up a lot of memory (Sadly most of the time its Firefox for me), we press the alt+ctr+del key to bring up the the “Task Manager” and try to kill the memory eating processes and the ones which are “not responding”. Well, you should also know that this can be done efficiently from the command prompt as well by using the task manager command prompt alternative and kill processes from command prompt.

As my project work requires writing and running codes, I generally have at least one Windows command prompt open. If this is the case with you then it is much faster to manage your windows processes from command prompt than to open up the Task Manager, just like we do on Linux using “ps” and “kill” command. Get to know the following commands and you can easily use the command prompt to see and kill processes.

1. Tasklist : This command is similar to “ps” command on Linux and is used to see the details of the programs and processes that are running in Windows. Tasklist can be applied to see how much memory and CPU time running processes are using, what DLL files they rely on, and other information. Thus it can be a very useful troubleshooting tool.

  • Processes info: When you enter tasklist on the command prompt, you can see the following informations by default. Image Name, PID, Session Name, Session#, Mem Usage
  • Processes detailed info: Additional info like, Status, User Name, CPU Time, Window Title can be displayed using tasklist /v
  • Services and Processes info: Use tasklist /svc to get a table relating Image Name, PID, and Services, very useful to know the relationship between a process and the services that are running on a system.
  • dlls and Processes info: Tasks and Use tasklist /m to find which DLLs are used by each process.
  • Filtering processes: Processes can be filtered using ImageName, PID, MemUsage, Status, Username and WindowTitle. For Example,
    • Use the following command to to find processes that are not responding.
      • tasklist /fi "status eq not responding"
    • Use the folliwing to list the processes eating up more than 10MB.
      • tasklist /fi "memusage gt 10000"
  • More Info: To get more info on advanced syntax of the command use tasklist /? or refer to Microsoft’s documentation.

(NOTE: Although Tasklist is a part of Windows XP Professional, it does not come with the Home edition. Those with the Home version of XP can download this file and can put it in the system path.)

2. Tskill : This command is used to end a process, using its name of its PID.

  • Kill with name: Use tskill processname to kill a process with name processname. For example:
    • tskill winword (closes all the Microsoft documents that you have open)
  • Kill with PID : Similarly use tskill processid to kill a process with PID processid. Tasklist can be used to find the PID of a process.
  • More Info: To get more info on advanced syntax of the command use tskill /? or refer to Microsoft’s documentation.

(NOTE: Tskill is a part of both Windows XP Professional and the Home edition.)

3. Taskkill : Similar to Tskill, this command is also used to end a process but it provides us more options in doing so. Apart from specifying the PID or the image name of the process to kill, we can also use ceratin filters to kill the matching processes as explained below.

  • Kill with name: Use taskill /IM imagename to kill a process with the given Image name. For example:
    • taskkill /im notepad.exe /f (forces notepad to be killed.)
  • Kill with PID : Use taskill /PID processid to kill a process with the given processid.
  • Filtering Taskkill: Processes to be killed can be filtered using ImageName, PID, MemUsage, CPUTime, Session, Status, Username, WindowTitle, Services or Modules (dll). For Example,
    • Use the following command to forcefully shut down all the processes that are not responding.
      • taskkill /f /fi "status eq not responding"
    • Use the folliwing to close down all programs using more than 10 MB..
      • taskkill /f /fi "memusage gt 10000"
  • More Info: To get more info on advanced syntax of the command use taskkill /? or refer to Microsoft’s documentation.

(NOTE: Taskkill is only a part of Windows XP Professional.)

So Enjoy using the task manager command line version!

Go on, show the power of your commands to the processes. Happy killing them. 😉

(Extra Note (Added for my own safety) : I am not responsible if anything goes wrong, while trying out the commands given here.)

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