Is there anything like Task Killer - for a Windows PC?

One of the handiest apps I have on my Android phone is Advanced Task Killer, something that “kills” apps that are running in the background without my knowledge, either on startup or after I’ve ostensibly closed some program (but really it keeps on running and eating up memory).

On my Windows computer, I notice I also frequently have programs running in the background: again, either on startup or after I’ve ostensibly closed a program. I can see them churning away if I go to Task Manager and click the “Processes” tab. But I don’t know of anything analogous to Advanced Task Killer for my bigger machine; and I’m afraid to go stopping processes willy nilly without knowing what they are or how they may be tied to the computer’s essential functions.

So, is there anything that can let me safely identify and shut down processes I don’t want eating up my memory? I mean in real time: i.e., I’m not talking about preemptively removing programs through Hijack This.


There aren’t automated ones I’m aware of – simply because PCs are designed to to run background apps. Autokilling them isn’t something most people want. There’s applications (Process Explorer is a name that comes to mind) that’ll give you more info on things that are running.

For what it’s worth, task killers aren’t generally useful on Android phones, either. They often do as much harm as anything by killing things that should be running, or forcing apps to simply reboot. Unless you’re using a very low-end device, Android should be managing the memory in the background already.

That’s what they say, but I’ve never had problems with ATK and since I’ve started using it I’ve added at least an hour to my battery life. But YMMV.

The thing is, Android apps are designed to be closed at any moment. PCs aren’t designed that way. For example, Firefox takes a little while after clicking the X to close entirely. If I kill it, I can wind up with corrupted settings, a corrupted cache, and even the program not starting. The program is actually doing something that can’t be interrupted when it closes. Heck, a lot of programming went into having backups in case users shut down the program early (or it crashed, of course. It’s called crash recovery.)

Plus, what programs are you running that stay resident? As far as I know, every Windows program that behaves like this will leave an icon in the system tray, and will have an option for disabling that feature. The reason why an App Killer even exists on Android is that Android specifically subverts the normal paradigm.

Now, a service may start and stay running after its job is complete, but then you have the problem that you don’t close services in the first place. You’d probably more need a process that shut down inactive services every so often. And, seeing as the inactive service has probably been moved to disk, that may take a little while, and actually slow down your computer more than just letting you restart it. (That is actually what makes Firefox do what I mentioned in the first paragraph–some of its memory has been swapped out to the hard drive, and it has to swap it back in before it can run its closing procedure.)

just randomly killing processes is one good way to make your system non-functional.

Windows is not Android, your PC is not a smartphone. If you don’t know what you’re doing, leave things alone.

It IS a worthwile exercise every so often to go through the processes in the task manager, look them up, understand what they are and see if you really want them. Also note that in the later versions, it has a services tab, and processes (like “svchost”) can be related to the services that they are running on behalf of by right clicking and choosing “go to services”. The services related to that process will be highlighted.

However, if you decide you don’t want something, having also ascertained that it isn’t necessary for proper running of your system, it should generally not be killed from the task manager. Uninstall the unwanted application, turn off the unneeded service (be DAMNED sure it’s unneeded), remove it from the startup folder, or remove the registry entry that causes it to start at bootup. Any number of utilities exist to help you control startup programs.