Microsoft small business knowledge base

Article ID: 101659 - Last Review: October 22, 2013 - Revision: 2.1

This article was previously published under Q101659
This article has been archived. It is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.


The Windows NT Task Manager is almost identical to the 16-bit Windows 3.1 Task Manager. The Windows NT Task Manager user interface has one new feature, a New Task field that allows you to start an application. However, several changes were made to the internal workings of the Task Manager.

In 16-bit Windows 3.1, Task Manager has a dynamic window. Each time you call Task Manager by pressing CTRL+ESC, it enumerates the applications running and creates the Task Manager Window. In Windows NT, Task Manager has a static window. This change is designed to guarantee that Task Manager is always available, even when the system is under heavy load. It also ensures that Task Manager processes any keys you type ahead. If Task Manager did not create its window immediately, it could lose keystrokes and cripple the functionality provided by the New Task field.

To optimize Windows NT and reduce the amount of system resources used (such as space in the paging file), Windows NT Task Manager is not a separate process. It runs as a thread in the Program Manager process. This change affects users that want to replace Task Manager or Program Manager because the two applications are intimately related. In 16-bit Windows 3.1, you can replace Task Manager with a custom program; Windows NT starts the Task Manager thread when Program Manager starts. It is possible to replace Task Manager by making it a separate application. To do so, prepend the value "taskman," (without the quotation marks) to the value of the following subkey in the Registry:
   HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT
   \Current Version\Winlogon\Shell
Doing so instructs Winlogon to execute Task Manager as a separate process outside Program Manager.

NOTE: The Task Manager replacement program must register and process the CTRL+ESC key sequence. When Task Manager is a dynamic window, the corresponding processing in Windows Server (WINSRV) is disabled. Also note that if the same CTRL+ESC key sequence is used, the "taskman" string must appear before Program Manager in the Registry, otherwise the task list thread in Program Manager registers the key sequence and the separate Task Manager process cannot. If you use another Task Manager-like application that is activated with a different key sequence, the registration order is not important.

If you add Task Manager to this registry subkey value, you can replace the Program Manager with another shell program without replacing the Task Manager. A separate Task Manager process remains even when you replace Program Manager.

  • Microsoft Windows NT Advanced Server 3.1
  • Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 3.1
kbnosurvey kbarchive KB101659
Additional support options
Ask The Microsoft Small Business Support Community
Contact Microsoft Small Business Support
Find Microsoft Small Business Support Certified Partner
Find a Microsoft Store For In-Person Small Business Support