What to do about Task Manager problems

By Vigilante
Apr 8, 2006
  1. My original how-to was to long for techspot! Over the 10000 char limit, this is the shorter version. Get the full RTF version from www.zacksdomain.com/articles/howto/taskmanager.rtf

    Task manager can stop working for a number of reasons, I'll go over some fixes from easiest to hardest

    See if taskmgr exists
    1) Click Start -> Search
    2) Click All files and folders
    3) Search for taskmgr and set location to %systemroot% (usually C:\Windows or C:\winnt). You can actually type "%systemroot%" as well.
    4) You should find in the list:
    %systemroot%\system32\taskmgr.exe 133KB

    If you cannot find this file, you can extract it off your XP CD again. Refer to APPENDIX on how to extract the file. The help files CHM and HLP are not needed to run taskmgr.
    Once the files are in place, try running taskmgr again. Try double-clicking on the program icon itself in the system32 folder.

    If you can run Task Manager by double-clicking it, but NOT by ctrl-alt-del or ctrl-shift-esc OR start -> Run Taskmgr, then check the PATH variable:
    1) Right Click My Computer and choose Properties
    2) Click the Advanced tab
    3) Click the Environment Variables button
    4) In the System variables section, find the "Path" entry.
    5) Make sure that the following are in this list. Each path is sepparated by a semicolon.
    These are EXACT terms, %systemroot% means %systemroot%

    Check environment variable systemroot
    If the previous PATH entries ARE there, make sure that the %systemroot% variable ITSELF is in tact. Here's how:
    1) Click Start -> Run and type %systemroot% and hit Enter.
    This should open your Windows folder. Which is almost always C:\Windows, or C:\winnt.
    If it doesn't open your Windows folder, but goes somewhere else, or throws an error, refer to Appendix "Fix systemroot". If it DOES open the correct folder, then you're fine on this point.

    Once you KNOW that all the right files are there, and the variables are in tact. Move on to...

    [/I]Check user and system policies[/I]
    Note that if you have a policy problem, you will usually get an error when you try to open it, such as "The system administrator has disabled Task Manager" or something similar.
    1) Make sure you are logged in as a user with administrative privileges. You can see which users are admins by going in Control Panel and clicking the Users icon.
    2) Start -> Run regedit
    3) Browse to:
    4) Click on each subfolder under Policies (it is usually System that has the entry).
    5) You will see in the right-hand side, and entry called DisableTaskMgr.
    If you see this key (right side), just highlight it and delete the key. Note that if the key's value was "1", that is why you can't open Task Manager.
    6) Also check this key:
    Repeat from above and delete the key DisableTaskMgr.

    If for some reason that doesn't work, I found one case where just typing this into the Run box does the trick, here is the command:
    REG add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System /v DisableTaskMgr /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f
    It basically does the same thing of changing it manually in the registry. But just in case...

    You'll have to log off and on for these changes to take effect.
    If Task Manager still doesn't work, check the same registry keys you changed above, if they are back to the way they were before, then you have malware setting it this way. And so...

    Clean system of malway and viruses
    The number one reason Task Manager goes caput is because some form of Malware trashed it to keep you from closing the malware process.
    To clean your system, I'll direct you to a few other threads on this forum.

    If your system is infected, please read this before deciding: Cleaning or Formatting

    Viruses/Spyware/Malware, preliminary removal instructions

    Once you have determined with at least 95% certainty that you are clean from viruses and spyware; If the Task Manager still won't work, you've got some kind of serious stuff going on. I would suggest, now that you've read all this and followed those threads, that you start a new thread, mention you've gone through these threads, and post your HJT log.

    How to post your Hijackthis log-file as an ATTACHMENT

    Hopefully you now have access to Task Manager. If some of these instructions make it to hard to clean yourself up WITHOUT Task Manager in the FIRST place, consider getting a 3rd party task manager application such as Process Explorer from Sysinternals:

    Some process names I've come across that can cause issues are:

    Look out for names that try to mimick "real" programs. This can be hard to do, but a quick search in google for the process name should reveal what it is.

    If you still cannot get Task Manager, refer to the end of the appendix for "additional fixes".



    How to extract taskmgr from XP CD
    1) Put your XP CD in your CD-ROM drive. I assume it will be drive D: but use whatever your drive letter is
    2) Do this to expand all 3 files, or use whichever one you need. Note that you don't NEED the help files for Task Manager to work. Be sure to substitute your drive letters. Use Start -> Run for each command:
    expand d:\i386\taskmgr.ex_ c:\%systemroot%\system32\taskmgr.exe
    expand d:\i386\taskmgr.hl_ c:\%systemroot%\Help\taskmgr.hlp
    expand d:\i386\taskmgr.ch_ c:\%systemroot%\Help\taskmgr.chm

    Visit http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;888017 for all the ways to expand a file.

    How to fix Systemroot
    1) Click Start -> Run and type regedit and hit Enter
    2) In Regedit, browse in the left column to:
    This usually just has entries for the TMP and TEMP variables, but at least see if systemroot is there, and "windir". Make sure they are right if so, and pointing to the correct path.
    3) You can also find variables for ALL users under:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Environment
    You'll likely NOT find SystemRoot here either, but just in case, check.
    4) The REAL SystemRoot is in:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\
    The Name column is SystemRoot and the value should be your windows folder. Which is usually C:\Windows or C:\Winnt or whatever Windows is installed to. Fix the entry if it's bad.
    5) Once this is all fixed right, restart the PC. Then check with Start -> Run again to see if it's right. If it went back to the old setting, move on to check for malware and etc...
    However, if the SystemRoot variable is screwed up, there would be a heck of a lot more problems then just Task Manager being hosed! Note that the variable %windir% is usually just set to %systemroot%, so they should be the same folder usually.

    No programs appear in Task Manager

    Task Manager Menu Bar and Tabs Are Not Visible
    Just double-click the top border area!

    Additional Fixes
    If all this hasn't brought it back, it may be time for more extremes. Name one, and that is the do a repair install of XP. But before doing that, try System File Checker. Here's how:
    1. Pop in your XP CD
    2. Start -> Run SFC /scannow
    3. When this finishes, try to open it again. Possibly restart first.

    Some have also said that System Restore is resetting things after your change them. So turn System Restore off, here's how:
    1. Right-Click My Computer and choose Properties
    2. Click the System Restore tab
    3. Check the box "Turn off System Restore on all drives. Click Yes on the prompt.
    Then try the fixes again and see if it works.

    For a repair install, refer to this thread:


    "another program is currently using this file"
    Clean out the malware!

    "Task Manager has been disabled..."
    Use the policy techniques!

    Task Manager opens but only for a second
    Use a 3rd party task manager to close the bad process that is stopping Task Manager from working. Do the cleanup part of the fix first.

    Regedit doesn't open either!
    If regedit also doesn't work, and very likely other system files don't work, then you've been trashed by a virus. One quick and dirty way to get regedit working is to do this:
    1. Start -> Run and open cmd
    2. Type ren %systemroot%\regedit.exe regedit.com
    3. Basically just rename regedit.exe to regedit.com, using whatever means necessary. This is just one way.
    4. Now that it is renamed, you should be able to run Start -> Run regedit.com
    5. You can rename it back once your system is working. Also, WFP (Windows File Protection) may recreate the EXE version once it's renamed, so you'll have to type the .COM part of regedit for it to work.
    Using regedit.com, you can continue your cleaning.


    If nothing worked, and you manage to fix your problem, please let me know how you did it, and I'll add it to this thread. Thank you.
  2. xenophili

    xenophili TS Rookie

    Check Your Keyboard!!!

    Its really odd but after three days of trying to fix this ctrl/alt/del problem (and months of having it) I have realized that one of the first suggestions I found online is what fixed the problem: TRY A NEW KEYBOARD.

    I figured that since all the individual keys worked (I tested the ctrl key, the alt key and the del key in various functions) that the keyboard must be fine so I tried everything else out there (which was not all useless, I got rid of some malware) and put this solution on the end of my mental list. But after finally swapping keyboards I found that this, the most improbable solution, worked. My guess is that the keyboard was having some sort of problem with multiple keys being entered at once because I noticed that ctrl+shift+esc and the cut and paste shortcuts were not working (ctrl+v, etc).

    Anyhow this list by vigilante is by far the best list of stuff to try if you are already on top of the malware/virus status of your computer and be sure to CHECK YOUR KEYBOARD!!!

    Good luck,
  3. N3051M

    N3051M TS Evangelist Posts: 2,115

    One of those third party app thats clean and free can be found here:

    Process Explorer
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