Understand the Relationship between Windows Applications and Processes

By Dan Gookin

A connection exists between the items on the Task Manager’s Applications tab and the items on the Processes tab. When you open an application, it launches a number of processes. The processes do all the work in Windows. To demonstrate the relationship to yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Task Manager.

    To summon the Task Manager, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc. In XP, you can also use Ctrl+Alt+Del.

  2. Press Win+E to open a Windows Explorer window.

    Don’t worry if you can’t see the window behind the Task Manager; this is just a demonstration.

  3. Click the Applications tab in the Task Manager window.

  4. Right-click either the Computer or My Computer window item, which represents the Windows Explorer window you opened in Step 2.

  5. Choose Go to Process from the shortcut menu.

    The Task Manager window switches to the Process tab, highlighting the program explorer.exe, which is the name of the Windows Explorer program. Windows Explorer “runs” the Computer or My Computer window that you opened.

  6. Switch back to the Applications tab.

  7. Click to select the Computer or My Computer window you opened in Step 2.

  8. Click the End Task button.

    The Computer or My Computer window closes.

The End Task button sends the “You are done” signal to a program, just as though you closed the program’s window — same thing.