Is there any rhyme or reason to the default ordering of the Windows Task Manager processes tab under Windows XP? It seems totally random.

And when sorting by CPU or memory, why do they default to ascending order? Under what circumstances would I be interested in what program is consuming the least amount of CPU or memory? You have to click the column header twice to get to descending order.

Without replacing it with something like Process Explorer, which I find can be a little heavyweight on an underpowered machine, is there any way to improve the ordering of this tab?


By default it sorts by PID (process ID) descending. So basically most recently created at the top of the list.

You can see this by going to View -> Select Columns and checking the PID box.

  • 3
    Actually PIDs get recycled all the time, so even if you have a PID of 6252 the next one could be 1192. You can test this yourself by opening a command prompt, pinging your default gateway and watching the PID of ping.exe, it can go up or it can go down, it can even stay the same. That being said, +1 for having the correct answer of the Task Manager sorting by PID in a descending order. – Joshua Oct 16 '09 at 14:57
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    Of course! It defaults to sorting on a column that's hidden by default! And it defaults to descend on that column, where it makes no difference, but not on the ones where it does. – wfaulk Oct 16 '09 at 15:25
  • Great point Joshua -- thanks for adding that in. – Chris_K Oct 17 '09 at 0:26

I guess they're ordered by creation date/time (the program you launch last being on the top of the list). Makes it easier to identify the programs that have been started the last.

For the default sort order when clicking on a column, I'm afraid there isn't much you can do about it, that's the way the built-in Task Manager has been developed.

  • Actually, Windows Vista/Server 2008/7/Server 2008 R2 remember your last viewed tab and sort order, so there isn't much of an issue anymore. :) – Joshua Oct 16 '09 at 14:58
  • Indeed but the question was about XP! ;-) – Snark Oct 16 '09 at 15:20
  • I think you mean " hasn't been developed " – wfaulk Oct 16 '09 at 15:34
  • @wfaulk: I don't understand you. English is not my main language, I might miss the sense (or the sarcasm?). – Snark Oct 16 '09 at 16:01
  • 1
    Yes; it's sarcasm. – wfaulk Oct 16 '09 at 18:02

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