Where did my Task Manager tabs and buttons go?

Ah, welcome to "Tiny Footprint Mode".

This mode exists for the ultrageeks who want to put a tiny little CPU meter in the corner of the screen. To go back to normal mode, just double-click a blank space in the border.

This is one of those geek features that has created more problems than it solved. Sure, the geeks get their cute little CPU meter in the corner, but for each geek that does this, there are thousands of normal users who accidentally go into Tiny mode and can't figure out how to get back.

[Raymond is currently on vacation; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (33)
  1. Matt C. Wilson says:

    I did this once and completely flipped out – I was convinced that some virus or something or other had replaced my taskmgr to keep me from being able to switch to the process list and kill rogue processes.

    Why not use a right click menu to flip the window mode? And what’s wrong with using the systray?

  2. Anon says:

    The systray does not show kernel/user times in red/green.

  3. keithmo [exmsft] says:

    This is what happens when you let kernel geeks write UI code.

  4. Doug. says:


    It is good that we ultra-geeks get to keep some features….. grin.

    Course, you used to (maybe still can) convince Perfmon to do something similar. And there you can pick what you want to see….

  5. Bryan Mau says:

    Yes, I freaked out when my daughters <a href="http://www.cyberbrinedreams.com/version3/article/274/CPUMonitorMadness">stumbled across that feature</a>.

  6. Androidi says:

    Heh, guess that double click may be hard to find for most people, but i have to mention that in Outlook 2003, the "right click in border of reading pane" is pretty well hidden too.

  7. runtime says:

    My parent’s computer did have some malware/virus that took control of their Task Manager. I think it was one of those "helpful" IE toolbars. Whenever I would start the Task Manager to look at the process list, the Task Manager window would be forcibly closed after about 1 second. I eventually cleaned up the malware and then the Task Manager worked correctly. I guess the malware author did not want people spying on or killing his evil process.

  8. Scott says:

    Aha, I never realized it works different on the graph tab — it doesn’t just take the menu away but also removes the numbers below the graphs. That’s actually somewhat useful.

  9. Seth McCarus says:

    Similar to this, but not as neat, is the ability to hit Ctrl+S when running sndvol32 to toggle between large and small displays…

  10. I just learned about Ctrl+S and Sound Control, cool.

    The problem here seems to be that there’s no visible clue to this behavior. If there were a menu item (or button) either on the task manager or on the Volume Control then by exploration a user might’ve known about these ‘features’ before activating them (or experimenting with them so when those happen by accident they would be already familiar with them).

    Browsing through the menu items is pretty much harmless in contrast to pressing Ctrl + each one of the keys or double clicking. May I suggest one of those Pinup buttons for the task manager? Or something that resembles a Restore title bar icon?

  11. brian says:

    In the notes in the support article, it says:

    Click Start, and then click Run.

    Type taskmgr.exe.

    Hold down CTRL+ALT+SHIFT at the same time, and while holding them down press ENTER.

    I don’t get it. What is this key combination supposed to do? How does it get passed to the application?

  12. Art says:

    Thank you Raymond. And thank you Androidi.

  13. Dave says:

    brian: apparently at startup, taskmgr.exe checks for the state of CTRL+ALT+SHIFT, and if they’re all pressed, it goes back to its default settings. this also works if you hold down C+A+S, right click your taskbar, and right click "Task Manager".

  14. Moi says:

    So what do I do when the Windows Explorer doesn’t show its menus?

  15. Ian says:

    Bizzarely I knew about the "double click graphs" feature, but only just realised it you can double click any of the tabs and that tab becomes full window (e.g. a list of applications)

    Why would you want this when the task bar effectively does the same job? Or does its roots lie in NT 3.5?

    (Another Thanks to pile up Raymond ;-))

  16. B.Y. says:

    In tiny mode, it should really get rid of the group boxes and give more space to graphs.

  17. Centaur says:

    There are other UI design flaws in Task Manager.

    * Always on Top is in Options, while people tend to look for it in View.

    * Processes tab has a Show process from all users checkbox, but Performance has a Show Kernel Times menu item.

    * Processes list view is LVS_EX_FULLROWSELECT, while Applications list view is not.

    * Tiny Footprint mode is not available from keyboard.

    * When Applications or Processes tabs are active, the File menu has a “New Task (Run…)” item (with three dots). With Performance, a “New Task (Run..)” item (with two dots). With Networking (Windows XP), no such item at all :)

  18. Kelli Zielinski says:

    For the record, I complained up a storm about this on many occasions. :) This comes up a lot on newsgroups, and it’s a very odd functionality. I certainly never found a really good use for it…

  19. Pandy says:

    My Task Manager had been running in ‘tiny footprint mode’ for about 8 months, until I read this article. I thought it was a bug that was going to be fixed in SP2 or something – I even considered re-installing windows. Perhaps if when you double clicked it, the window name could change to something like "Task Manager: Tiny footprint mode", then at least it would tip the user off that the window had some kind of modal behaviour, and thus could be changed back.

    Windows that change shape are fairly annoying (especially when they resize themselves off-screen), but probably not as bad as buttons which change their name and function after being clicked, e.g. Play button changes its name to Stop.

    Anyway, that graph on the Task Manager that shows CPU usage – do the grid-lines indicate a certain scale, or are they just for show?

  20. Raymond Chen says:

    As far as I know, the grid lines are just to look cool. Looks like each horizontal grid line is 20% CPU usage, and the value of each vertical grid line depends on your refresh rate.

  21. Centaur says:

    Now that you mention it…

    Let’s take Task Manager on Windows XP. In the minimum size (for normal mode), there are slightly less than 5 cells on the scale. When you resize the window, more cells appear.

    Also, the grid is not aligned to 0 — it is aligned to the top of the graph, the top cell is always a full one, but the bottom cell is almost always partial.

    On the contrary, the Networking grid is 0-aligned.

  22. Paul says:

    Double click in the border area of the task manager. This will return the task manager tabs and buttons.

  23. P.J. Jones says:

    I need taskmanager to open

  24. Tim H. says:

    Thanks for this info. Saved me a lot of work looking for a non-existant virus! ;-)

    … acutally, this feature is quite cool, but it would have been nice if it was more obvious!

  25. Steve says:

    [sigh of relief!]

    Thank goodness for this thread. I thought I caught something bad when all the tabs and menu bar disappeared from task manager.

    At the least, yhey should’ve put a context menu in there. Poor design.

  26. Fletcheraj says:

    Just spent the last 3 days running antivirus software on my PC, certain that a new virus was preventing me running process viewer!!

    Thanks you guys!

  27. SPS says:

    Fletcheraj, even in the "tiny footprint mode" one can view the list of processes and kill them if the OS permits it. Trick is simple with the keyboard.

    1) on the taskmgr Single click on any gray-borders.

    2)use TAB or SHIFT+TAB ONCE Only. then use the "–>" and "<–" buttons to navigate the tabs.

    3) In the applications tab, first running process will be selected by default. you can use the up/down arrows select the program you want to work on, hit the right-click-windows button on the keyboard and do the operation of your desire !!!

    Simple aint it ? :)

    PS : Till I read this board, I indeed thought

    I have a virus and been really worried for last 15 days !!! Thank you all…Hope this posting is helpful as well.

  28. Where did my task manager tray icon go? says:

    when the buttons go away thats fine..double click it comes back…. when the system tray icon goes away (the one that meters cpu usage) what do you do then?

  29. austin says:

    in regard to the above question i would greatly aprecieate if someone could email me… austinmckenzie@earthlink.net

  30. Tom says:


    -I just checked the system for virus,

    -downloaded a heap of useless patches,

    -restored my system to an early date – (which was unsuccessful, for some stupid reason that i haven’t figured out yet)

    -then i finally resulted to reinstalling windows (took a lot of time)


  31. Raymond Chen says:

    Commenting on this topic has been closed.

  32. Anonymous says:

    mg.to &raquo; Task Manager &#8220;tiny footprint&#8221; mode – Michael Geary to Earth (and vice versa)

Comments are closed.