Task Manager in Windows Vista and Windows 7 runs in non-elevated mode by default, showing only those processes running under the current user context. To be able to terminate or manage a process running under other user accounts, or to logoff other users, you need to elevate Task Manager by clicking the Show processes from all users button in the Processes tab.
Alternately, you can create a desktop shortcut to Taskmgr.exe, right-click on the shortcut and click Run as administrator. This wouldn’t help if you use CTRL + SHIFT + ESC method to launch Task Manager. I’ve just found a way to start Task Manager in elevated mode by default when using the CTRL+SHIFT+ESC keystroke or when running Taskmgr.exe directly, and sharing the knowledge in this post. This works perfectly fine no matter which method you use to launch Task Manager.
Task Manager Run as Administrator (Elevated) by Default
The trick is to set the Debugger registry value for Taskmgr.exe, pointing to a VBScript which starts Task Manager elevated. Here are the instructions.
1. Explore the C:\Windows\System32 folder
2. Make a copy of Taskmgr.exe and name the copy as Taskmgr2.exe
3. Download taskmgr-elev.zip and unzip the contents to a folder
4. Move the file taskmgr.vbs to C:\Windows folder
5. Double-click taskmgr-elev.reg to run it
Press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC, or type Taskmgr.exe in Start Orb to open Task Manager. It should now show the User Account Control elevation dialog. Click Continue so that Task Manager runs as administrator (elevated). And when you run Task Manager from a standard user account, it should prompt for administrator credentials.
The Registry fix above sets taskmgr.vbs as the Debugger for Taskmgr.exe process, by writing to the following key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\Taskmgr.exe
Starting Task Manager will now invoke the script file taskmgr.vbs, which then launches Taskmgr2.exe elevated. To reverse the changes, run the Undo.reg file, and then manually delete taskmgr.vbs from the Windows directory.
The excellent Process Explorer utility uses the same technique to replace Task Manager.
About the author
Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.