Control What Runs in the BackgroundCaveatAn absolutely essential prerequisite is the absence of malware and adware. Unless a machine is free of these pests, there is no point in discussing other performance topics. Also, make no system changes unless you know how to undo themWhat background processes areThe computer is always carrying out processes that are not visible as programs on the Desktop or the Taskbar. They come both from application software and from Windows. They are not overtly obvious and are said to run in the background. Many of them are essential functions but some may be useless (or even harmful if malware is involved).The problemThe typical home PC today is likely to be stuffed with background programs and services. Windows XP is quite good at handling a lot of simultaneous processes but too many can consume enough resources to noticeably affect system performance. Also, some programs are poorly written or consume so many resources (Norton SystemWorks comes to mind) that by themselves they create a problem.Where unnecessary background processes come fromThere are several sources.
SolutionsAs mentioned on the previous page, the measures to take are covered in great detail on pages elsewhere on this site. How to use the Windows System Configuration Utility (Msconfig) and the Services Console to control both programs and services is discussed. There is also some excellent freeware to help manage what runs in the background and one program, WinPatrol, is evaluated here. Below is a table showing examples of some services that might be unnecessary. Others are given in the references above.
Some Candidates for Unnecessary Services
Keeps track of the other computers on your network
Error Reporting Service
Reports failures of applications directly to Microsoft
Fast User Switching
To switch to other users on the same system without logging off
Creates a searchable database of hard drive
To send text popup messages to computers on the network
For remote connection to the Registry
Allows users to connect to the computer with remote desktop
Wireless Zero Configuration
Configures wireless 802.11 devices
Configure Windows XPSome basic tweaks that help performance are discussed on another page in a previous article. Many tweaks are given in the references listed there and in the previous page. Some examples are:
- It is all too common for software companies to pile on a lot of unnecessary features that load into the background at startup.
- Even Windows XP has a default configuration that loads a lot of services that typical home users do not need or use.
- In today's climate a substantial amount of protection against malware and crackers is required. This involves several programs running in the background. These programs are often resource-intensive and require careful configuration. They may conflict with one another if default settings are used. For example, it is easy to end up with three different programs checking your email attachments. Personally, I prevent a lot of functions from running automatically and instead use a regularly scheduled manual routine.
Use Windows more efficientlySome basic ways to make using Windows more effective and more suited to personal needs are discussed in a series of pages on "Windows Your Way".