What Processes Can I End to Make My Computer Faster?

By Finn McCuhil

Boost your computer's performance by eliminating unneeded processes.
i Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

The Windows operating system is configured on most computers with a default set of start-up programs and services. The problem with this approach is that many of the services started automatically by Windows may never be used by your computer. Each service, or operation, requires space in the computer’s memory. Each section of memory reserved by the operating system lowers the amount available to the programs you run and, in some instances, may result in sluggish response times. You can avoid this problem by carefully selecting and stopping services you don’t need.

Where to Look

The Process tab in Windows Task Manager gives you a quick look at all the active processes on your computer along with their memory and processor consumption ratings. You can end processes for your current Windows session in this tab by highlighting the process and clicking the “End Process” button. If you want to make your changes effective every time Windows starts, use the Services tab to stop a running process and set its status for future sessions.

Startup Types

When you click the “Services” button in the Task Manager’s Services tab, a new pop-up window will appear with the list of available process services. There are three available choices for starting a service. These are automatic, manual and disabled. The automatic designation means that the service’s processes start each time the computer is turned on. Manual means that the process starts only when specifically requested by the user, program or operating system. This choice makes the process available but may slow the initial execution of the calling program. Avoid choosing the disabled designation unless you are certain you will never need the process for computer operation. Once disabled, a service requires direct user interaction to begin the related process.

Standalone Computers

If your computer isn’t connected to a network, there are several processes you can safely turn off and set to start manually without affecting performance. These include ClipBook, Computer Browser, DNS Client, Windows Messenger, Net Logon, Network Provisioning Service, Server, SSDP Discovery Service, Windows Time, Wireless Zero Configuration and Workstation.

Other Processes

Some service processes relate only to peripheral equipment and may be safely turned off if not required. Print Spooler can be turned off if you don’t have a printer connected to your computer. Tablet PC Input Service is unnecessary if you aren’t using a tablet PC. Windows Media Connect and Windows Media Connect Helper can be disabled if you don’t connect MP3 devices to your computer. If you don’t routinely search your hard drives for specific files, the Windows Search service can be turned off as well.

Process Tips

Each service can start one or more processes on the computer. In most cases, stopping a process during an active session will do no harm if the related service is set to manual since the related process will simply start again if it is required by the computer or a newly launched program. If you’re serious about optimizing performance for your computer, make a list of the services and processes you manually disable at the beginning of a work session and compare it with the processes running at the end of the session just before turning the computer off at the end of the day. Any item on your list of manually cancelled processes that appears active at the end of the session was called, at some point, during the normal course of operation and isn’t a good candidate for removal.