Terminating Unnecessary Programs and Services
No matter how fast your CPU and hard drive might be and no matter how much RAM you have installed, if you start enough applications and services, your system will crawl. Terminating applications you're not using is the least expensive way to improve your system's performance.
Once a program is running, it should ideally be shut down in an orderly fashion. For interactive programs, that means clicking the red X button in the upper-right corner, finding and executing a shutdown menu entry (e.g. File:Exit), or in the case of DXLab applications, by directing the Launcher to send a message directing them to terminate. For a service that Windows is running in the background, you can terminate it in an orderly fashion by running the Services manager (Windows Control panel, Administrative Tools), right-clicking the service of interest, and selecting the Stop menu item.
You can use the Windows Task Manager to immediately terminate any running process by right clicking the process and selecting the End Process item, but the shutdown will not be orderly, and so can have negative consequences. Its not always obvious what process name is associated with the application you're trying to terminate; Google likely-looking process names until you find the right one; measure twice, cut once!.
If you know what programs you've started, its generally easy to stop them in an orderly manner. Somewhat more challenging is to discover what programs and services Windows has started on its own. Directing Windows to run MSConfig will start the System Configuration Utility, whose Startup tab displays a list of all programs that Windows is automatically starting. Each entry includes a (possibly cryptic) Startup Item, the command used to start the program, and the "location" responsible for the startup; the location will either be a pathname in the Windows Registry, or the words Common Startup. Unchecking the box to the left of the Startup Item will prevent that item from being started the next time you boot Windows. The System Configuration Utility's Services tab provides a similar list of Services; unchecking the box to the left of a Service will prevent that Service from being started the next time you boot Windows.
When you use the System Configuration Utility to disable the startup of one or more programs or services and then terminate the System Configuration Utility, it informs you that you must restart your computer for some of the changes made by System Configuration to take effect, and offers you the opportunity to restart Windows. You don't need to restart immediately, though the programs and services you disabled will continue to run until you reboot, or until you terminate them individually as described above. Each time you reboot Windows, you'll be informed that the System Configuration Utility is preventing certain applications and services from running. The only way to eliminate this nuisance is to re-enable the disabled entries in the System Configuration Utility and then permanently disable them by deleting their entries in the Windows Registry or Startup Folder; the former is not recommended unless you are proficient with the Windows Registry Editor and have taken the precaution of directing Windows to create a Restore Point beforehand. One false move in the Windows Registry Editor can render your system unbootable. The free application Game Booster can be used to temporarily terminate background processes without venturing into the Registry Editor.
What programs and services are absolutely needed for Windows to run correctly? To find out, boot Windows into Safe Mode with Networking; activating the Windows Task Manager in this mode will reveal the minimum set of programs and services that Windows requires. Make a screen shot of the Task Manager, and then boot Windows normally. Comparing what you now see in the Task Manager with what is shown the Safe Mode screen shot will identify programs and services you can consider disabling. To learn what a particular program or service does, consult Black Viper.
Some applications have been observed to have a particularly negative impact on performance. This may not be the case on every system, but if your system is running slowly and you see one these applications listed in the Windows Task Manager, try disabling them:
- Akamai Net Session Interface
- Catalyst Control Center
Microsoft IntelliType Pro
- USB 3.0 Monitor