Why and How to Turn Unneeded Services Off in Windows

March 3, 2009

in computer performance,Windows

by Tina Gasperson

Services in Windows are executable programs that run in the background without user interaction. Usually, these services facilitate user actions or help other programs run. They can be loaded automatically, disabled, or set to run only when instructed to do so by the computer user. Since each service uses a share of the available system resources, it makes sense to check your services from time to time and shut off the ones you don’t need. Additionally, if you have a lot of services auto-starting at boot time, setting these services not to automatically start can reduce the amount of time it takes to boot up.

To see a list of installed services, click “Start,” then “Run.” In the window, type “Services.msc” without the quotation marks. Alternatively, open the Control Panel, select Administrative Tools, and then Services. Either way, you’ll see a new window pop up with a list of services. Each service has a column for description, status, startup type, and logged in identity.

Look at the services labeled as “automatic” in their startup column. Check their descriptions and if you’re sure you don’t need the service to start automatically when the computer boots up, change it to “manual.” Don’t worry; you won’t hurt anything by doing this. If later on you find that you really do need the service to start automatically, just reopen Services.msc and change the service back to automatic. For example, if you were to set the Windows Audio service to manual, your computer audio would be muted until you manually went into Services.msc and started the service. That probably wouldn’t be too convenient, so you’d eventually open Services.msc and set the service to start automatically at boot time. However, if you rarely plug an iPod into your system, then you don’t need the Apple Mobile Device service to start automatically upon boot. Just remember that when you do plug an iPod in, iTunes will complain about not finding the Apple Mobile Device service, and you’ll need to go in and manually start it through Services.msc.

Familiarize yourself with Windows services and enjoy a desktop computer that boots much faster and runs cleaner.

Tina Gasperson (tinahdee@gmail.com), affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.