Windows Tips: Supercharge Windows by Paring Unneeded Services
Supercharge Windows by Paring Unneeded ServicesEvery time you start Windows 2000 or XP, a virtual wheelbarrowful of components get loaded into your PC's memory. Many of these components, or "services," control Windows' use of hardware devices, memory, file management, and other vital system functions. But as tipster Morgan McClure of Groton, Massachusetts, points out, you just don't need some of these services. Consequently, letting them automatically load and run causes Windows to start a bit slower than necessary and ties up memory that could be put to better use. Fortunately, Windows' Services administrative tool allows you to control how and whether your system uses these services.Two words of warning before we begin: First, before making any changes to your Windows configuration, back up your Registry, where the service settings are stored. See "How Do I Restore My Windows Registry?" for instructions on how to back up and restore your Registry. Second, because some services directly affect many hardware and software components on your system, you should exercise great caution in turning them off or preventing them from starting automatically. If you aren't certain what a particular Windows service does or whether you need it, leave it on. And instead of turning off numerous services all at once, deactivate one of them, reboot your computer, and run your PC for hours or days to make sure the change hasn't upset Windows' applecart. When you're satisfied that everything is still working properly, you can go on to deactivate another unwanted service. To open the Services applet, click Start, Run, type services.msc, and press Enter. You'll see a list of the services installed on your PC. The items listed vary from system to system and from one Windows version to another. To find out what each one does, look in the Description column. (If you can't see this column, choose View, Detail.) Alternatively, Windows XP lets you see a selected item's description on the left side of the right pane on the default Extended tab (see FIGURE 1). The other tab basically replicates the view that Windows 2000 users see. To determine what other services and system components a service requires in order to run, double-click the service's icon, its name, or another detail. Doing so will open the service's Properties dialog box; there, select the Dependencies tab.To control how and whether Windows runs a service, open the service's Properties dialog box to the default General tab and select an option from the 'Startup type' drop-down list (see FIGURE 2). At one extreme, you can choose Automatic, forcing the service to start every time Windows starts. At the other, you can choose Disabled to prevent the service from ever starting. As a general rule, avoid choosing Disabled unless you're certain that you don't want the service and that no other, necessary services require it. The safer middle ground is the Manual option. A service with this startup type selected won't always start when Windows does, but it can be started by other dependent services when they need it. (As the name suggests, you can start a Manual service yourself by right-clicking it in the Services applet's right pane and choosing Start.)So what services should you tinker with? That depends on your hardware and how you use it. Click the Startup type column heading to move all the services that start automatically to the top of the list. Review these services to see if any of them don't have to start every day. Determine which of the suggestions below apply to your situation. If you don't see one or more of these services on your system, don't panic. As mentioned earlier, the services listed on any specific machine vary depending on your hardware configuration and version of Windows.Put hardware on hold: Check for hardware that you never use. Do you ever send or receive faxes on your computer (or expect to)? If not, set the Fax service to Manual or Disabled. Never burn CDs on your machine? Then you don't need the IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service. If you do use it, you should be aware that many CD-burning utilities will work with this service set to Manual. (If yours doesn't, simply reset the service to Automatic.) Never use a smart card reader? Then you can probably live without the Smart Card service. Chances are you'll find in the list other active hardware-related services that your system doesn't require.Thwack themes: If you don't use Windows XP's fancy new blue, olive green, or silver color schemes, and you aren't running a skinning utility that relies on Windows' themes, you can save a bundle of memory by turning off the Themes service. First, right-click your desktop and choose Properties. Click the Appearance tab. Make sure the 'Windows and buttons' option is set to Windows Classic style--and that you're happy with the look this setting gives you. Then click OK and open the Services applet. Double-click Themes. On the General tab, set 'Startup type' to Manual or Disabled. Click OK.Stay alert--not: Few of us need the Windows services that let us send administrative alerts and notifications between computers. To deactivate these services, set the Messenger (not the same as Windows Messenger) and Alerter services to Manual or Disabled. Alerter relies on Messenger, so if you're going to disable the latter, you might as well zap the former.Rev up dedicated-use computers: If you keep a computer around your home or office to serve a single function, you can reset a large number of services on it that don't relate to the machine's sole use. If, for example, you're running a Windows 2000 machine as a Web server, you can turn off more than a dozen irrelevant services. What's more, Microsoft will tell you how to do it, in detail: Go to find.pcworld.com/35267 to read all about it. Eradicate error reporting: If you don't depend on XP's ability to tattle to Microsoft when you experience application crashes, you can disable this service. See "XP Error Messages: You Decide What to Report" to read about ways to customize XP's error reporting.Flush out firewalls: If you use a third-party firewall--for example, Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm (visit PC World's downloads to download the version that's free for noncommercial use)--you don't need the one built in to Windows XP. Click Start, Control Panel, Network Connections (in Category View, it's under Network and Internet Connections). Right-click the connection you use, and choose Properties. Click the Advanced tab and ensure that the Internet Connection Firewall option is unchecked. Finish by clicking OK. Notice that the steps for opening specific Control Panel icons vary from configuration to configuration. Shut down sharing: If you don't use Windows' Internet Connection Sharing feature, open the Services applet and set XP's Internet Connection Firewall (ICF)/Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) service or 2000's Internet Connection Sharing service to Manual or Disabled.Remove Remote Registry: When was the last time you needed to have someone manipulate your Windows Registry from afar? I thought so. Besides being unnecessary for most people, this feature might make security-minded users a bit nervous. So go ahead and disable Remote Registry (Remote Registry Service in Windows 2000), or at least set it to Manual.Halt Help: If you seldom use XP's Help system, you can safely set the Help and Support service to Disabled. If you later choose Start, Help and Support, Windows will start the service anyway and reset its Services entry to Automatic.The Help system is good for finding more-detailed information on individual Windows services. In Windows 2000, choose Start, Help, click the Contents tab, and choose Glossary in the left pane (you may have to choose it twice). In Windows XP, click Start, Help and Support, enter glossary in the Search box, press Enter, and click the appropriate link in the left pane. The Windows glossary contains helpful descriptions of the various services and identifies the other services that each requires. Naturally, you can use Help's Search feature to find individual services, too. You'll also find detailed information on Windows' services online at Black Viper.Send Windows-related questions and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We pay $50 for published items.Visit here for more Windows Tips. Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World.Windows Toolbox: Get Fuss-Free (and Cost-Free) Reminders With MyalertMaybe you don't need a big, complicated calendar and scheduling tool like Microsoft Outlook to manage the details of your life. You might be served better by a basic program that provides daily reminders of upcoming appointments, birthdays, and meetings. You'd be hard-pressed to find a simpler daily organizer than Myalert. The program lets you set up reminders that appear once, monthly, or annually, and you can arrange for these to notify you from one to seven days in advance. Notifications occur only when you log in to Windows, so the application won't help if you stay logged in all day, every day. But after you receive your reminder, Myalert goes away, taking up no memory. And since the software is free, you have nothing to lose by trying it out. Go to Myalert and give it a spin.