Unless you routinely check your computer's automatically started programs and understand their purpose, chances are you have a wide assortment of unnecessary software processes running on your computer.
These processes can cause very real performance degradation, unwanted computer behavior, and system instability. Ironically, processes often come with the warning that these problems might happen if you turn them off. While this is try for some important system related processes, this is rarely true for vendor created processes.
There is no one-size-fits-all list of processes that every user should have running. It is going to depend on each person's computer configuration, the type of softwares they run and use regulary, as well as other system differences. So instead of knowing off the top your head which processes are necessary. You will instead need to take a look at individual processes and try to determine why they are running on your computer, who created them, and the value they hold for you.
Unnecessary processes end up on your computer primarily by:
1. Installing various software packages
2. Installing new hardware/drivers
3. Buying new computers via retail channels
Sadly, so many softwares now install all sorts of unwanted extra processes on your computer. These extras are often configured as services, drivers, or automatically starting desktop applications that you never even know are present. Sometimes vendors add this software knowingly and for malicous purposes, but in other cases, the software is added by a vendor that just doesn't grasp how annoying this extra junk is.
For example, when somebody buys a new printer chances are they are buying it to print computer documents. However, nearly all printers come with a CD of software jam-packed to the brim with automatically starting programs and processes. Most of which are difficult to distinguish from important processes when it comes time to clean up your computer. Printers are not alone, this is a common problem with nearly ALL computer devices that come with their own installation CD of software.
So now that you know a little bit more about what the problem is, and how it comes about, the next step is to begin learning how to safely remove this junk from your computer. Now of course, not all of it is junk, but much of it is.
The key to improving performance on your PC is to:
1. Identify and locate running processes
2. Identify process authors/vendors
3. Determine process functions (what does it do?)
4. Determine value to the user (do you need it?)
5. Stop and remove such software either temporarily or permanently
Tools to help you achieve this on your PC:
The following 3 utilities come from a little-known collection of very handy tools from Microsoft called "SysInternals". They are a must have for anyone wanting to investigate why their computer is spending so many resources doing things that they don't want.
Process Explorer is like the Windows Task Manager on steroids and will give you much more information about processes that are currently running on your PC, how many resources (CPU, Memory, etc) they are consuming, and some additional information about where they are coming from.
1. Process Explorer by Microsoft - Available Here.
Autoruns gives the user more control over what processes, services, drivers, and applications are automatically started when your computer boots up. Many of these services are necessary for your computer to operate, but when you identify some trouble makers that are uneeded and unwanted, this tool makes it very easy to keep them from loading on reboots.
2. Autoruns by Microsoft - Available Here.
Process Monitor gives a deeper monitoring capability when it comes to processes. Although a little techy for most users, it can be a very useful tool when you trying to diagnose why your hard disks are being utilized so frequently, when you believe there should be nothing going on.
3. Process Monitor by Microsoft - Available Here.