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NoelC

Know What's Running

6 posts in this topic

A conversation with DosProbie the other day reminded me that this should be discussed...

 

Ever look at your list of running processes in Task Manager, and wonder how many don't need to be running in order for you to get just as much out of your computer as you do now, but have it be snappier and with more ready resources for you to use?

 

Read on only if doing tedious, repetitive things, then seeing one less process running will make your day.  :)

 

I try to keep my system as lean as I can and after the August Update I again took stock of what I have running on my workstation.  This involved taking a screen grab of Task Manager and categorizing all the processes running.  Here's my current list.  Note that this isn't a small system, and I run some fairly heavy stuff (marked in blue) on purpose.  But it's actually quite fast and useful.

 

ProcessesRunning.png

 

If you DO discover a process running that you don't know you need, here's what you can do:

 

1.  Research it online.  You'll have to learn to pick out the real information vs. the sites that just say a bunch of generic BS and report how many other people reported a process as good or bad.  It's all out there.

 

2.  If you're sure you don't need the process, figure out how to not have it run, which could involve just removing it from a Run registry key (the freeware tool Autoruns is good for this), or maybe if it's a service setting it to Manual or Disabled in the Services.msc snapin.

 

3.  If you're not sure whether it's needed, try disabling it and only it (one thing at a time!), reboot, and see if all the features involved with it that you actually use still work.  Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised.  Do more research if you're really not sure.

 

Good candidates for disabling:

 

  • Auto updaters (though you should have a replacement strategy)
  • Things that hang around and watch for media insertion
  • Tools in the System Tray you rarely or never use
  • Components of big applications that provide features (e.g. cloud services) you don't use
  • The list goes on.

 

See any processes you have running that I don't?  Feel free to discuss them here.  See any you don't think I need to be running?  Let's discuss them!

 

-Noel

Edited by NoelC
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I find this has mostly become impossible to manage.

 

There are multiple generic Windows processes that obfuscate the real functionality: svchost, dllhost, taskhostex, wudfhost, conhost, etc. While you can find what services are running under svchost it's usually not easy to tell which are needed, which are anyway only run-on-demand by the Task Scheduler, etc. Nevermind the problem of firewalling these EXEs properly (any firewalls that filter based on service?).

 

Add to that an endless number of EXEs, with unclear functionality, that are run by each driver/support software for each hardware part. If you spend a lot of time you might be able to guesstimate what they do. Maybe. But then a new driver version is out and the whole set of EXEs changes. Examples: Intel graphics (3-4 EXE), touchpad (3-4 EXE), Intel WiFi (not sure, I uninstalled it since I didn't find any real functionality it provides over stock), Intel Bluetooth (likewise), Intel storage (likewise). Other common culprits: AMD or Nvidia graphics (worse than Intel if I recall), Logitech, 3rd party sound, ...

 

In theory we shouldn't care. A set of drivers for a piece of hardware is there to manage whatever it needs, and it shouldn't affect anything else. It should be easy to disable or uninstall. In practice they tend to include auxiliary features that aren't needed, they tend to tangle with other things, introduce subtle and no so subtle problems, have problems with uninstall, don't provide means to disable unneeded parts.

Edited by shae
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In theory all our computers would be so powerful we could just allow junk to accumulate forever (ultimately having the computer reach a sentient state) but it's not reality.  Yet.

 

I'm not having too much of a problem micromanaging this, though I have to admit there are frustrating times (like a major Adobe update) where it puts back a whole bunch of things that have been disabled.  Thankfully the "Disable" capability in Autoruns makes it easy to see what's been added back.  On a test VM not long ago I achieved a fully functional setup without too much trouble that had 39 processes running (of course without all the stuff I have running on my workstation, especially that SVN Edge server).  It would have even been 2 less than that but for the VMware stuff.

 

ProcExp is good for figuring out what service is running inside svchost, taskhostex, etc.  It can't see into WUDFHost.exe yet (that reminds me, I should eMail Mark Russinovich and ask him for that feature).

 

-Noel

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The big problem isn't CPU usage, or memory (though I still find it grating when a functionally-small support EXE is multiple megabytes), but software that breaks other unrelated things due to unexpected side effects.

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Still a good reason to minimize what's running.

 

This is our goal:

 

Uptime27Days.png

 

-Noel

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which could involve just removing it from a Run registry key (the freeware tool Autoruns is good for this)

 

I found a freeware program that is called System Explorer and among other things has an interface similar to Autoruns for the startup items: 

 

http://systemexplorer.net/

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