NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2006
Essential Processes, How You Can Tell
by Vinny La Bash,
Member of the Sarasota Personal Computer Users Group, Inc.

labash@spcug.org (click to email author)

Every other computer article these days seems to be about Windows Vista, a long promised operating system that wonít make its appearance for almost another year. Why all the fuss about something that doesnít even exist yet? Itís as far advanced over Windows XP as Windows 95 was over 3.1, thatís why. Thatís nice, but we donít have Vista to take us to Nirvana today. We common folk have XP. Thatís not bad, but we donít have Vista as promised. Maybe this time next year Iíll be writing about a Vista tip to make life easier while weíre all anticipating the release of Vienna, the follow on to Vista. While weíre waiting, hereís something to make the wait easier.

If you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to bring up the Windows Task Manager and then activate the Processes tab, you see a long list of computer services that run in the background while youíre working with your system. Youíve undoubtedly received recommendations that you should shut down or disable the unessential processes to improve system performance. This is sound advice, but how can you tell whatís essential from what could be shut down without clobbering your operation? Try the following to get a fighting start in that direction.

Restart your system and when it begins to reboot press F8 repeatedly until the Start Up menu appears. Select the Safe Mode option from the menu. If you get another screen asking you to select the operating system, choose the one which applies to you. In most cases, you will see one choice and it will be Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional Edition or Windows XP Media Center Edition. A bunch of programming gibberish may fill up your screen next and your system may appear to be Ďfrození for a minute or two. Relax, but donít touch anything, especially the keyboard or the mouse.

Eventually something like the normal Windows Welcome Screen will appear and you will be asked to sign in. If you are the only one using your system and your user profile has full Administrator privileges, you can safely log on to Windows Safe Mode. If youíre not certain, use the Administrator Profile.

You will now be confronted with a formidable looking dialog box containing an ambiguous explanation of Safe Mode. Click the Yes button. When the desktop appears, donít panic. The icons may look very different, but nothing is wrong. One of the characteristics of Safe Mode is to load only the minimum number of video drivers that will support the lowest resolution your monitor can handle. This guarantees you will have a visible screen in Safe Mode. Everything will be back to normal when you restart, but you will probably have to rearrange your icons.

Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete. This time the Windows Task Manager displays a considerably shorter list in the Processes section. This list represents whatís really essential to keep Windows running. Donít shut down or disable anything in this short list when you are running in Windows normal mode. You run the risk of not only crashing your system, but you may not be able to boot up again without doing a repair reinstall of your operating system. The idea here is to improve the performance of your system, not put yourself out of business.

You can make a handwritten list of the processes that are running in Safe Mode and use that as a reference, but here is another method.

    1. Click on a blank area of the Windows Task Manager to make sure it is active. Click the Processes tab.
    2. Press Alt+PrtScrn to capture the image of the dialog box and store it in the clipboard area.
    3. Close the Windows Task Manager Dialog box.
    4. Click on the Start button.
    5. From the Start Menu, open the All Programs section.
    6. Open the Accessories Menu.
    7. Start the Paint program.
    8. From the Edit menu select Paste to put the stored image in the canvas area.
    9. Save the image on the Desktop, the My Documents folder or in any folder where you can retrieve it easily.
    10. Close Paint.
    11. Restart Windows.
    12. Rearrange your icons if necessary when the desktop appears in normal mode.
    13. Open Paint as you did in Safe Mode.
    14. Retrieve and print the Task Manager Dialog box image.

You can copy and paste the image in your word processor or another application if you prefer. When you shut down or disable any process not on your short list, you can be confident that you wonít inadvertently clobber your system while trying to improve its performance. What about all those other programs running in the background? Thatís a subject for another article.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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