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What Processes are Necessary for Windows XP? 120

Brickwall asks: "I studied electrical engineering in university (30 years ago, mind!), so I'm not completely stupid about computers. However, I have searched and searched, and been unable to find an answer to this question: if you start up Windows XP from scratch, what processes should be running? I have some P2P software running, so I know I'll have to shut that down, plus my spyware protection, anti-virus software, etc. But what should be left running? Is this documented somewhere that I've been unable to find?"
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What Processes are Necessary for Windows XP?

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  • Black Viper's list (Score:5, Informative)

    by rdwald ( 831442 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @08:52PM (#15764555)
    The original site has been offline for a few years, but this copy [dead-eye.net] of the Black Viper Windows XP Services List should come in very handy.
    • by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <xptical@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:33PM (#15764632)
      Just after SP2 came out, I found BV's list. I did a clean install with a slipstreamed SP2 disc and counted the processes and memory usage. It was something like 90mb usage and 45 processes in use.

      After that, I hammered through the list disabling everything not essential to gaming. A the end, I had 22 processes and 80mb usage.

      My primary intent was to clear up unused memory to make gaming more stable and faster. In this, it was a complete failure. Quake3 and other benchmarks showed a neglegable boost; maybe a few FPS.

      I didn't do a security scan, but I'm sure OpenPorts would have showed a slightly more closed system. But I really don' think it would have been any more secure.

      Tweaking services is really not worth the time/effort when you look at the gains. If you need more performance, a faster proc and memory can be had for maybe $200~$400. If you need more security, install a Linksys router between you and your ISP's modem. Or, you can spend 4~6 hours tweaking services for a 10mb memory boost like I did. Your choice.
      • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:54PM (#15764677)
        install a Linksys router between you and your ISP's modem

        Or, you know... a non-Linksys one?
        • by Anonymous Coward
          No, that would be stupid; akin to installing an non-HP printer, or a non-Cisco router.
        • Linksys routers run Linux. Their firewalling capabilities range from a simple everything open to the fully locked IPCHAINS (or is it IPTABLES). Plus, my experience with other routers leaves a lot to be desired.
          • Not all of them. In fact, do any other than the one model?
          • They used to. Maybe some still do, but as of hw revision 5 (been around 4-5 months or so) they are running something else.
          • Linksys routers run Linux.

            Most of Linksys' routers do not run Linux. Many models of the the WRT54G [wikipedia.org] line (and it's decendants) run Linux. However, lately Linksys started to use the VxWorks kernel instead of Linux, starting with the WRT54G version 5.0 .
          • Plus, my experience with other routers leaves a lot to be desired.

            My experience with Linksys routers leaves a lot to be desired.

            At least they're not as bad as Netgear, though.
            • I just bought a Linksys, replacing a Netgear, and so far it's great. Loved the features on the Netgear, hated the instability. Damn thing took up to an hour to boot; it kept crashing over and over again. Netgear is sucking badly these days. The Linksys boots in seconds, and has all the features I want anyway.
          • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
            Exactly. Just get OpenWrt [openwrt.org] or something simpler like DD-WRT [dd-wrt.org]; enable sshd; and there you go. You can log in to your router via SSH (root@ probably, use the administrative password), and from there you can run iptables and all its related programs for network management. Of course, if you went with a Cisco router, you'd be able to do that much more easily, but those are kinda, well, expensive for home use...
          • Lots of routers run Linux. Very few of Linksys' routers run linux. They're also overpriced and have a poor security record.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        4-6 hours tweaking services? Right. Even when using the list as a reference, it takes at tops 15 minutes to tweak services.

        You also seem to forget that on slower systems the performance boost will be far more noticeable than on a gaming rig. Along the same lines, the time it takes to completely load WinXP into a useable state will decrease. That "10mb" can make a huge difference on a system with low memory - much like the ones they initially shipped WinXP on.
        • by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 ) <xptical@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @11:26PM (#15764852)
          >>4-6 hours tweaking services? Right. Even when using the list as a reference, it takes at tops 15 minutes to tweak services.

          Once you have done the process a few times, it becomes second nature. However, for the first few times, you have to disable a few services and then test your applications to ensure everything works. Can I still browse the network? Does SSL still work? Can I still resolve domain names? Can I still print? Do my games still work? Can I still adjust my video preferences?

          All these questions have to be answered after every step. In reality, you should disable a few services and then run the system for a week or so to make sure it's okay.

          The first time I ran through this, I read BV's site completely. Couple that with trying to decipher some of the more unusual services and then actually disabling and testing and it can be a weekend job.

          >>You also seem to forget that on slower systems the performance boost will be far more noticeable than on a gaming rig. Along the same lines, the time it takes to completely load WinXP into a useable state will decrease. That "10mb" can make a huge difference on a system with low memory - much like the ones they initially shipped WinXP on.

          Many of the people running those systems will never even know about disabling services. Chances are, if you really care about performance, you'll care enough to throw in a few sticks of RAM. On low-end systems, RAM is really cheap. I just added a 1GB of pc133 to my mom's computer. I got 512 from a geeky friend who was upgrading for free. The other 512 came from a swap meet and cost about $20.

          And no ammount of service tweaking will replace the boost you see from going from 128MB to 1GB of RAM.

          Tweaking is fun for geeks. That's what we do. But within the realm of mere mortals, it's a lost art. We'll spend hours to squeeze out a few extra FPS or reduce boot times by a few seconds. We'll install 10k RPM drives in RAID0 to get a few extra MB of transfer. And that's all well and good if your system is already at the top of the heap.

          As far as the low end goes, the old adage remains true: you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
          • by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @02:32AM (#15765164)
            Another helpful site is Answers That Work [answersthatwork.com]
          • The BV list is enough, it doesn't take long and it doesn't really need a lot of experimentation. It does not take long to go through the entire list. I question the consumerist view of just replacing or upgrading when what already exists can do the job. I question the need to upgrade to 1GB of RAM, except for major projects and games, I usually fall short of needing 512MB of RAM.

            That and once the OS is tweaked, then you can just make an image and reinstall from the image.
          • Can I still browse the network?

            You can safely leave the "Computer Browser" service set to "manual", and it will almost never actually turn on.

            Does SSL still work?

            The "HTTP SSL" service has nothing to do with what it sounds like - You can safely disable that.

            Can I still resolve domain names?

            "The DNS Client service" only acts as a cache, you can safely disable it and DNS queries still work just fine.

            Can I still print?

            That one, you need to leave turned on if you have a printer. Though if
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 23, 2006 @12:58AM (#15765025)
      Black Viper has probably caused more problems for Windows novices than anyone else in the history of the internet. Countless people blindly follow his guides, only to ignore that part that says "keep a list of which services you've turned off", and innevitbaly have problems later on. To add inuslt to injury, there has been no conclusive proof that disabling services improves performance one iota.

      The WIndows NT line is not like the Win9x line. It doesn't have the silly resource limits of Win9x and can swap out unused memory ot disk. When you save "20MB of memory" by disabling a bunch of services, you are actually saving 20MB of data in your swap file, since Windows will swap out the memory your services are using to disk to make room for your apps.
      • Black Viper has probably caused more problems for Windows novices than anyone else in the history of the internet.

        I guess we’re not counting the Windows dev team in this tally, are we?

      • To add inuslt to injury, there has been no conclusive proof that disabling services improves performance one iota.

        Microsoft Windows is horribly inefficent in terms of memory space. Swap files expand memory by mapping it onto one or more relatively ponderous disk drives and create more work for the processor when they are used.

        It takes significant time to swap crap in and out of RAM from/to slower magnetic storage. It takes some finite amount of time (overhead) to switch tasks. Memory that is being used b
  • It's simple. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Poromenos1 ( 830658 )
    Here's what I do: Fire the task manager and start killing processes. When something you need closes, that one was needed. Same for when the system crashes.

    You'll find that most are unnecessary.
    • Re:It's simple. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jherico ( 39763 ) <bdavisNO@SPAMsaintandreas.org> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @11:43PM (#15764885) Homepage
      That's an excellent way to completely screw up your machine by disabling services that might be needed later for things like printing. If you shut down the spooler and then 3 weeks later need to print something you can spend a long time trying to figure out why printing doesn't work.
      • reboot?
        • If you disable a service. It's disabled, not just turned off.
          • But killing the process isn't disabling it.
          • Setting a service to "Disabled" will usually stop it from starting even if needed. Setting it to "Manual" means that it won't start until it's needed. This will result in long "start" time for some activities, but less overhead when you aren't using the service.

            When in doubt, set the service to "Manual". When it's something you never want running (Remote Registry for example) set to "Disabled".
            • I wasn't aware that a service will still be started automatically when you open an application that requires it, if it is set to "Manual". I was under the impression that "Manual" means you have to start it manually- i.e. unless the app you are running is smart enough to call that service on its own (and few do) you'll need to start it up of your own volition.
      • As soon as I install Windows XP Pro, I run services.msc and disable all the services I don't need, since I've done this dozens of times, I know what I'm doing, but it really isn't that hard, microsoft provides some pretty good descriptions of what the service does next to the service name in services.msc.

        If you don't have a printer, disable the printer spooler service, otherwise leave it enabled.
        If you have a static ip, you can disable the dhcp client service.
        If you don't have a wireless card or don't need
        • Re:It's simple. (Score:2, Interesting)

          by joeyteel ( 679506 )
          If you have a static ip, you can disable the dhcp client service.

          Unless you happen to use certain models of Linksys wireless networking hardware. Some of their wireless devices to refuse to work even in a static configuration unless the DHCP service is enabled.

    • Better yet, use process explorer from sysinternals.com. It can kill processeseses taskman cannot.

      //dont care
      ///hope this helps
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It can kill processeseses
        Which processeseses my preciousssss?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 22, 2006 @08:54PM (#15764559)
    For example, if I kill this "System" process, nothing bad will happ
  • Not that easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by cnettel ( 836611 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @08:55PM (#15764562)
    There are a few drivers that add their own usermode services (not just tray apps, but "real" services), for example. I'm not sure from the question if the intent is to get a lean system, or an attempt to identify unwanted - as in possible malware - processes. Googling individual process file names generally gives a pretty good picture of what it is and whether it's needed, or at least where it comes from.
  • by bheer ( 633842 ) <rbheer@gm a i l .com> on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:00PM (#15764575)
    Guide to useless XP services ... I don't think all the ones they mention are 'useless', for example SSDP Discovery is very useful to those using UPnP DSL/Cable modems and UPnP-savvy software like uTorrent or Azureus, but it's still a good article: http://www.techtree.com/techtree/jsp/article.jsp?a rticle_id=70112&cat_id=584 [techtree.com]

  • he asked this question and then wen out and built some tools to find out why...

    better see what he thought infact a link to it should be in the slashdot archives somewhere under some heading...


    John Jones
  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:02PM (#15764578) Homepage Journal
    ..but I recalled this site existed

    http://www.litepc.com/xplite.html [litepc.com]

    I imagine they have determined all of those services and figured out which are really necessary or not
    • http://www.nliteos.com/nlite.html [nliteos.com]

      Here is a free (as in beer) alternative to that.
      Lets you customize your windows 2k/xp install disk, and configure windows before you even install it.
      • It's very cool, but there are some things it can't do.

        I've used it to customize install disks for my two laptops. The old laptop install disk is perfect. Everything works perfectly.

        This laptop however is not so lucky. None of the drivers I have for it will install through the driver part of nlite, although they look like they will when you try. Instead you end up with the installer complaining about missing files probably 150+ times.

        Secondly, I figured that since I already have drivers for my NIC, I could r
        • A method that might ease the testing phase of this would be to use a hosted virtualization platform [vmware.com]. That way, you can generate the ISO and attach it to a VM as a CD (cutting out the burn/reburn process) and install it onto a virtual machine. Another benefit to this strategy is that you aren't wiping out your system several times a day until everything is right - you can keep your system intact and repeatedly reinstall the virtual machine until you're happy with a build that you'll want to move to your ma

  • depends (Score:3, Informative)

    by brenddie ( 897982 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:03PM (#15764584)
    It all depends on what is the role of your PC. I used to have somewhere a list of services grouped by profiles like: gaming, workstation, networked etc.. Each profile had diferent services running. For example a workstation needs most of the services while a gaming PC will benefit from the least amount of background processes
    Hacking Windows XP: Speed Up Your Boot [extremetech.com]
    You can also use autoruns [sysinternals.com] from systernals (is still online!!11ONE??) to check your startup services/applications
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:09PM (#15764592)
    1. Windows Genurine Advantage
    2. Windows Activation Trojan
    3. Automatic Updates with added value checking
    4. Minesweeper
    5. SaveBargins.exe
    6. Vista Notification Bonus
  • Useless Services (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xian007 ( 527192 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:12PM (#15764595)
    This is a pretty handy site.. I just ran across it a couple days ago and was about to look through it at home today and disable most of the services listed.

    Useless XP SP2 Services: http://www.techtree.com/techtree/jsp/article.jsp?a rticle_id=70112&cat_id=584 [techtree.com]

    (Quick way to get to list: Start->Run->services.msc)
  • by erikdotla ( 609033 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:18PM (#15764605)
    I did a long experiment and paper about this very subject. I call it an XP "Chopper" like the bikes, as they (at least originally) had parts chopped as they broke during races, starting a minimalist bike trend called Choppers.

    http://knepfler.com/chopper/ [knepfler.com]
  • by Entropy248 ( 588290 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @09:51PM (#15764668) Journal
    I don't know what services should be running, so what I do is get a pen and paper and copy all of the processes I can see in Task Manager. Then, I just Google the filename. I've yet to find a real disagreement in the first page or two of search results about the meaning. Rarely, I can read about the file on a microsoft.com support page for Windows-related stuff. If you have a computer from a BIG manufacturer or exclusively use brand name hardware, this should work for you too.
  • csrss.exe (Score:2, Informative)

    by The MAZZTer ( 911996 )
    and that's all! [sysinternals.com]
    • This is a truly interesting method for killing darn near all the processes on an XP box.

      Learned some interesting things in the comments on this post, as well.
    • Speaking of services... periodically I get notifications that svchost.exe has died - with no further information. Sometimes that means no apps will run until the box is rebooted - anyone know how to determine what the 'child' of svchost is that's actually died is? (No event logging or debug info)
  • >if you start up Windows XP from scratch, what processes should be running?

    Try running Win2000 sp4. It's barely different from XP, which is, from what I can tell, mostly Mac-like icons . W2k is the same thing without the glitter.

    I'm very happy with W2K and I'll be trying it again when I get a 64-bit processor. Living in the past...it goes on forever, and keeps getting faster.

  • My setup (Score:3, Informative)

    by Richard A Lake ( 661369 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @10:25PM (#15764748)
    My setup has these process on bootup
    svchost.exe -k rpcss
    svchost.exe -k netsvcs

    and the folowing services
    COM+ Event System
    Cryptographic Services
    DHCP Client
    Network Connections
    Plug and Play
    Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
    Shell Hardware Detection
    System Event Notification
    Windows Audio
    Windows Management Instrumentation

    This does make some activites fail two that I have noted are some install programs(needs Dcom or windows installer) and windows updates.
  • If you're unsure: http://exelib.com/ [exelib.com]
  • Process Library (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rurik ( 113882 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @11:00PM (#15764811)
    www.processlibrary.com [processlibrary.com] Enter in each executable in your process list and get detailed info on each there. I use it quite a bit.
  • Necessary Services? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ceresur ( 945388 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @11:39PM (#15764877)
    I remembered seeing this a few months back on /., but you can load WinXP without any services. Doesn't quite answer the question but it still makes for interesting reading. http://www.sysinternals.com/blog/2005/07/running-w indows-with-no-services.html [sysinternals.com]
    • Great response. I wish I had mod points.

      I would say that the question is best answered by 'teaching to fish'. The sysinternals article is the 'guide to fishing' if not the outright correct answer in this case. XP will run, but it may not do what you expect it to do. One would have to do a process of elimination to determine what they require to work.

      I followed the steps laid out in that article to clean up a machine. Once I had it setup for what I needed, my needs changed and I had to tweak the setup. Havin
  • sounds like at least one person (actually looks like several) on Slashdot should call the Geek Squad.
  • Cliff, do you have XP Home or XP Pro? SP1 or SP2?
  • auto:
    DCOM Server Process Launcher
    Event Log
    Plug and Play
    Remote Procedure Call (RPC)
    Windows Audio
    Windows Management Instrumentation
    Cryptographic Services
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here's an academic answer from a the infamous Russinovich [sysinternals.com]: only System and csrss.exe are truely necessary to run XP! The practical answer is of course, "it depends on what you want to do with it".
  • I'm really shocked I haven't seen anyone mention Bold Fortune's guide, nLite, or anything like that.

    http://www.bold-fortune.com/forums/ [bold-fortune.com]
    http://www.msfn.org/board/index.php?s=51e07579a39b 89452dcfefedd94d476b&showforum=89 [msfn.org]
    http://www.microwinx.com/ [microwinx.com]

    When you really dig deep and lock, you can not only disable, but remove a LARGE chunk of Windows. But as for what you can remove, it depends on what your computing needs are. When I make custom install CDs, I take the 600 meg Windows XP SP2 install CD and rip it
  • Tiny XP words from the hacker himself, can be found on bittorent, second edition is out. "Thank you for you interest in this stripped out (112Mb) Edition of XP. I clocked mine in Task Manager using only 39.5Mb of RAM. Windows XP usually uses 300Mb of RAM at the very least. This "TinyXP" not only runs fast, but takes up only 400Mb total space on your system hard drive. Thats the "WINDOWS" folder, "Documents and settings" and "Program Files" By using only 40Mb of RAM, this allows your PC to ru
    • BartPE (Score:3, Informative)

      by The MAZZTer ( 911996 )
      Or I could get BartPE which is a LEGAL stripped-down XP version (since you build it yourself from your own install disks).
  • The site I've used for the last couple years on every fresh install is The Elder Geek [theeldergeek.com]. He lays out every service, what it's used for, and whether he recommends it be disabled or not. The site also has a lot of other valuable information about the innerworkings of XP.
  • I used to try to trim XP's services down but no longer. I have plenty of RAM (2GB) and it really doesn't seem to change performance for me. In fact, there are only five system tweaks that I make these days:

    1. Set system not to swap out the kernel or drivers (via registry edit).
    2. Disable updating last access time (via fsutil).
    3. Disable 8.3 filename creation (via fsutil).
    4. Move swap to the second hard drive, which is on its own SATA channel.
    5. Turn off system restore.

    What I dislike is that some services s

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