How to speed up Windows XP use at your own risk

Warning: occasionally people break their PC badly by using this list of suggestions. Usually it's because they don't read carefully. But, proceed at your own risk.

You may want to watch this short video before you being.

Turning off unnecessary services in Windows XP can greatly reduce your exploit risk, while improving system performance. It's a good time to inject that often there are all sorts of "download optimizers" and other cute programs that vendors like to push on users. Most of the time, installing such things slows your computer down at best. It could subject you to potential security risks. The first rule is "If you don't know you need it, you probably don't."

Unnecessary services don't just subject you to security risk. They also slow down the operation of your computer. So, don't get lazy here and think you can just deal with the infections later. Go ahead and turn that junk off and recapture your system from these resource hogs. You get to services by going to Control Panel, Administrative Tools, then Services. You should see a long list of services, some running and some dormant. Use this checklist to help determine which services you can live without.

If you don't know how to find Windows Services in Windows XP, click on Start, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, and Services. Below is a simple step by step to finding and changing your services on Windows XP. Keep in mind that your view settings may make your's appear slightly different, but will be the same basic path.

Click on Start then Control Panel
Click on start, then click on Control Panel.

Click on Administrative Tools
In Control Panel, click on Administrative Tools

Click on Services
In Administrative Tools, click on Services.

Choose the Service to Modify
Choose the service you wish to modify.

Changing the Service Settings

Once you select the service you wish to modify, you have several buttons to turn the service off immediately, drop down choices to disable a service, make it autmatic, or make it manual.

 

Windows XP Pro (and Home); Stuff to turn off:

Each service is listed as it is in Microsoft's WIndows XP Professional. These should be similar in Microsoft's XP Home as well. Under each is the definition given in the Services Manager.

If you turn off all the services suggested above and try to use Automatic Updates via WindowsUpdate.Microsoft.com, you will likely see a message something like this:

Windows Update cannot continue because a required service application is disabled. Windows Update requires the following services:

"Automatic Updates enables detection, downloading, and installation of critical updates for your computer.

Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) enables faster, restartable downloading of updates.

Event Log logs Windows Update events for troubleshooting. To ensure that these services are enabled:"

It's easy to just go back to Services, and turn these services on as you need them. An operating system shouldn't need daily updates to run. And, the more services you run, the more likely you are to need updates. See a circle here? Occasionally, a little laziness won't kill you. Though you could just go to Technet (Microsoft's only support for IT professionals) and get all your news and update files with descriptions of their efficacy and safety, you may occasionally just want to veg out and let Microsoft do the work for you. You should still read each update and decide for yourself whether it makes sense. Some of them are flat out bad news. But, turning up these services for a few minutes to run Automatic Updates may be a shortcut to periodic updates.

So, let's look at the services they want you to turn on.

Automatic Updates
Background Intelligent Transfer Service
Event Log

I haven't a clue why you need Background Intelligent Transfer Services to run so you can go to a website, download, and install service packs. But, you can turn it, and the others, on and then turn it back off when you are done. It's just three services.

 

If you turn off all the services suggested above and try to use Automatic Updates via WindowsUpdate.Microsoft.com, you will likely see a message something like this:

Windows Update cannot continue because a required service application is disabled. Windows Update requires the following services:
Automatic Updates enables detection, downloading, and installation of critical updates for your computer.
Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) enables faster, restartable downloading of updates.
Event Log logs Windows Update events for troubleshooting. To ensure that these services are enabled:

It's easy to just go back to Services, and turn these services on as you need them. An operating system shouldn't need daily updates to run. And, the more services you run, the more likely you are to need updates. See a circle here? Occasionally, a little laziness won't kill you. Though you could just go to Technet (Microsoft's only support for IT professionals) and get all your news and update files with descriptions of their efficacy and safety, you may occasionally just want to veg out and let Microsoft do the work for you. You should still read each update and decide for yourself whether it makes sense. Some of them are flat out bad news. But, turning up these services for a few minutes to run Automatic Updates may be a shortcut to periodic updates.

So, let's look at the services they want you to turn on.

  1. Automatic Updates
  2. Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  3. Event Log

I haven't a clue why you need Background Intelligent Transfer Services to run so you can go to a website, download, and install service packs. But, you can turn it, and the others, on and then turn it back off when you are done. After all, it's just three services.

If you take a minimalist's point of view to running both software and services on your computer, it will perform faster and more safely than it will if you just randomly load anything anyone tells you to. To better secure your PC, stick to a mindset that if you don't absolutely need a service running right now, you should just turn it off.

For those of you that break stuff when you turn off services I suggest are unnecessary.

If you turn off all the stuff that blatantly doesn't have anything to do with the network, you should be fine. Then, turn off one thing at a time that you /think/ doesn't support your network connection. If you lose your connection, turn the service back on. Next, and this part is very important, make sure your network settings are accurate and set for "on" so you can reconnect. You should find out how your PC connects to your local network before you get started and document it. But, anything you turn off that breaks something needs to be carefully examined and documented (write it down somewhere).

Just because you turn a service back on, doesn't mean your broken software will magically start working again. For example, remember the issue of using a computer in your network to manage your connection? If that's how you connect, you'll have to reconfigure that connection to get online if you kill it by killing a service. Likely, Computer Browser will cause this kind of problem. Also, just enabling the service doesn't turn it on. You need to manually restart it, since the start, enable, stop, settings go into action on bootup. So, if you don't want to wait til your box reboots, you'll need to manually turn off the service if you want it disabled, and manually turn it on if you want to enable it (and see if that given service is your problem).

What about System Restore? Well, I don't like it. If I had a dollar for every time someone fouled up their PC, ran system restore, and were amazed that all wasn't suddenly happy sunshine, I'd have a really nice vacation home. I realize it makes life easier for newbies that randomly screw stuff up and can't be hassled with learning the things they use. But, for most cases, it's a great tool for virus and worms to avoid capture. You delete them, they have a backup switch to recapture control through the restore program. Many antivirus programs don't work properly when you have this feature enabled. You can leave it on if you're a fan. Perhaps it makes you feel good, like it would make everything right again if you had it around. But, it won't save you from a serious problem. Backups and safe computer practices will.

You need to learn enough about your PC to run a functional backup and restoration of your critical data. If you can't do this, you're just waiting to lose everything.

Don't be afraid to learn more about your PC. It's one thing to run through a checklist of stuff I suggest you don't need. But, it's not a guarantee that I address every concern for every user. With a few hours here and there of learning now, you'll save yourself a lot of frustration later. The things I learned about Windows five and six years ago still serve me today. The things I learned about networks running Unix systems serve me every day, no matter what operating system I may run.

Enjoy learning; it's the first line of defense against bad software and broken PCs.

[Check out Run a Faster Windows PC, now that you're done with this article.]

Latest comments:

Hi, three things, and I know I'm a few years late with the first, and maybe you've gotten it a few hundred times already, but I've only recently discovered your article on unnecessary services that windows... [snip]

You know, that article is really, really old. And, to be honest I don't update it and can't imagine why so many people read it. It makes me think I may should spend more time on things like that - keeping it current, etc. So, I will add comments down here as folk email me questions and comments.

You mention that Cryptographic Services is unnecessary unless you work in a large network atmosphere (or something along those lines), plus stuff about certificates.
[snip] ... is required for automatic updates.

I think this is recent behavior. Just yesterday I downloaded TweakUI for a friend and his WinXP complained the software wasn't signed... WHAT!? Microsoft didn't bother using their beloved signing technology even though they act as though anything that's not digitally signed is a trojan or virus? Amazing, but they don't retroactively utilize their own technologies and they often throw new requirements (often for "security" sake) on their old operating systems.

I actually changed my position on this and though it's dangerous on multiple levels, I think considering all it's almost required that you leave auto-updates running, since you can't possibly run a safe PC without daily update checks and who can be bothered to run updates manually every day. Microsoft doesn't exactly make downloading and installing them manually a simple process.

BTW, if you download the updates manually from TechNET, you don't need this service running - but that's not what you want to do, you just want to click a button and have your system automatically update. Automatic and automatic have different meanings here. I mean, the update you're trying to do with the click is automatic, and the update that happens without your involvement at all (scheduled automatic updates) is also automatic.

Telephony Services: you say it's unnecessary if you don't use a modem to connect to the internet, and I was like "Nah, I have cable because I'm t3h 133720r2!" and I tried to turn it off, and it won't turn off. And before I pressed the issue, a question came to mind- is a cable modem still a modem in the sense that you're referring to them? And if so... who the XXX is lucky enough to not need any modem at all to connect to Al Gore's miracle?! So that threw me off a bit.

Well... there's two answers to this question - the implied and the direct.

I used to have a "cable modem," but I used a network connection (via my NIC) to connect. I have DSL now and do the same. Most modern distributions of network connections (DSL/Cable/T1/etc.) use plain ole NICs to connect - some people install that awful driver software, and that //may// require this feature, though honestly I've not personally tested so I don't know for fact.

Let me tell you this - all kinds of crap uses telephony. VOIP, modems, fax, etc. all use it. Even my stupid fax printing software that sends the fax through //EMAIL// uses the telephony service.

Lastly, this one comes from the article you link to at the bottom of the unnecessary services article, about running a faster Windows PC. You suggest Avira Antivir to replace McAfee and Norton, and seeing as how you had thus far proven to be a pretty legitimate tech advisor (I started getting paranoid that in the stead of traditional viruses, people just give you "advice" to delete perfectly vital bits of software and whatnot), I jumped on the free version. I had been a McAfee noob, and had been increasingly frustrated with it.
Avira works great and all, but there's one little thing that drives me crazy that I can't seem to figure out. How the XXX do you get rid of the "Notifier of Avira" that constantly bugs you to buy the premium edition and reminds me of spyware/popups itself?
[snip] ...plenty, so I really can't justify working over 20 whole hard-earned dollars just to make what amounts to be a popup, from a program that is supposed to... [snip]

I'm afraid they've jumped onto the harassment bandwagon with their free product. It's annoying. And, to be honest I just plopped down the $40 and bought the commercial license of Avast recently. I suggest you do the same.

All antivirus companies eventually get dragged into the corporate profit game and leave the good antivirus arena. The fact is, it's not really considered a good growth model to stick to plain ole antivirus software. The big guys lead the track on bloatware, but everyone gets into it. They either offer more bells and whistles and harass you or harass you to spend more money on the basics. Once they feel that they've saturated the "I just want a good antivirus program" market, they start banging on your wallet.

But, for the moment, I'm happy with my commercial Avast.

As for forking over $20 to stop the harassment. I'm sorry, but as a capitalist I don't really mind this so much. And, to be honest $20 for protection without the CPU tax other big brands charge - gimping your entire machine for the promise of safer web browsing - it's a good deal. I'd pay the $20. It's worth it.

NOTE

Many people have requested a Vista version of this article. Vista and Windows 7 versions are on the way.

source: http://www.jasonn.com/turning_off_unnecessary_services_on_windows_xp

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