Disabling Unneeded Services
A service is a software application that runs continuously in the background while your computer is on. The Windows operating system has numerous services that run in the background that provide basic functions to the system. Network connectivity, visual support, and external device connectivity such as printer services are all examples of the types of services that the windows services provide. Each of these services that are running in the background take up system resources such as memory and CPU time. Also, during the booting of the operating system, the service has to be loaded. On most computers, there are nearly 20 services that are loaded upon startup. Of these 20 services only a handful are system critical services. All of the others can be disabled. In order to disable a service, first you will need to know more about what the most common services do. The table below will help you understand what the most common services are, what they do, and if they can be disabled.
|Table Common Windows Services in Use|
|Service Name||Service Use|
|Automatic Updates||Used to download and then install updates automatically without the user going to Windows Update manually. This service is not system critical and can be disabled but unless you check for updates regularly, it is not recommended to disable this service.|
|Background Intelligent Transfer Service||A service that transfers data in the background when the connection is not in use. One use of this service is to download updates automatically in the background. This service is not system critical but can impair other services such as automatic updates if it is disabled.|
|Com+ Event System||Basically controls the notification of certain system events such as log on and log off. The system event notification is dependent on this service. This service is system critical.|
|Computer Browser||Keeps track of the other computers on your network running the Microsoft Client for networking. This is what provides the list of computers when you are browsing your workgroup computer in My Network Places. This service is not system critical and can be disabled if you do not need the network browsing function.|
|Cryptographic Services||Basically manages system security certificates as well as provides a database of signatures of key windows files. This service is not system critical but it is required to install many Microsoft programs that want to check system file signatures. It is not recommended to disable this service because doing so would not allow Windows Update to run and install new updates.|
|DCOM Server Process Launcher||Basically is in charge of starting various other services. This service is required for RPC which is required for over 39 other services to run. Because of that, it is not a good idea to disable this one.|
|DHCP Client||Provides support for dynamic network configuration. This service is not system critical but is needed for those that do not set their IP address manually.|
|Distributed Link Tracking Client||Keeps track of links to files on a NTFS volume on your computer or across a network. This service is not system critical and can be disabled.|
|DNS Client||Resolves domain names into IP addresses as well as caches lookup results. This service is not system critical but you will not be able to browse the internet without it started.|
|Error Reporting Service||Allows users to report failures of applications directly to Microsoft so that Microsoft may fix bugs in its software if it is the culprit. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|Event Log||Allows event messages to be recorded to be viewed in Event Viewer. This service is system critical and can not be disabled.|
|Fast User Switching Compatibility||Allows users to switch to other users on the same system without logging off. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|Help and Support||Used for the help and support center. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|HTTP SSL||Allows the personal web server built into Windows XP (IIS 6.0) to provide secure data transfers over HTTP. This service is rarely used since most people never even setup the personal web server on Windows XP. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|Indexing Service||Creates a searchable database of the items on your hard drive. This service is not system critical and can be disabled if you do not search your drive often or can wait a few extra minutes to find a file.|
|IPSEC Services||Provides IP security for certain secure connections over IP. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|Logical Disk Manager||Detects and monitors new hard disk drives. This service is not system critical but it is used when you are upgrading your hardware and installing additional storage devices or using USB storage devices. If you do not plan on using any of the items above, the service may be safely disabled.|
|Machine Debug Manager||Provides support for program and script debugging. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled for most users.|
|Messenger||Allows users to send text popup messages to computers on the network. This service is abused by spammers to send you advertisements. It is highly recommended that you disable this service.|
|Network Connections||Provides support for network connectivity. This service is not system critical but it is recommended that it is not disabled.|
|Network Location Awareness (NLA)||Provides services to computers that share your internet connection. If you do not use the internet connection feature, then you may safely disable this service since it is not a system critical service.|
|Plug and Play||Allows your computer to detect hardware. This service is system critical and can not be disabled.|
|Portable Media Serial Number Service||Detects the serial number of an external media device. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|Print Spooler||Provides services to print. This service is not system critical but it is necessary to print from your computer.|
|Protected Storage||Provides basic security over certain system files. This service is system critical and should not be disabled.|
|Remote Procedure Call (RPC)||Provides services for other services. This service is system critical and can not be disabled.|
|Remote Registry (Not included in XP Home)||Allows the system registry to be connected to remotely. This service is not system critical and is recommended that it is disabled.|
|Secondary Logon||Allows programs to be started under different accounts. This service is system critical.|
|Security Accounts Manager||A database of local account information. This service is system critical and should not be disabled.|
|Security Center||Monitors your system security settings to notify you if your settings are insecure. You should keep this service running unless you are confident about your computer’s security. No other services depend on this service and it can be safely disabled given you have a good handle on your security.|
|Server||Provides the ability to share files and your printer over your network. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled if you do not share file over a network.|
|Shell Hardware Detection||Used to detect external storage devices automatically. If you do not use any external storage devices such as external hard drives or memory cards, this service can be safely disabled.|
|SSDP Discovery Service||Looks for Universal Plug and Play drives on your network. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|System Event Notification||Tracks more system events. This service is system critical and should not be disabled.|
|System Restore Service||Keeps track of changes made to your system to make restore points. This service is not system critical but it is recommended that it is not disabled.|
|Task Scheduler||Allows users to schedule and configure tasks. This service is not system critical and can be disabled if you do not need to schedule any tasks to run.|
|TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper||Allows the NetBIOS network protocol to run over the TCP/IP Protocol. This service is not system critical and can be disabled if you have no use for the NetBIOS protocol.|
|Terminal Services||Allows users to connect to the computer with remote desktop. This service is not system critical but is used by the remote assistance help feature. It can be safely disabled if you do not need the remote assistance feature.|
|Themes||This is the service that gives Windows the new look. It allows visual styles to be applied over the normal grey Windows 2000 style windows. This service is not system critical and can be disabled.|
|WebClient||This service adds support for web-based file management for technologies such as WebDav. Most users will never need to use this service. It is not system critical and can be safely disabled.|
|Windows Audio||Provides audio support for the operating system. This service is not system critical and can be safely disabled is you would like to give up your sound.|
|Windows Firewall / Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)||Protects your computer from intruders and malicious programs attacking your computer via your Internet connection. It also provides the ability to share your internet connection among other computers on your local network. This service is not system critical but I do not recommend that you disable it unless you have another personal firewall application installed on your computer.|
|Windows Image Acquisition (WIA)||Used to acquire data from optical devices such as a scanner or a camera. This service is not system critical and it can be safely disabled if you have no use for it.|
|Windows Management Instrumentation||Provides system information to applications. This service is system critical and should not be disabled.|
|Windows Time||This service is in charge of synchronizing the Windows time. If you do not need to have your time synchronized, this service can be safely disabled.|
|Wireless Zero Configuration||Configures wireless 802.11 devices. If you do not have any wireless hardware installed, you may safely disable this service.|
|Workstation||Allows your computer to make connections to other computers and servers. This service is not system critical but it is needed for any basic networking.|
Now that you know which services can be disabled and which services are important to your system, you can safely speed up your boot by disabling the extra services using the services management tool.
Before you begin changing your service setup, set a System Restore Point to easily restore your system to an earlier configuration. However, be careful when you restore from restore points. Any applications or files that were created after the system restore point will be deleted when reverting back to an earlier restore point.
The Services utility is included in all versions of Windows XP and but is hidden away. Do the following to disable a service using the Services utility:
- Click on the Start menu and select Run. In the text box type services.msc and click OK. This will start the Services utility as shown in Figure 8-6.
- Now that you are in the Services utility, you will see a list of a lot of services on your computer. First you will need to stop the service that you want to disable. Right click on the service name and select Stop on the pop-up menu.
- When the service is stopped, right click on the service again and select Properties. Located on the General tab, look for the Startup Type drop-down box. Click on the arrow on the drop-down box and select Disabled.
- Click on the OK button and from now on, the system will not start the service any more during boot speeding up your system start.
Bare-Bones System Service Setup
To get the maximum amount of performance out of your system, you have the option of disabling all of the services on your computer that are not critical to the system. This would take away a lot of the nice features and conveniences of Windows, but you would have a much faster machine. The following is a list of system-critical services that should not be disabled. Feel free to disable all other services.Bare Minimum Services:
- Com+ Event System
- Cryptographic Services
- DCOM Server Process Launcher
- DHCP Client
- DNS Client
- Event Log
- IPSEC Services
- Shell Hardware Detection
- System Event Notification
- Protected Storage
- Network Connections
- Plug + Play
- Print Spooler
- Remote Procedure Call
- Secondary Logon
- Security Accounts Manager
Recommended Service Setup
The bare-bones system service setup is a good setup for optimal performance. However, don’t you want to have some of the conveniences of Windows XP? Check out the recommended services to disable shown in the list below. If you follow these recommendations, you will cut down on your boot time but you will also have of the nice features and conveniences of Windows XP.Disable the following services:
- Background Intelligent Transfer Service
- Distributed Link Tracking Client
- Error Reporting Service
- Fast User Switching Compatibility
- Help and Support
- Indexing Service
- Machine Debug Manager
- Network Location Awareness (NLA)
- Portable Media Serial Number Service
- Remote Registry (Only included with Windows XP Pro)
- SSDP Discovery Service
- Terminal Services
- Windows Image Acquisition (WIA)
- Wireless Zero Configuration (If you have a wireless network card, do not disable this one)
- Windows Time
- Task Scheduler
Optimizing the Location of the Boot Files
The speed at which which your files are read is dependent on where files are located on your hard drive. Also, when a file is fragmented (which is when one file is scattered all over the disk), it takes more time to access that file than if all of the pieces of the files were side by side. Using tools that are available in Windows and other third-party utilities, you can defragment and place the Windows boot files on the disk where they will be accessed faster.Windows XP has a new features called the prefetcher, which determines what files on the hard drive are used during the boot process and where they should be placed on the disk for optimal speed. Although this is not the only benefit that the prefetcher provides, it makes optimizing the location of the boot files easy.
Using Disk Defragmenter
Windows XP includes a boot defragmenter but it is a little tricky to get it to run. By default, it is run only in the background and cannot be started directly by a user. After your computer has been idle for some time between 5 and 30 minutes, the system will read the prefetcher’s boot data and start the defrag. The system defrag is run in the background and is invisible to the user. Eventually, if you leave your computer on long enough, it will be defragment the boot files
Microsoft has a very talented team working for them and they even took into consideration that often your system boot changes. For example, you might install an updated device driver or add new hardware. To solve this problem, the system will re-defragment the boot files every three days.
Windows keeps track of the last time it optimized the boot file so that it can calculate how often it should run the boot defrag. If you are interesting in finding when the last time was that the boot defrag was run, open up regedit and navigate to: “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Prefetcher” and then look for the key named “LastDiskLayoutTimeString”.
A operating system that takes care of itself? Yes, Windows is getting smarter and smarter. However, there is still one part of this problem: There is no possible way to directly initiate a boot defrag. The only way is to leave your computer on for a little while without using it at all. If you are impatient and do not want to wait, then I have a solution for you.
As I mentioned earlier, the system will only initiate the boot defrag when the system is idle. Typing in a command that will start the boot is not possible. However, you can tell your computer, even when it is not idle, to process the idle tasks. This will indirectly start the boot defrag. Although since the boot defrag is most likely not the only idle task waiting to be run, there will be other processes run as well which can cause your computer to appear to be doing a lot of hard work from a few minutes up to half an hour as it completes all tasks. During this time, your computer should not be used for any intensive activities such as playing games. If you try to use your computer while the idle tasks are being processed, you will notice slow performance until the tasks are completed.
Do the following to tell the system to start to process all idle tasks:
- Click on the Start menu and select Run.
- Type Rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks in the text box and select OK.
- Your computer will now begin working on the tasks.
Performing these steps will allow your system to defrag the boot files. However, since the boot defrag is done every three days. Processing the idle tasks more frequently that three day periods, will do nothing to help you boot because the boot defrag will not be on your idle tasks lists all the time.
Boot Time Defrag with O&O Defrag
Just as with Diskeeper, with O&O Defrag there is boot-time defragmentation option. This allows the system files that are in use to be defragmented as well as other special files such as the master file table. O&O Defrag is developed by O&O Software and uses different defragmentation algorithms than the Diskeeper program. I have included a section on this program as well to give you a chance to try both programs and find the program that find works better for your system. A shareware copy of O&O Defrag can be found on O&O Software’s Web site.
Do the following to start a boot-time defrag in O&O Defrag:
- Launch the O&O defrag application and select Add Job from the Jobs menu bar item.
- Once you are in the Edit Job window, click on the Volumes tab.
- Next, click on the drive letter of the drive you wish to defragment and the drive that your boot files are located on. Most likely this is your C: drive.
- Select the Defragmentation Method for the Selected Volume you want to defragment. It is recommended that you select COMPLETE/Access for this defragmentation.
- Once you have selected the method, make sure the check the box for Activate BootTime Defragmentation and then click the Set button.
- Next, click on the Time Plan tab and select when you would like the job to be run. You can also set up the job to be run on a weekly schedule by selecting weekly in the Frequency drop-down box.
- Click the OK button and you will see the job appear under the job list window. You are now finished setting up O&O defrag and your system will be defragmented at the time you scheduled the program to execute.
Throughout this chapter, you found out many ways that you can shorten the amount of time it takes your computer to boot up. First, you learned how to change some of the BIOS settings that can optimize your computer for maximum boot speed. Then, you discovered how you can remove your boot screen to shave off some more time.After that, you saw how you can disable other parts of Windows such as hardware, fonts, and services that you may never use, all of which take up time when your computer starts up. To wrap the chapter up, you found out how you can optimize the placement of the files used when your computer boots up using the prefetcher and two other disk defragment tools.