At A Glance:
Few things irritate Windows power users more than a slow computer, but the longer you have XP on your system, the slower it gets. Speed things up now by eliminating unnecessary services.
To help you expertly tune-up your system, we’ll:

• Discuss how services get started in the first place and your options for how they behave at startup.
• Stop a service right away so you can test the effects that a service has on your daily Windows operations.
• Provide a guide to help you judge which services you can safely stop and disable without negatively affecting your computer.
When you open Task Manager to the Processes tab, you inevitably see a long list of services hogging up your computer’s resources, as shown in Figure A. You can disable many of these services without losing functionality. In fact, you can gain speed. But how do you know which services to keep running and which to disable? We’ll provide you with a guide to services that you can disable, along with the steps necessary to get the job done.
Figure A: 44 processes are eating up the memory on this machine, slowing its performance.
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What’s a service?

A service is a type of application that runs in the Windows background and supports other applications. Services and the applications they support can run locally or across the network in Windows XP, but only locally in Vista.
Automatic, Manual, or Disabled?
To prohibit services from running automatically at start up, you must set their Startup Type to Manual or Disabled using the Services tool in Windows. To view your services’ current states and prepare to make changes, open the Services tool by selecting Start | (Settings) | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services. The Services window opens, as shown in Figure B. As you can see, the Startup Type column lists services as Automatic, Manual, or Disabled. Understanding the differences between these types is essential for you to properly configure them.
Figure B: Use the Services utility to view each service’s status, and modify its properties.
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Automatic. The service will start automatically when the computer boots up.
Manual. The service will not start at boot up, but if Windows needs a service that you’ve set to Manual it can start it.
Disabled. The service will not start at boot up or when needed by Windows to proceed with an operation. Event Viewer will show errors if Windows needs a disabled service.
Recommendation: If you know you need a service to run regularly, set it to Automatic, not Manual. If you find errors in Event Viewer regarding a service you disabled, set that service to Manual to test to see if that resolves the problem.
Stop services now
You can stop services at any time in order to troubleshoot a particular problem or if you want to test the lasting affects on your computer if you were to disable the service.
To stop a service:
Open the Services tool by selecting Start | (Settings) | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services.
In the right pane of the Services window, locate a service you want to configure, such as Computer Browser, and double-click on it.
In the resulting Properties dialog box, review the service’s Description to understand the potential repercussions of stopping the service.
Click the Stop button, as shown in Figure C.
Windows stops the service. Click OK to close the Properties dialog box, and then close the Services window to proceed with your testing.
Figure C: Click the Stop button to immediately halt a service.
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Modify a service’s Startup Type
You don’t need to stop a service in order to change its Startup Type—you can change it at any time and then reboot to apply the changes to your logon session.
To change a service’s Startup Type:
In the right pane of the Services window, locate a service you want to configure, such as Computer Browser, and double-click on it.
In the resulting Properties dialog box, select a different Startup Type from the Startup type dropdown list. For Figure C, we selected Manual.
Click OK to apply the changes, and then repeat steps 1 and 2 for additional services.
Once you’ve completed your changes, reboot the computer and use it as usual to evaluate the changes’ effects on daily operations.
Do I need a service?
You shouldn’t haphazardly change a service’s Startup Type, but luckily, a little services know-how goes a long way. Some services are essential for Windows to operate, while others come from freeware that just bogs down your computer. So, which ones can you disable?
We interviewed Windows XP pro and Consulting Editor Matt Slocum to devise the list of services you can tweak. See the article “Expertly choose which services you'll disable and which you'll keep” in this issue for the list. We recommend you use the guide when you modify Startup Types.

Warning: set a restore point before you disable services

You may want to experiment with disabling services to boost system performance, but fear the results if you stop or disable a service you really need. To protect your computer and rest easy, create a restore point before you disable any services.