Managing background processes: How to keep your computer running smoothly

Managing background processes: How to keep your computer running smoothly

It’s an all too common problem that you may have experienced at one point: You switch on your computer, but notice it’s slower than usual. It’s taking longer to load, and you’re stuck with a spinning blue circle onscreen, so your mind races to the worst possible scenarios: Is your device dying? Is the hard drive close to full? Or is your computer slower than usual because of cryptojacking?

Most likely, the issue is not as drastic as you may initially think, and your device may just be running too many background processes.

What are background processes?

These are programs that automatically run when you switch on your device. Because they run silently in the background, you don’t see any indication that these programs are up and running. Background processes can be categorized into three types:

Operating system processes

These processes enable the proper functioning of the operating system and manage various system-level tasks. They include maintenance, file operations, windows management, antivirus and anti-malware programs, and various system services that manage your device’s audio, power, network, and other critical functions.

Application processes

These processes are associated with applications that you have installed and run. They include apps that handle cloud storage synching, instant messaging (Slack, Skype, or WhatsApp), utilities (weather, task schedulers, etc.), and browser extensions (ad blockers, password managers, language translators, etc.).

Hidden processes

These processes, often related to system maintenance, security, or compatibility, are often invisible to the user. They include software updates, diagnostic tools, and drive compatibility issues.

Why should you manage background processes?

These background processes have important, even necessary, functions. They provide essential services and updates to your computer. But having too many running simultaneously in the background can negatively affect your device’s performance. So you need to manage and control them to optimize your computer’s resources.

How to manage background processes

Managing background processes can significantly improve the performance and responsiveness of your Windows computer. Here are some effective strategies to optimize background processes:

Identify and disable unnecessary startup programs

Many programs automatically launch at startup, even if you don’t use them regularly. These programs still use system resources, which slows down your computer’s boot time. To disable programs that you deem unnecessary at startup, do the following:

  1. Open the Task Manager. To quickly launch it, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
  2. Navigate to the Startup tab.
  3. Select the programs you don't need to run at startup, then click Disable.

Review and adjust background services

While some background services are essential, others may not be as vital. To review and adjust background services, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Services console. Press Windows+R, type “services.msc,” then press Enter.
  2. Right-click each service and select Properties.
  3. Examine the Startup type option. If set to Automatic or Automatic (Delayed Start), consider changing it to Manual or Disabled if you don't need the service to run constantly.

Be cautious with what you decide to alter. Research their functions first to know whether it’s safe to disable or modify them.

Utilize system maintenance tools

Windows provides built-in tools to optimize background processes and enhance system performance. These tools include:

  1. Disk Cleanup — removes temporary files, old system files, and other unnecessary data, freeing up disk space and improving system performance
  2. Disk Defragmenter — reorganizes fragmented files on your hard drive, improving accessibility, leading to faster performance
  3. Resource Monitor — provides real-time monitoring of the central processing unit (CPU), memory, disk, and network usage, so you can identify and address resource-intensive processes

Consider using third-party optimization software

Dedicated optimization software can provide advanced features for managing background processes, such as identifying and disabling startup items, optimizing system settings, and scheduling system maintenance tasks.

Regularly review and manage background activity

Regularly monitor your computer's resource usage to identify any background processes that are consuming excessive resources, and consider disabling or uninstalling them if necessary.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage background processes, improve your Windows computer’s performance, and enhance your overall computing experience.

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