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How do I find out what all these programs are in Process Explorer?


Hi. I read your response to slow computers where you recommend running the
Process Explorer. I’ve done that but when it shows the processes running I’m
not savvy enough to know which one should or should not be running. How can I
find that out once I know what is running? I scare myself with how much I don’t
know. Thanks for any help.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #66
, I look at how Process Explorer can be used to identify which
programs (if any) are using too many resources.

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Analyzing Process Explorer results

You know, I scare myself with that same knowledge. It seems like every day I
learn something new, and one of the things I learn is how much I don’t

In this particular case, the Process Explorer?

My recommendation to use Process Explorer isn’t really to take an inventory of what’s
running on your machine. If your machine is slow, and you take a look at the
CPU Usage” column, Process Explorer gives you a quick way to identify which
process on your computer is using more of the CPU then the rest of the
processes. If something is using 95% of your CPU all the time, then your
computer may very well be slow and it may very well be a problem.

Use to identify

The point of using Process Explorer is to at least identify what that
one executable, what that one program is. Then you can use
everything from Google to Ask Leo! to find out whether that program is a
problem – and if so, what to do about it.

So, the problem of course is… you asked, “I’m not savvy to enough to know
which one should or should not be running.” Guess what? Neither am I!

What should or should not be running depends on so many different

  • It depends on your machine.

  • It depends on your hardware.

  • It depends on the software you’re running.

  • It depends on how you use your machine.

The processes you will find on your machine are going to be dramatically
different than the processes you will find on mine, for example.

Sort by CPU use

So like I said, it’s not so much about taking an inventory of everything
that’s running on your machine. There’s really not a lot of good use for

What it is useful for, though, is identifying which of the
processes that are running on your machine may be misbehaving.

Sorting by the “CPU” column is one way to do that; you can just click on the
CPU heading. You may have to click on it twice to get the sort direction the
way you expect it to be. Then at the top of the list you’ll see the processes
that are using the most CPU at any one point in time.

You can add columns for things like memory usage and IO usage and so forth.
That’s why I keep referring to Process Explorer, because it’s a really good way
of identifying programs that are misbehaving. They give you that data point
that says, “it’s this program.” From there you can then start doing some
research to find out whether or not that program is misbehaving or is
behaving as expected.

End of Answercast 66 Back to – Audio

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5 comments on “How do I find out what all these programs are in Process Explorer?”

  1. I may add that the Resource Monitor > CPU tab is another source of information regarding the processes that are running. There you can right click on the process and “Search Online” which may give you more information.

    This is more difficult for the svchost.exes because you never know what’s running under them. In that case, Process Explorer can give you more info. Here you hover over the process and it will show the services. Or. right click on the svchost.exe, go to Properties and then Click the ‘Services’ tab. That shows the list of services.

    In any case I do not recommend to stop any of those processes. Most are ‘dormant’ anyhow and do not consume any CPU. They will only be activated when really needed.

  2. The problem is all too familiar. However, I find AnVir (previously mentioned in other comments) is very convenient for reporting what’s using, and possibly hogging, the cpu. If installed and allowed to run in the background:

    A left click on its icon in the information area will pop up a little window that tells you continuously what’s using any significant amount of cpu and the total number of active processes. I can see as I type that my browser occasionally pops up with 2% cpu and I have 42 processes running.

    Moreover, AnVir will also monitor additional startups and invite you to accept, quarantine or delete altogether.

    Process Explorer is good, but I find AnVir easier to use.

  3. Recently I was unable to uninstall a program because, supposedly, a file was being used by that program (although I wasn’t using it). By right-clicking on the program (or process) in the list of processes running, one can select “Kill Process” which (at least in my case) allows one to uninstall the program. I found this useful in a very frustrating situation.

  4. Microsoft Security Essentials was using 90+% of my CPU cycles ever time I booted. I went into Settings and configured it to NOT scan itself which fixed that. If something is eating all your cycles find out what and why. Maybe you just need to change one or two settings, but finding out what to change can be a hassle and might not be possible, depending.


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