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Is there a reference of what services I need running on my machine?


Hi, Leo. I have Windows XP Home with SP3. I was just reviewing your latest
Ask Leo! newsletter on the article “What is Service Host?” and this had me
looking at my services.msc settings. I have, over time, seen very few listings
of what is required and not necessary for services.mse. Some items have me
scratching my head as to whether or not this is required to run automatically
or be disabled. The defining of the particular service is not (as explained by
Microsoft) clear and leaves room for doubt especially for the novice user so is
there a good place or reference site other than Microsoft that will explain
what these services are and help me (hopefully definitively) set my
services.mse? My computer is strictly browsing the web, internet, and email. And
of course, there’s checking for software updates. Many thanks.

In this excerpt from
Answercast #62
, I look at the possibilities and difficulties around
identifying services that you don’t need on your computer.

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What services should be running?

So is there a resource for the non-technical? Probably not.

Here’s the problem. I will point you at a very good resource, but I think
your eyes are gonna glaze over as you go through it. The problem is this – the
services that are required? It depends on your system: it depends on the
hardware you have installed; it depends on the programs you run; it depends on
the programs you have installed; it depends on so many different things – that
there is simply no canonical list of things that you need versus things that
you don’t.

What you need on your machine will perhaps be fairly dramatically different
than what I need on my machine. That’s just the nature of how Windows
configures itself to the specific machine and to the specific user and
installed software.

Online resource

Now, I am going to point you to a site: it’s called Black Viper. If you go to,
this guy has been doing pretty much what you’re asking for for many, many
years. He has a good list of almost every service that could be running on your
system and a description of what it is and what it is used for.

The problem is of course that by the nature of these things, some of them
are going to be fairly technical. You may read it. It may look like it’s in
plain English, but it’s not going to be clear in the end whether you need it
or not.

Simply because… well, it depends! And it depends perhaps on a language
that you’re not familiar with; understanding things that you’re not familiar

Test it out

So you could definitely go there. Take a look and spend a little bit of
time (if you want to) on understanding what each of the services on your
machine are all about.

You could try disabling some of them. All I can say is make sure you back up
first… because services, some of them, are absolutely required, and it’s not
obvious necessarily which ones those are.

Some are very obvious, but others are not – and those are the ones that, if
you disable it, you may find you can no longer boot your computer. That’s when
you’re going to need your backup to restore to.

If it ain’t broke…

My advice in general is if it’s working, don’t mess with it. There’s simply
too much potential for damage here. And there’s too much potential for wasting
an awful lot of time with not a lot of real tangible benefit.

Microsoft isn’t trying to run a bunch of software on your machine that you
don’t need. If anything, it’s the applications that come along later that do
so. So consider uninstalling some things if you’re running into troubles.

But in reality, there’s just not a lot of bang for the buck down this road
and I strongly suggest that you basically leave well enough alone.

Next from Answercast 62 – How do I stop spam?

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3 comments on “Is there a reference of what services I need running on my machine?”

  1. If you do disable any service(s) do one at a time and keep track. Reboot and use your computer for awhile and see if anything’s broke. If not, you can disable another service, and so on. That way you know the service is disable-able and if you can’t live without it you can re-enable it.

  2. I have experimented with Windows services in depth for a long time, mostly with the help of Blackviper and other sites. There are a small number of services that I now disable by default, simply because I now know that I definitely either do not need or want them in my environment. However, after all that work, I came to the conclusion that the advantage gained by trying to unravel ALL the services you could possible live without, certainly did not justify the time and effort spent on it. Even if your system works after disabling a particular service, it could take a looong time before the negative impact showed up. By then you might not know which service (or lack of it) has caused the problem and would have to spend even more time finding and re-enabling the culprit. I would rather leave the tweaking of services to the dedicated power users.

  3. @Jazz & Leo,

    Very Good Advice! You can even extend that ‘ If it ain’t broke…’ to ‘ If you don’t know what you’ll gain/loose, Don’t do it!’. It can be applied to every situation of life probably!

    I wish I had realized this before!


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