Computer troubleshooting 101
I did a screenshot for a sample task manage. This screenshot was taken right after booting my system without starting any programs. This sample can be used as a starting point in troubleshooting but the exact processes may vary a little, depending on your system environment. Mine is a member of a domain. Practically all home computers will be a member of a workgroup that was assigned when the OS was installed. More than likely it is a member of a workgroup named workgroup.
From my experience, the OS will not allow you to stop a process that is necessary to keep the system running. What I am saying is that if you accidentally try and end a process that would be detrimental to the system, you will get an error stating that you can't end that process. With that in mind and you start ending processes on your system, you probably want to try this before you start your email, web browser or any application. Any of the above mentioned items will usually start one or more processes themselves so what it the point.
Another point worth mentioning here is that if you have a bunch of extra processes running that are spyware, ending them here isn't going to help in the long run. As a matter of fact the spyware (I call it scumware) quite frequently monitors itself and if it is ended by your action here, it quite frequently will restart automatically within a few seconds. If not, it will probably restart the next time you restart your system.
So what is the point of TM? I use it as an indicator to me of the health of my system. When I finish rebuilding a new system and I haven't been on the Internet, I usually see about 22 processes. I personally don't concern myself until a fresh boot reveals about 30 or more processes. One thing to keep in mind on the number I say is about normal is that I haven't installed software that automatically prepares a few things in advance to be ready to run. Perhaps if you have a scanner or some photo editing software, etc., the number may be a little higher than I have given here. It would be helpful for you to observer - even do a screen shot like I did and save it in a word document or some application that allows you to paste screen shots into. That way you have a baseline to compare to down the road when things start seeming out of order.
Ok, now that I've given you some information about processes and task manager, let me give you some steps to try and improve your systems performance. If you have established an out of norm number of processes running, you need to reduce the amount down to a normal amount. My goal would be below 30 and below 25 would be super.
My first suggestions if your computer is at least running good enough to handle installing a a utilitiy, I would install a spyware detection and removal program if you don't already have one installed. If you do, definitely run it. Go ahead and let it do it's cleanup and than reboot your system and do another check on the number of processes to see if the count is down to near a normal amount. If not I would take a look to see if anything has been installed in the "Startup" folder of the All Users profile. You can browse to it using My Computer or Windows Explorer. Look at the path in the screenshot below. The All Users profile is in a folder named Documents and Settings. You get to the Startup Folder of All Users by drilling down through the subfolders shown below until you see it under the Programs list. It probably should be empty unless you have some special application that installed itself to start automatically. You should not have to have anything in the Startup folder. In other words, I'm saying it is safe to delete whatever is in this folder. If you want to be extra cautious, create a subfolder in the Startup folder. You could name it backup. Now move anything that is in the Startup folder to the subfolder you created. This in affect will remove it from being able to startup but still allow you to put it back where it was.
OK. We've run are Spyware removal program and we've emptied the Startup folder for All Users and rebooted. If you still have way too many processes running, prepare to take a hard shot of booze before the next step if your prone to be queasy at the possibility of taking out your computer. Just kidding, but seriously the next steps you should be cautious with. What you are going to do is open up an editor that allows you to do brain surgery on your operating system. If you delete or modify the wrong thing, you could make your system inoperable.
There is one precaution you could take before moving on past the 2nd screen below. You could back up the registry. To do so, you would go to the second screen and right click on My Computer than choose Export, a new window should open up and probably be My Documents, if it isn't either drill up or down until you get to My Documents. In the window there is a place for you to type in a name. I suggest something like "registry 11-29-05" using the date your doing it. After naming the file, click the save button. I may have not mentioned yet how to get to the first window below let alone the second one. You get to the first window simply by left clicking on the Start icon and picking "Run". Now key into the Open: line the word "regedit" and tan press OK. You should now find yourself at the second window. Each of these windows will look a whole lot like your in Windows Explorer browsing your hard drive. You aren't though. You windowing through the "registry". Each of the windows below have been sized. I hope you know how to do that. Size them for your own convenience and use the scroll bars as necessary to choose the right name to move down to each window respectfully. When you finally reach the destination of the last window you have reached a key place that has to do with booting or starting your computer. You will note mine is almost empty. As a matter of fact your computer would work just fine if there was no entries in this "Run" hive as they call these directories. When I get in a new machine that has had the OS installed I sometimes find this folder (hive) filled with stuff. Consumer PC's are notorious for having a bunch of junk starting up here that doesn't have to be. You may also see all sorts of cute icons down at the bottom right hand side of your screens desktop. Most of those don't need to be there are also an indicator of a lot of resources running that don't need to be. OK now that you're at the Run hive lets clean house. This is where most of the spyware that runs on your computer gets started running. This is also the one step that I want to tell you to be CAUTIOUS about. Make sure that only what I'm telling you to select is selected. Go to the left column called Name. Holding the control key down select every name on each row under in the Name column. When you have them all selected, press the delete key.
Now take a deep breath, you are now finished editing the registry. All you have to do next is select the X in the upper right hand corner and you will exit the registry. Your now ready for your second drink.
Go ahead and reboot the system now. I must warn you, that editing the Run hive of the registry is not going to remove all the spyware from running 100 percent of the time but it really knocks the heck out of most spyware. Some spyware is so demonic that it hides itself in memory and watches your every move and makes sure it puts everything right back into the registry the next time you boot. When this happens, I usually plan on rebuilding the computer if it is running too bad to continue with the spyware running.
One other step I like to take before I give up entirely is to go to the Control Panel and run the Add/Remove software. When you finally get your window up that lists most of the application that are installed on your computer, I look over the list and remove all the application that I know I don't need. This can be a little tricky for some people to discern but see if you can use some common sense here and find some obvious stuff that you aren't using. A lot of bad MOJO applications that eat up computer resources you will find with names that have "Search", "Hotbar", or some sort of "Toolbar" in the name. I can also suggest that if you have "Weatherbug" or something that is a real fancy desktop or screensaver, they can use up a lot of computing power. My suggestion is keep things pretty vanilla unless you have a super fast machine with memory to burn.
That's it for this first class. If you want me to create this file with a white background and black text for printing. I will gladly do so.
John K. Hotze