What's Running Unseen On Your PC?

Hidden processes could be slowing down your computer
March 2011
by Robin Wark

One of the greatest advantages of a modern computer is that it can accomplish a great number of tasks at once. However, having too many things going on at the same time can turn your PC into a snail. You can keep track of the programs you launch and use, but others – which start and run unseen – could be slowing you down.

A computer program is defined as a collection of instructions. Processes are the actual carrying out of these instructions. In order for the processes to be active, they need resources from your computer's Central Processing Unit (CPU). If too many processes are running, things get very slow.

Common Unwanted Processes

A way to boost your PC's speed and performance is to stop various unneeded processes. This doesn't mean deleting anything, just controlling when the processes are run. Common processes that you might want to end include:

  • Hkcmd.exe

    Part of drivers for Intel 81x graphics chips which allows you to define hotkey combinations to change video resolution. Not a needed feature for many users.

  • Igfxpers.exe

    Provides access to the Intel graphics control panel, through a System Tray icon. It uses up a lot of system and memory resources.

  • Rthdcpl.exe

    This offers access to the Realtek High Definition Audio Control Panel. The control panel can be accessed when needed rather than having this process running in the background.

  • Msmsgs.exe

    It allows instant messaging (IM) via MSN. If you are not using it, you should shut it off to save resources.

  • Reader_sl.exe

    This "Speed Launcher" helps Adobe Reader load faster when needed. However, it is not needed for the application to run right and it takes up resources.

  • Qttask.exe

    Allows you to launch Quick Time from the System Tray. It uses up to 750KB, so if you don't need it, turn it off.

  • SearchSettings.exe

    This process is considered to be malware and has been known to hijack your search toolbar and to install adware.

  • VistaDrive.exe

    This has been identified as malware and removal is recommended.

  • Rlvknlg.exe

    Known to track your online purchases as well as re-route your web surfing.

Not counting malicious programs, unwanted processes commit two main offences. One is being included in your Startup items and the other is that they run in the background.

Startup items
The default for many programs is that they are set to launch when you start your computer. The problem is that you likely don't need most of them when you are starting your session. By launching when you first boot up, they use resources that could be better utilized by system processes and other programs you need. As well, they cause slow startup times. However, some programs should launch at startup – an example being your anti-virus solution.

Background Processes
Many programs have processes that run in the background. This means that they are behind the scenes and operate without user interaction. For example, some monitor your software to ensure it is up-to-date. While these processes can be handy, many can negatively impact speed and performance.

Removing Processes
As mentioned before, by eliminating unneeded processes you can improve your computer's operation. There are different ways you can stop these processes.

The simplest way is to use software that makes it easy for you. For example, ParetoLogic PC Health Advisor (free scan) can tackle both unwanted Startup items and background processes. After launching PC Health Advisor, click on the Optimize tab and select Startup manager. It will display a list of items set to launch every time you turn on your machine. You can disable a program, such as the ones under the "Unwanted Items" category, by unchecking the box.

Also under Optimize, you can click on Process Manager to see what is currently running. By using the handy symbols near the top of the application window, you can see which processes you might want to stop. To do so, you can right click on a process and select "End Process" or select one and then click on the "End Process" button.

You can also do these tasks manually. For example, you can remove programs from your Startup items by going to their program settings or using Microsoft's System Configuration utility. To tackle background processes, you can use the Windows Task Manager, which can be accessed by pressing ctrl+alt+delete.

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