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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.

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.

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 with.

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?

Article C5933 - October 18, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?


October 19, 2012 1:53 PM

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.

October 19, 2012 9:36 PM

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.

November 4, 2012 9:30 PM

@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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