Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Windows XP is a complex and highly configurable operating system. The minimum set of processes it needs will vary depending on many things.

I'm looking for a place that has a list of system processes which are needed and which aren't.

It seems I give this answer all too often.

The answer I keep giving?

"It depends."

The processes that are needed to run windows depend entirely on the specifics of your machine, and what you do with it. What's a minimum set for me will probably not work for you, and vice versa.

The software that's running on your machine comes from several different places including:

  • The Windows operating system itself.
  • System "services", some of which are optional, some of which are not, all depending on your machine and needs.
  • Programs that start automatically at start up. Again, some of which are optional, some of which are not, all depending on your machine and needs.

An additional confusion is that what kind of software goes in which of those places isn't clear. Hardware drivers and support software can be either embedded in Windows, a service, or a separate start-up application. Applications and utilities can be implemented as Windows Services, or as programs that run at startup, or as programs you run manually.

It all depends, and it's all very confusing.

So my approach to winnowing down what runs on my machine is this:

  • Right-click My Computer, click Manage, expand Services and Applications, click on Services, and then click on the Status column header to sort all the "Started" services together. Now for each, I either turn off those I know I can, or I visit this XP Service List to try and learn whether or not I really need the service and act accordingly.
  • Run a startup monitoring utility like autoruns from sysinternals and examine each of the items listed as being started automatically when the machine boots or when I log in. There are several that I know I can turn off, but for others I don't recognized, Startup Applications List is a handy reference with close to 7500 definitions.

Finally, another good resource is our old friend Google. Quite frequently, for any process that you find running on your machine, a quick Google search on the name of the process or filename will give you information about what the process is, and whether or not it's required.

Article C2310 - March 20, 2005 « »

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?

January 8, 2006 6:02 PM

You can run XP with 2 processes.
No printing, no audio, no GUI (3 processes with GUI), but the majority of thigns work. You can browse the web, play games,(well, some games)
THats not including the system idle process, either.
All you *NEED* are System and crss.exe

March 28, 2007 7:58 PM

Can you give me a set list of system critcal task, eg, explorer.exe

Leo Notenboom
March 29, 2007 7:07 PM

Hash: SHA1

It depends on how you use your machine. Read the article - that's exactly what
it attempts to answer.

Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


August 31, 2008 6:12 PM

but whats the bare minimum, regardless of what you may be doing? whats the most efficient?

September 12, 2008 7:45 PM

Why hasn;t anyone answered this question? IT simply states... whaich procexxex etc need to be on? Which don't? (If theses aren't running, windows won't run,) Which processes HAVE to be on? I would also like to know. Thanx much.

Because there is no answer. It differs based on your computer, your hardware, the software you may or may not have installed, and even your personal preferences. There is no one single answer. Sorry.


September 13, 2008 4:03 PM

OK, ok... so I can "end prcess," "yes," on... explorer.exe in task manager and Windows should stay up and running? Thanx again.

It "should". But you shouldn't have to end explorer.exe unless there's some kind of problem you're trying to resolve an dof course that problem could have other side effects as well. Also note that if Windows is working properly, explorer.exe will automatically be restarted if you end it.


billy bob
January 9, 2009 9:05 PM

9 out of 10 xp setups will definatley need this lot as a minimum to operate:

* System Idle Process
* explorer.exe
* taskmgr.exe
* spoolsv.exe
* lsass.exe
* csrss.exe
* smss.exe
* winlogon.exe
* svchost.exe - There will be a few of these.
* services.exe

check this website for more detail:

March 26, 2009 5:57 AM

Ok . I will give you an example . xp with a wampp server , what are the minimum services needed .

April 4, 2009 5:02 AM

if i can remove unwanted process from my machine
could my system get good performance ?

Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on the specifics of your machine and situation.
- Leo

April 18, 2009 2:59 AM

i have a(?) application that won't run any more
after i disabled some(?) services and made some(?) manual start. why? i'm an idiot, but i digress.

questions is, how do i get back to a last known good state? are there recovery points?

or, is there some way to find out what service(s) an application needs that it doesn't have so it can run?

May 30, 2009 9:05 AM

The list given by billy bob works great for me! I can cut my processes from 70 odd down to about 28 and my laptop still works fine. Infact, it works GREAT. I can still play games and use the internet, aswell as media player and all the essential office programs. It definately seemed to solve the speed problems I've been experiencing recently, although its a bloody pain to have to do it every time I start my computer up!

June 23, 2009 9:28 AM

Maybe one way to isolate the details of the computer in question would be to boot into SAFE mode (plain, with internet, or command window - all of which require different services) and see what is listsed in the Task Manager.

That might give you some "minimum" list to start with.

August 11, 2009 3:51 PM

billy bob wrote:
"Ok . I will give you an example . xp with a wampp server , what are the minimum services needed ."

Even the most experienced techs wont give you an answer because truthfully they don't know!
You needed to ask this in a hardcore gaming forum.

Plug and Play - AUTOMATIC
Remote Procedure Call (RPC) - AUTOMATIC
Windows Audio - AUTOMATIC

DHCP Client - AUTOMATIC (unless you set static ip)
Server - AUTOMATIC (access to network drives)
Workstation - AUTOMATIC (access to network drives. Access network machines by "\\remote ip" only.)

March 18, 2010 4:02 PM

The best answer I saw is Billy Bob's.

No one wants to hear it depends on this or that. They want an answer.

Sure it depends on drivers for now piece of hardware ..etc.. But that doesn't answer the question, to any ones satisfaction.

Minimal. Minus network, plus network.. MINIMAL would be no network.

MINIMAL _IS_ going to be specific to each hardware setup. True. then you need the drivers for those items. Are they included, wither within XP or something that runs separately.. In either case, you will want what you need.

"What is the absolute minimal requirements, independent of hardware specifics, for windows XP to run?"

Perhaps that is a better question to be asking.

Anyone asking the question in the first place, should have some idea of what their particular hardware requirements are, and to be able to sort that out themselves.
Yeah, I know.. not everyone does.

There was another answer that included.. or didn't include.. themes, and audio.. That is a closer answer.

Answering with any network requirements will bring the "IS hardware dependant" But then so are some HDDs. And so are CPUs. If you want to get really picky.

Once the "minimum" is installed. Individuals can begin adding their minimum required items. SCSI.. PRINTER.. DVD.. audio and or video codecs.. etc.
This eventually give them their individual answers.

There should be a base minimum requirement, and from there, individuals basically customize their XP install.

Now where to search for THAT information.. That is a start to answering the first question.

March 18, 2010 4:07 PM

( I should note Which reply I was refering to: Posted by: billy bob at January 9, 2009 9:05 PM )

The one just above mine, with "/MINIMUM" is also reasonable, but not the one I referred to, however it does present 2 ideas in 1 reply. the 'minimum, and the minimum + network.

(TYPO in my reply.. NO where.. should be NOW where..) Can't edit. :/ :) )

Michael Thomas
October 7, 2011 11:33 AM


Depends on what you define as a "system" process, but in general, no. Re-read the article - it's not nearly as simple as that. Sorry.


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