I see about 59 processes in the Task Manager. Many of these slow my PC down, but which ones do I need?
Bring up Windows' Task Manager (hit Ctrl-Shift-Esc), click its Processes tab, then click the Image Name header to sort these programs by their file names.
After noting which of these things bear recognizable identifiers (say, "iexplore" for Internet Explorer), jot down all the others' names. Some Web sites (see, for example, www.processlibrary.com) catalogue common applications' file names. Consulting these sites may suffice to clarify what's active on your PC.
If that doesn't work, use the Start Menu's Search command to locate each application on your hard drive. The folder in which a program file resides can reveal its full name or its developer's; if you recognize either as trustworthy, leave it alone.
You can also get more details about a program from within this search window: Right-click on the file, select Properties, then click on the Version tab to see its name, developer and other possibly relevant aspects.
(Yes, a decade after Win 95 supposedly banished eight-character file names, we still have to slog through this kind of detective work to decipher meaningless monikers like "nvsvc32.exe." Pathetic, no?)
Once you've identified the unneeded processes, you can stop them from running in two ways. First, delete them from the Startup folder, which you'll see under the Start Menu's All Programs listing: Float the mouse over the suspect program's name, right-click and select Delete.
Second, use Microsoft's System Configuration Utility to police what applications load when your machine boots up: Select "Run . . ." from the Start Menu, type "msconfig" and click its Startup tab.
If those don't work, you may have a spyware problem. Use an anti-spyware utility such as AdAware (www.lavasoftusa.com) or SpyBot Search & Destroy (www.spybot.info) to clean your PC of these unwanted guests.
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.