Running Processes Revisited


You (recently wrote) that running processes should be low in Windows XP’s Task Manager or you got a problem. I see it just the opposite. Here's why: No matter how much physical RAM you add to a computer, Windows is going to use it. Windows is going to keep a lot of processes there for quick access so the computer can run faster. Therefore, the more processes, the faster your computer is going to run.

- James


This question was answered on September 29, 2005. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

It’s clear that you have a good understanding of how RAM is used by Windows, but you completely left out the reality of how Windows works in total.

Your analogy is like focusing on a automobile transmission’s gears without any credence put into the engine that is powering it, the rear axle, the size of the wheels and tires and many other real world considerations that determine the actual performance of the car.

When we refer to processes in Windows XP, not only does it impact how and when RAM is used, but it also greatly impacts processor (or CPU) performance which makes a big difference in what the user experiences.

Your analogy would be correct if the running processes were not taking any resources other than RAM, but that just isn’t how things work in Windows.

The majority of systems that are connected to the Internet are clogged up with hidden programs like adware, spyware, Trojans, worms and viruses that can show up as running processes in Windows XP.

For those that are not aware of the Task Manager in Windows XP, you can access it by clicking on Start/Run then typing in ‘taskmgr’ and clicking on OK.

When the Task Manager window opens, a report on how many processes are currently running will be displayed in the bottom left corner.

It is best to check this with no other programs running and preferably after a fresh start The more processes you have running the more items Windows (and your processor) are juggling at the same time.

There is no question about the relationship that the number of processes running has on the performance of a Windows based system Everything from how long it takes for your computer to boot-up to how the system responds when asked to run programs will improve noticeably if you keep the number of running tasks to a minimum.

The actual impact that each running process has on performance can vary dramatically and can be deduced by going to the “Processes” tab and sorting the items by the CPU column (click on the CPU heading twice to sort the items by highest CPU usage).

The main point of using the running processes as a measuring stick is to illuminate one the most common reasons users experience slow or sluggish performance on their computer, especially over time.

Not only will undesirable processes eat up processor cycles and steal valuable resources in Windows, it can also reduce your Internet speeds because they are communicating in the background to their various collection points.

The inevitable questions that arise from this discussion of “how do I know what each process does” and “how do I get rid of them” are much harder questions to answer.

If you are fairly technical, there are a plethora of resources available on the Internet that can provide some guidance including the ones we recently discussed on our radio show (, otherwise you will need to seek the help of someone technical.

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on September 29, 2005