imnuts' Blog
Random stuff from my mind…

Odd Processes in Vista

This was brought about when a few beta testers were chatting. As more and more people install the beta, it is likely going to be more and more noticed, but this has been somewhat unmentioned thus far. Vista, when compared to previous versions of Windows, has a ton of processes by default. Many of them look like the same old things, just different as they are updated for Vista. The thing is, there are tons of processes by default. Where Windows XP would have maybe 40 running processes after installation, Vista has closer to 60. There are some reasons for this that can be explained, and there are also unknown reasons why there is so much stuff running after installation. However, we can look at the stuff that is running and see what the reasons may be for them.

The first thing one may notice is that there are a lot more svchost.exe processes running by default when compared to Windows XP. This is likely due to the increased security and the hope for better stability in Vista. Now, you may be wondering how running 2-3 times more stuff makes it more stable or more secure. Well, the reason for this is that under XP, each svchost.exe process accounted for several different services within Windows. Many times, there were critical system services running under the same processes as other, not very important services, and there were also large groupings of tasks for each process. This has changed in Windows Vista though. The individual tasks that svchost.exe is taking care of are now much more distributed and split up more evenly now. Critical services also do not appear to be “bundled” with as many other services under one process, if the process is running multiple things at all. This makes things more stable as it prevents a bunch of stuff from stopping if one service has an issue. It also makes things more secure for about the same reason, as any security issues in a given service prevent access to as many other services.

There are also other services and processes that are new and are really unknown as to why they are running. Some of these are probably not going to be used at all by many users, but they start up anyway. They also seem to start up prior to having anything run that they are associated with. The most notable of these are two services/processes started for Windows Media Player. Both of the services deal with networking, and are possibly from the network sharing feature that is in WMP11. The problem is, there is no easy to find way to actually disable these, and they also startup without notification. While many users probably will never notice this with the PCs that are likely to ship with Windows Vista, during the beta with testing, the extra resources that these unknown and unnecessary services take up slow down the computer.

There is another service that is possibly needed, but likely not, that is the “Trusted Installer” service. This service is obviously for installing things, but, it is started before anything is even installed by the user. So, apparently, something is installing in the background, as there isn’t any real apparent need for this service to be running otherwise. There are similar services, which may have some sort of functionality, but there is no indication that they should be running immediately after installation. Overall, there is a lot of stuff that just sort of runs for you. I’m guessing that it’s trying to get more out of Vista with less user intervention, so that things are already running when the end user attempts to run them. That would provide faster startup of the item since it would not have to wait for the service to start. The problem is, that if the user never actually uses what these background services are there for, it’s actually defeating the purpose. If the program the service(s) are there for are never used or run, then they just sit there consuming system resources with no purpose.

So, who is really configuring this system for performance? If it were me, I would have the system start only basic things upon first startup. After this, there should be something to remember what is used and what isn’t. If something isn’t used, then it should remain off. If something is used, it should be started. If it is not used after a certain period of time (1-2 weeks) then it should be set as off again. There shouldn’t be any reason that Windows Media Player services are running on initial boot, especially when I haven’t even opened WMP yet. Why should something running when I haven’t even used it?

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