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A customer once asked me "Is there any free software that allows me to see and disable unwanted programs running in the background?"
Probably, but I know something better than free software for this job: software that comes with Windows. All current versions of Windows come with a tool to help you trim back what's running at the moment. The look, behavior, and feel of this tool changed drastically (and for the better) with Windows 8. I'll cover Windows 7 and Windows 8 here, but the Windows 7 directions should work reasonably well with XP and Vista. The tool is called Task Manager. To open it, right-click the taskbar and selecting Task Manager or Start >Task Manager, depending on your version of Windows.
In the Windows 7 version, the Applications tab displays currently-running applications. But what's the difference between an application and a program? In this context, an application is a program with its own window--either visible on the desktop or minimized to the taskbar. For instance, your browser, if it's running, is an application and is listed here. Your antivirus program won't show up in this list until you double-click the tiny icon in the notification area and bring up the window.
All applications can be closed from within the application--you just click the X in the upper-right corner. But if that doesn't work, you can use the End Task button on Task Manager's Applications tab. But if Windows is overloaded, the problem is probably not applications, but processes--threads of code running in the background. So click the Processes tab. As I write this, the Task Manager tells me that I'm running three applications, but 134 processes--16 just for Chrome.
Windows 7 Task Manager Processes
The Processes tab is laid out as a table, and like most Windows tables, you can sort it by clicking the column headings. Click Image Name, and you alphabetize the processes. Click CPU, and you can see which processes are hogging the processor (most aren't). Click Memory, and you'll see which ones are hogging RAM. To stop a process, click the End Process button, and confirm that that's what you really want to do.
The Windows 8 version behaves much the same way. The window is better designed and easier to read, and there are a few important differences.
First of all, there's no Applications tab. But you'll see both applications and Metro/Modern Interface apps listed at the top of the Processes tab.
This layout allows you to see programs and processes together. Windows places icons next to the processes to help you figure out what program launched them.
Windows 8 Task Manager
But you might notice that the Processes tab lacks a Description column--a seemingly serious deficiency if you're trying to figure out what a process does. But there's a solution. Right-click the process you're wondering about and select Go to details. This will take you to the Details tab, where the Description column now lives. It will also take you to the same process, so you don't have to look for it again.
A lot of problems can keep a computer from booting Windows (or any other operating system). Fortunately, you can get a pretty good idea by noting how and when the PC fails. If you press the power button and nothing happens, you've got a very different problem than if the PC starts but Windows never loads.
Let's take a look at some of the possibilities.
If absolutely nothing happens when you press the power button, you almost certainly have a power problem. Electricity is not getting to the PC.
Unplug the power cord. Examine it for breaks or other damage. If you find damage, you know what to replace. Otherwise, plug everything back in, make sure all of the plugs are firmly in their sockets, and try again. (If the power cord is a laptop AC adaptor, check the connections between the different pieces.)
If it still doesn't work, plug something else—like a lamp—into the same socket. That will tell you if there's a problem with the surge protector or the electric outlet. If your surge protector or power strip is under your desk, check to make sure a wandering toe didn't turn it off.
If the cord appears to be fine and the socket works, try replacing the power cord or, in a laptop, the AC adapter. You may have to buy one specific to your model.
The problem could be with the power supply. If nothing else fixes the problem, consider replacing that. Desktop power supplies are usually cheap and easy to replace yourself.
That's not the case with laptops. Unless you're a very skilled technician, I recommend paying a professional to do the job.
If the PC starts, but fails before Windows can load, go into your PC's setup program, make sure that the hard drive is recognized and in the boot sequence. I went into details about this task only last month.
You might also consider booting with a live Linux disc or flash drive to see if you can access the contents of the drive.
One of the pains of Windows is how long it takes for an older PC to start up. Sometimes this can be caused by hardware problems like a faulty hard drive, but more often than not the culprits are all those programs trying to activate at boot.
As you install more programs on your system, you inevitably end up with more apps that want to insert themselves into your PC’s startup routine.
Some of those operations are critical and shouldn’t be turned off such as antivirus, but many are really unnecessary. I suppose it’s nice to have Google Now alerts and Hangouts on your desktop at boot, but I think I can wait until I turn on Chrome to find out the latest World Cup scores or chat with friends.
Before Windows 8.1, figuring out which programs were causing start-up problems was not as easy as it should’ve been. That’s why programs that promise to speed up your boot times—like CCleaner and Soluto—have flourished.
In Windows 8.1, life is much simpler thanks to a new addition to the Task Manager.
Here’s how to maximize your startup time and find out which programs are slowing you down in Windows 8.1.
Don’t worry, Windows 7 users: There’s a way for you to trim your startup bloat as well.
Microsoft built into the Windows 8.1 Task Manager a fantastically easy way to check your Startup programs. Hit Control-Alt+Delete on your keyboard and then on the next screen select Task Manager with your mouse.
Now you’ll be kicked back to the desktop. Inside the Task Manager window click on theStartup tab. Next you’ll see a list of programs that turn on when you boot up your desktop.
What we want to focus on is the Startup impact column and those with a rating of “High.” These are the programs we’ll want to consider disabling at startup.
Keep in mind that any programs you disable have to be manually started later on if you want to use them. An antivirus program will inevitably have a high rating, but it would be unwise to disable it at startup since you want it scanning your PC all the time.
Don’t worry, you’ll have no trouble finding programs to dump. For myself, I went after BitTorrent Sync, which is a great program, but I don’t use it enough to justify always having it on. BlueStacks, which lets you run Android apps on Windows, is also an unnecessary item for me at startup.
Other programs that felt my wrath were Google Chrome, Google Music Manager, and MP3 Skype Recorder. Once you’re finished with the “high” impact programs, you can also take a look at the ones with “medium” impact to ferret out other startup offenders.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which programs get dumped at startup. As a general guide, don’t disable stuff that works in the background, comes from a component maker like Intel or your PC manufacturer, or is a mission critical app such as antivirus.
The first thing a Windows 7 user should do is click Start > Startup and see what’s there. This folder houses all the third-party apps that activate at start-up. If you see anything you don’t want right-click it and select Delete.
Another option is to get a window similar to what Windows 8.1 users see via the Windows System Configuration Utility. The name alone sounds scary, so if you are not comfortable with this step, don’t sweat it. Just download a program like the ones mentioned at the top of this post to clean up your PC for you.
For those brave enough to sally forth, click Start > Run and type msconfig in the box that appears. Once the configuration utility starts up look under the Startup tab.
Unlike Windows 8.1, Windows 7’s approach is far less friendly to look at and doesn’t include any helpful startup impact information. This is really a window for more advanced users. However, if you find programs like Google Chrome, QuickTime, and Skype in the list, feel free to disable those by unchecking the box next to their names.
One thing I would not recommend disabling if you often connect an Apple device with your PC is Apple’s “iTunes Helper.” If you disable this, it won’t turn on by itself and can lead to hassles every time you want to sync a device with iTunes.
It can take a few minutes to figure out which programs should be disabled on your PC. If you take the time, the benefit of shaving those few extra seconds off your boot time is worth it.
We are very excited to have finally launched our new website after a few months in development! You’ll see things are looking pretty spiffy around here and it’s all been completely re-coded from the ground up. Head on over to www.GreenMountainGeek.com and check it out. Let me know what you think! Below is an updated list of solutions we can provide to you or your business.
Facebook may boast 1.28 billion monthly active users, but the social network isn’t for everyone. Maybe you don’t find it all that useful, or you’ve received one too many FarmVille requests. Or perhaps the June 2014 disclosure that the company messed with users’ News Feeds as part of a research experiment proved to be the final straw (even if monkeying with News Feeds is what Facebook does all the time). Whatever the reason, you’ve had it with Facebook.
So how do you make a clean break? You’ve got two choices—deactivating your Facebook account or deleting it outright.
Deactivate your account
Click the downward arrow to access the Settings menu in Facebook. From there, you can deactivate or delete your account.
Deactivating your Facebook account puts it on hiatus: Your profile will be removed from the site, as will most of what you posted to Facebook (though messages and other things will stick around), but Facebook will retain your data in case you decide to come back. You can always reactivate your account later by logging in to Facebook.
To deactivate your account, log in to Facebook, and select the settings menu in the upper-right corner (represented by a downward arrow icon). Choose Settings from the menu, and then on the next screen select Security from the list along the left side of the window.
Once there, click Deactivate your account toward the bottom of the page. Facebook will try to guilt you into staying by showing you photos of your Facebook friends, and then ask you why you want to deactivate your account. Once you tell Facebook why you don’t want to be friends anymore, click the Confirm button, enter your password one last time, and Facebook will proceed to deactivate your account.
Kill your account altogether
Deleting your account, on the other hand, kills it completely: You won’t be able to log back in to retrieve or view anything you’ve posted to Facebook, and if you want to use Facebook again, you’ll have to start from scratch. Facebook recommends that you download a copy of the data you’ve published to the site before you delete your account. Open the Settings menu on Facebook while logged in to your account by clicking the downward arrow icon. Next, select Settings, and on the General Account Settings page, look for Download a copy of your Facebook data and click the link. The service will then guide you through the process of downloading an archive of all your Facebook data.
The company doesn’t make it immediately obvious as to how to delete your Facebook account, but to do so, log in to Facebook with your account, and then visit Facebook’s account deletion form to carry out the process.
Keep in mind that once your Facebook account is gone, it’s gone, so you should delete your account only if you’re really, really sure that you won’t use Facebook again.
Microsoft’s Windows OS could play a crucial rule in returning worldwide PC shipments to modest growth next year after multiple years of decline, Gartner said on Monday.
PC shipments could reach around 317 million in 2015, increasing from 308 million units expected to ship this year, the research firm said in a study. Shipments this year are expected to decline by 2.9 percent compared to 2013, which is lower than previous yearly declines.
The “revival” of the PC market will be driven by upgrades of old business PCs with Windows XP, which are no longer supported by Microsoft, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. He estimates that roughly 60 million PCs will be upgraded this year.
Businesses are largely upgrading to Windows 7 and avoiding Windows 8, which is viewed more as a tablet OS. Microsoft could release a new OS sometime next year, which could supplant Windows 7 as the OS of choice for businesses. However, it takes time for companies to test and deploy PC OSes, as happened with Windows 7, which took more than a year to find a foothold in businesses.
Counting PCs, tablets and smartphones, Gartner said overall shipments of computing devices are expected to reach 2.4 billion units this year, increasing by 4.2 percent compared to the previous year. Shipments will further increase to 2.6 billion units in 2015.
Tablets in the passing laneAfter the first iPad shipped in 2010, tablets were increasingly adopted as alternative computing devices to PCs. Gartner is projecting tablet shipments to increase to 256 million this year, up from 207 million last year. Tablet shipments will reach 321 million in 2015, overtaking PCs, Gartner said.
Tablets will get cheaper and more functional, Atwal said, adding that these trends will continue to drive adoption in the coming years.
Worldwide mobile phone shipments will be 1.86 billion units this year, rising by 3.1 percent compared to the previous year, Gartner said. The worldwide growth will continue in 2015, with shipments totaling 1.95 billion units.
Android will continue to be the dominant OS across devices, according to Gartner. The OS will be installed in 1.17 billion devices shipped this year, an increase of 30 percent. Apple’s iOS will receive a boost from the new iPhone due later this year, and the company’s iOS and Mac OSes will be in 271 million devices shipped this year, increasing by 15 percent compared to the previous year. Microsoft’s Windows desktop OS and Phone OS will be in 333 million devices shipped this year, rising slowly from 326 million the previous year.
But Windows will be in 373.7 million devices shipped in 2015, overtaking the combined shipments of Apple’s iOS and Mac OS, which will be in 301.4 million devices, Gartner said. Android will remain the dominant OS, installed in 1.37 billion devices shipped next year.