Close programs running in the background in Windows

How do I reduce the number of programs that run in the background in Windows?

Closing programs running in the background on your computer can free up system resources for your other programs. This can resolve problems where your system is running slowly or two programs are trying to use the same device. It can also help you determine if there is a conflict with third-party software that's running on your system.

Solution 1: Temporarily disable background programs (short version).

Right-click the program's icon in the system tray (next to the clock), and choose Close, Exit, or Disable.

Solution 2: Temporarily disable background programs on Windows from Task Manager.

The Windows Task Manager can close programs that the system tray cannot.

Warning: If you use the End Process feature to close a program, you will lose any unsaved data in that program. Avoid ending system processes if possible, and be cautious when terminating system processes: you may disable necessary components of your system. You may need to restart your computer to restore full functionality.

If you are unfamiliar with the listed processes, follow these rules:

- Do not end EXPLORER.EXE, or anything with SYSTEM, SYSTRAY, or SERVICE in its user name.
- If you are unsure what a process does, do not end it.

If you end a required process by mistake, restart your computer, and the system should re-enable it.

If you are still having memory or device problems, try the following steps:
1. Press and hold the CTRL and ALT keys, and then press the DELETE key. The Windows Security window appears.
2. From the Windows Security window, click Task Manager or Start Task Manager. The Windows Task Manager opens.
3. From the Windows Task Manager, open the Applications tab. From the Applications tab, highlight each application you want to close and then click End Task.
4. Now open the Processes tab. For each program you want to close, highlight it/click it once and then click End Process. Do not close System or EXPLORER.EXE.

Not sure which programs are causing the conflict?

1. Click the Windows Start button, then click Run.
2. Type MSCONFIG, then click OK. The System Configuration Utility window opens.
3. Click the Startup tab.

When you see the list of programs that automatically launch when Windows starts, look at the check boxes next to each program: a check in the box means to start the program, and an empty box means you do NOT want the program to start with Windows. You can experiment with unchecking some boxes and restarting your computer until you pinpoint the problem.

Solution 3: Restart your computer in Selective Startup.

Selective Startup disables third-party security software such as firewalls and anti-virus software. For added protection, you could disconnect your computer from the Internet while you perform this test (either turn off your modem or disconnect the network cable). Additionally, running in selective startup may cause you to lose your Internet connection. Returning your computer to its Normal Startup mode should allow you to connect to the Internet again.

We do not recommend leaving your computer in selective startup, because this can render portions of your security software or other applications unavailable. Once you have determined which program is causing the problem, you should check the program's documentation or help site to see if the program can be configured to avoid the conflict.

These steps are only for troubleshooting issues you may be having. After determining if a background program is causing the problem, we recommend running the System Configuration Utility again and selecting Normal Startup.

Windows 7 / 8/ 10:

1. Click the Windows button (used to be the Start button).
2. In the space provided at the bottom type in "Run" then click on the search icon.
3. Select Run under Programs.
4. Type MSCONFIG, then click OK. The System Configuration Utility window opens.
5. Check the box for Selective Startup.
6. Click OK.
7. Uncheck Load Startup Items.
8. Click Apply, then Close.
9. Restart your computer.

Windows Vista:

1. Click the Windows button (used to be the Start button).
2. Search for MSCONFIG.
3. Double-click MSCONFIG.EXE.
4. From the General tab, check Selective Startup.
5. Uncheck Load Startup Items.
6. Click Apply, then Close.
7. Restart your computer.

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