The performance of a PC is often degraded by numerous small programs and services running in the background. Such programs consume considerable system resources, and may serve no purpose on a WATCHOUT display computer. You can enhance performance by identifying and removing, or disabling, such programs.
Identifying Background Programs
To identify any unwanted background applications or services:
- Close all open windows.
- Under Windows 10; open the Control Panel and click “Administrative Tools” then double-click “System Information.”
- Under Windows 7; click Start, type “System Information” and press Enter.
- Select “Software Environment, Running Tasks” in the list to the left (see illustration below).
The list to the right displays all currently running programs. Look specifically for tasks whose path is anything but “c:\windows\system...”. To see which programs are started automatically, choose “Software Environment, Startup Programs” in the list to the left.
HINT: The names listed in the Running Tasks and Startup Programs lists are often cryptic, and may be hard to associate with a particular program. In this case, looking at the path leading to the program’s file can provide a valuable hint. In particular, if the program is installed under “c:\Program Files\...”, you should be able to learn more by looking inside its installation folder.
Removing Background Programs
Once you have identified any undesired background programs, you should either remove or disable them. If you know you won’t need a background program, remove it from the computer.
To remove a program, open the “Programs and Features” control panel, choose the program, and click “Uninstall”. Follow the subsequent instructions on how to remove or uninstall the program.
If you’re uncertain about removing the program, or if the program doesn’t appear in the “Programs and Features” control panel, you may choose to disable it instead. This can sometimes be done with configuration options in the program itself. Other programs don’t offer this capability, forcing you to either uninstall the program or disable it using other means.
Background programs often identify themselves by an icon on the taskbar, in the lower right corner of the screen. Right-click such an icon to open its menu. Sometimes the menu includes a “Disable”, “Close” or “Do Not Load” item. It may include “Open”, “Configure” or “Properties” items that allow you to set various options, including the automatic loading of the program at start-up. After disabling a program in this way, restart the computer to verify that the program is no longer active. Some programs only allow you to disable them temporarily, and will then load again the next time you start the computer.
Another way to locate and disable startup programs is by using the Windows Task Manager (Windows 10):
- Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete.
- Select “Task Manager”.
- Click the “Startup” tab.
- Locate undesired startup items and disable those by right-clicking and choosing “Disable”.
NOTE: Under Windows 7, the “msconfig” utility can perform similar functions.
Most background activities are not run as regular programs, but as System Services. To view system services:
- Right-click Start and click Control Panel > Administrative Tools.
- Double-click Services.
- Sort by “Status” to see all Running services together.
This list provides detailed information on each service. Select a service in the list for a description. There are numerous services, many of which are not needed on a computer dedicated to running WATCHOUT display software. Not all services are running – only those listed as “Started”. To disable a service, double-click it and set its “Startup Type” to Disabled.
For more information on what the various services do, and which ones you may disable (or set to “Manual”), visit one of the many web sites dedicated to tweaking Windows for better performance.
Disabling Automatic Updates
While keeping your computer up-to-date with the latest system software version is generally a good idea, it may not apply to your display computers. Windows 10 will automatically download and install new system software in the background (assuming it has Internet access), which may interfere with show playback, display on-screen prompts, or similar. In many versions of Windows 10, this feature can not be easily disabled.
One way to avoid automatic updates is to make sure your WATCHOUT system doesn’t have Internet access. That’s often a good idea anyway to make sure nothing from outside interferes with your presentation. When that’s not possible, you can prevent automatic updates by disabling the Windows System Service responsible for this functionality:
- Proceed as described above under “System Services”.
- Locate the service named “Windows Update”.
- Right-click the service and chose Properties.
- Set “Startup Type” to Disabled.
Keep in mind that once disabled, your computer will no longer receive any updates. You may want to occasionally reset this setting to its default value and re-start your computer with Internet access to allow it to update if you’re concerned with keeping the operating system up-to-date.
For more details on this topic, read:
Using an SSD
Whenever possible, choose an SSD, or other high-performance solid-state storage solution, for storing your WATCHOUT show data on each display computer. This avoids the problem of disk fragmentation, and provides much faster access to the media files. This is particularly important when driving multiple displays, or when playing image sequences or other lossless video formats.