Tag Archives: services

Google Shortcuts – Access Google Services With One Click From Firefox and Chrome

Despite my personal view that Google trashes personal privacy rights, I continue to use a fairly large number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Reader, Maps, Calendar, and so on.

Until now, I’ve used my Bookmarks menu in Firefox to access these services, since this method is very convenient. But, when I came across the Google Shortcuts extension for Firefox, all that changed.

An  add-on that can display over 100 Google services as buttons next to the address bar, or in a one-click popup menu, is a sure fire winner with me. And Google Shortcuts for Firefox, or Chrome, can do that – and more.

Adding this extension to either Firefox, or Chrome, is accomplished in the usual manner that most of us are familiar with (you’ll find the download links at the end of this article).

Following installation, I jumped right in – setting up the extension to best serve my particular needs.

For the moment, I’ve placed my most commonly used Google services as buttons beside the address bar in Firefox, as the following screen capture indicates.

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Alternatively, I had the option of using a dropdown menu instead, as I’ve done here, for illustrative purposes.

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The number of services available is really astonishing. In fact, there are services listed here that I was completely unaware of.

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Additional control options are available on the advanced options setting screen.

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Requirements: Firefox 2.0a1 – 4.0b4, or Chrome

Download at: Mozilla or Google Chrome Extensions

For super convenience, this is one of the better Firefox add-ons I’ve come across – I highly recommend it.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google Chrome, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Free Runscanner – HijackThis On Steroids!

imageIf you’re a malware hunter, and you’re in the market for a free system utility which will scan your system for running programs, autostart locations, drivers, services and hijack points, then Runscanner should make your shortlist.

The developers of Runscanner describe this freeware utility as having been designed to “detect changes and misconfigurations in your system caused by spyware, viruses, or human error.”

Sounds a bit like HijackThis, the free utility from Trend Micro, which has a well deserved reputation for being aggressive in tracking down unauthorized changes that have been made to your system/applications.

Runscanner though, takes this process miles beyond HijackThis, and does so by  using an intuitive approach that casual users*, and experienced users alike, should find easy to work with.

*The only difficulty I see, that casual users might have a problem with is – the enormous volume of information this application is capable of producing. This could make it difficult for a casual user to interpret results.

Runscanner is a simple executable, and no installation is required. Just click on the file, and then choose your mode – beginner or expert.

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The following screen capture shows the results of a full scan I ran on a Win 7 (32 bit), machine. The only entry I was unfamiliar with was Staropen.sys. Runscanner was right on the job though, with the right click context menu providing access to “lookup” services, as the screen shot below illustrates.

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I took a look at Staropen.sys using a Google link to the Prevx file investigation site, and found the following: The filename Staropen.sys is used by objects that are classified as safe. It has not yet been seen to be associated with malicious software.

I then uploaded the file to VirusTotal (another context menu option),and VirusTotal reported the following – as shown in the screen shot below.

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I suspected that this system driver was a component of CDBurner XP, and opening the location (another context menu option), then reading the driver with NotePad, indicated this was correct.

The next part of the test involved generating an online malware analysis report, which generates a massive report on all items which are considered safe, unsafe, whitelisted and additionally, verification of each file’s digital signature.

The screen capture below shows only a tiny (and I do mean tiny), portion of this report. The report is the most comprehensive of any I’ve ever seen, produced by this type of utility.

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Fast facts:

100+ start/hijack locations

Online malware analysis

Import and export of .run files

Powerful process killer

Save to text log file

Powerful file filtering

Host file editor

History backup / restore

Explorer jump

Analysis of file certificates

Beginner, Expert mode

Bit9 FileAdvisor MD5 lookup

Systemlookup.com lookup

Upload file to VirusTotal

Analyze loaded modules

Google lookup

Runscanner database lookup

Regedit jump

If you are a casual user, one caveat from the developer you should be aware of: Runscanner requires advanced knowledge about Windows. If you delete an item, without knowing what it is, it can lead to major Windows problems. If you are not sure what to delete, post your Run file to a helper forum.

A list of helper forums is available directly from within the application, or here.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 (according to the developers, the application is x 64 compatible).

Download at: Download.com

Public process list is an additional service provided by the developers. In this list you will be able to browse all processes and files found by Runscanner. Extra information for top processes is added to the database and optional security info is provided by research.

Runscanner has additional capabilities not reviewed here, so I recommend that you take a close look at this freebie. I think you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Optimize Windows Services with A Free Services Optimizer

image Windows is a terrific operating system – no doubt about it (some will argue otherwise). Windows meets all my computing needs, as it does yours, I expect. The chances of my computing needs and your computing needs being the same however, are remote.

But, Windows doesn’t differentiate between your needs, and my needs. On installation, the OS assumes we both have the same needs (including security needs), and configures services accordingly.

Running with fewer services though, especially a service that you don’t use, or need, puts less strain on both the CPU and system memory. In some cases, reducing the number of running services can often turn a sluggish PC around. So, tweaking services can often be good practice.

Examples of services I’ve tweaked on this machine:

I don’t have a printer attached to this particular machine I’m using this morning, so I don’t need the spooler service running.

I don’t run a Tablet PC so I don’t need the Tablet PC Input service running.

The Fax service is disabled since I don’t use Fax.

I don’t allow any remote access to this machine so any services dealing with remote access are disabled. I can’t imaging allowing remote access to my registry so, “allowing remote users to change my registry settings” (on this machine), is disabled.

Tweaking services however is not without its hazards. For example, if a particular service is disabled, any other service/services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start.

Adjusting a service setting incorrectly, has the potential to leave a computer in an unbootable condition. I know – I’ve managed to do just that, a time or two, over the years.

Recently, an open source (free), application that promises to allow a user to tweak Windows services in a safe and easy way, caught my attention. Vista Services Optimizer, a Windows tweaking utility, which despite its name, has been optimized to run in Windows 7 as well, makes good on this promise.

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Even a casual user, with a few mouse clicks, can easily optimize Windows services to increase performance and security, automatically.

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A more experienced user gets a little more leeway, and can manually tweak using a more in-depth feature list.

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Very experienced users can tweak to their heart’s content, with the built-in Services Manager.

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In case your tweaking goes a step too far, recovery is just a mouse click away by simply using the built-in Smart Rescue Center.

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Fast facts:

System analysis highlights services that can be turned off

Automatic tune-up based on user’s system requirements

Restore function to restore to system defaults

Profile building

Automatic service state snapshots

Gaming mode

I don’t think it could be any easier to tweak Windows services than this. All the user needs to do is tick the appropriate check boxes, and the Services Optimizer takes care of the rest.

System requirements: Windows Vista with SP1 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit), Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1

Last updated: July 15, 2010

Download at: Smart PC Utilities

For those who need a portable version, you’re in luck – a portable version is available. However, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1, must be resident on the host machine.

Note: During the install, you will have the option of installing a toolbar – don’t!

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

Free Cerberus Security Guard 3.7 – Increase PC Security/Change System Settings

Every running service on your computer can be an unnecessary security vulnerability. If a service is not required for authorized users and system functionality, it may well be to your advantage to turn it off.

If you’re a Techie, or a highly skilled computer user, it’s very likely that you have the knowledge and skill to make adjustments to virtually all of your operating system manually, using the Services option of Administrative Tools to attain maximum performance.

But a novice, casual, or even an intermediate computer user, will often need a software tool to help determine which services and system components can be safely modified.

Fortunately, there are a number of free tools available that will help any computer user, novice or not, to determine which services or system components can be safely modified.

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Cerberus Security Guard, a free application from Best Security Tips, will allow a user to increase system security by disabling or optimizing selected services and system components from a central console. As well, modifications can be made to the operations of Internet Explorer, FireFox/Mozilla, and Media Player.

Since adjusting service settings incorrectly has the potential to create some rather nasty problems, the program offers both a Backup and a Restore function.

An additional advantage in optimizing services and system components is it can often lead to improvements in system performance and boot time; although it’s fair to say that in the Tech community there is some disagreement as to whether this is an accurate statement.

If you decide to install this small application you can determine for yourself if you’ve had an improvement in system performance.

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There were a number of things on installation that bothered me – I don’t like applications that configure themselves to auto start on boot; this one did. Since I have WinPatrol installed, it was easy to disallow auto start.

Finally, this is one more application that offers to install a so called “Security Toolbar” – automatic rejection.

Quick facts:

Manage Windows security and privacy settings

Central console to make adjustments

Modify Internet Explorer, FireFox/Mozilla, and Media Player

Backup and Restore function

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Microsoft .NET Framework

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System Security, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Free A-squared HijackFree – Another Brick in Your Antimalware Wall

image There are plenty of good anti-malware products, but experienced computer users’ realize that to ensure maximum safety, it’s important to have layered defenses in the ongoing fight against malware.

A recent study carried out by PandaLabs of more than 1.5 million users, revealed that 23% of home computers with up-to-date security solution installed were infected by malware. Current data indicates that this situation has not improved.

If you are an experienced/advanced computer user, and you’re looking for a program to strengthen your anti-malware resources, then A-squared HiJackFree is one that’s worth taking a look at.

This free application, from EMSI Software, offers a potent layer of additional protection to add to your major anti-malware programs.

The program operates as a detailed system analysis tool that can help you in the detection and removal of Hijackers, Spyware, Adware, Trojans, Worms, and other malware.

It doesn’t offer live protection but instead, it examines your system, determines if it’s been infected, and then allows you to wipe out the malware.

a-squared-hijackfree

Fast facts:

Analyzes the system configuration using live online analysis

Manages all types of Autoruns on your system

Controls all Explorer and Browser plug-ins (BHOs, Toolbars, etc.)

Manages all running Processes and their associated modules

Controls all Services, even those Windows doesn’t display

Allows you to view open ports and the associated listening processes

Allows you to view all DNS entries in the hosts file

Manages installed Layered Service Providers

Multilingual – language packs for English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and many more.

This is a worthwhile application to add to your anti-malware toolbox, if you are an experienced user.

Note: A-squared HiJackFree is free for private use only.

System Requirements: Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Win 7, Server 2008. No indication of x64 compatibility.

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Manual Malware Removal, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Security Process Explorer – Checks Security Risk

Security Process Explorer, from the developer’s of the powerful, free system tool Glary Utilities, operates as an security tool, and provides advanced risk information on processes, running on your computer.

The program displays specific task manager information, (this application is not a replacement for Windows task manager), including file name, directory path, description, CPU usage, and so on. What sets the application apart, is the unique security risk rating that is applied to running processes.

Security process explorer new 1

The major caveat here however is, the user must make the decision whether a particular process, or program, should be terminated, or removed. Thankfully, you can get help in making that decision by clicking on the More Info Tab. Doing so, opens GlarySoft’s web based database where additional information about the specific program/process can be obtained, along with a risk factor for that inquiry, as the following graphic illustrates.

Security process explorer new 2

Note: As an added bonus you can even Google the process from within the application.

Using Security Process Explorer you can easily find and remove unnecessary background processes. As well, you can assign more resources to demanding processes like games, real-time multimedia applications and CD writing software, where necessary.

Quick facts:

Provides detailed information about all running processes

Specifies whether a process is safe or not

Single click process termination

Block unneeded processes or malware

Simple user interface

If you are an experienced/advanced computer user, and you’re looking for a program to strengthen your anti-malware resources, then Security Process Explorer is one that’s worth taking a look at.

I should point out however, that I found Windows 7 process information to be less than I expected.

System requirements: Windows 7, 2000, XP and Vista (32bit and 64bit).

Download at: GlarySoft

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Manage Win 7 and Vista Services With Free Vista Services Optimizer

Reducing the number of running services can often turn a sluggish PC around. There’s no magic to it. Running with fewer services, especially a service that you don’t use, or need, puts less strain on both the CPU and system memory.

Tweaking services however is not without its hazards. For example, if a particular service is disabled, any other service/services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start. Worse, adjusting a service setting incorrectly has the potential to leave a computer in an unbootable condition. I know – I’ve managed to do just that, a time or two, over the years.

Recently, a free application that promises to allow a user to tweak Windows services in a safe and easy way, caught my attention. Vista Services Optimizer, an open source Windows tweaking utility, which despite its name has been optimized to run in Windows 7, makes good on this promise.

Vista Services Optimizer 1

The casual user with a few mouse clicks can easily optimize Windows services to increase performance and security, automatically. A more experienced user gets a little more leeway, and can manually tweak using a more in-depth feature list. In case your tweaking goes a step too far, recovery is just a mouse click away by simply using the built in Smart Rescue Center.

I don’t think it could be any easier to tweak Windows services than this. All the user needs to do is tick the appropriate check boxes, and Vista Services Optimizer takes care of the rest.

Vista Services Optimizer 4

Vista Services Optimizer 2

Fast facts:

System analysis highlights services that can be turned off

Automatic tune-up based on user’s system requirements

Profile building

Automatic service state snapshots

Gaming mode

Tweak your Windows services in an easy, automatic and safe way based on how you use your computer without requiring any technical knowledge.

Control Windows services in an easy, safe and advanced way without getting involved with Windows services names and dependencies.

Manual TuneUp

Services Diagnostics

Smart Rescue Center can restore default Windows services configurations in case of any problems using Services Snapshots

System requirements: Windows Vista with SP1 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit), Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1

Download at: Smart PC Utilities

For those who need a portable tweaker you’re in luck – a portable version is available. However, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1, must be resident on the host machine.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

Anvir Task Manager – Portable and Free

Popular guest writer Rick Robinette, is more than a little enthusiastic about Anvir Task Manager Free; a task manager with an insane list of options and features that gives you full control of your computer.

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I love playing around with the various task managers and this one is no exception. As a matter of fact, I put Anvir Task Manager into the exceptional category for task managers.

If you dare to try this task manager, I encourage you to download the portable version that requires no installation. Simply download [ link ] AnVir Task Manager Free Portable, unzip the archive and run.

What I find interesting about this task manager is that it it like finding easter eggs. In conjunction with the normal monitoring features you find in a task manager (such as Startup, Applications, Processes, Services, etc…), AnVir has some hidden features such as a tweaker that gives you access to hundreds of Windows XP and Vista settings.

Another feature for example; Anvir Task Manager, when running in the background, places (3)-three small buttons adjacent to the minimize, restore and close button at the top right corner any window you have open.

One button allows you to minimize the window to the system tray, another allows you to pin the window so that it stays on top and another minimizes the window to a square floating icon on your desktop. Another easter egg buried in this task manager is the ability to generate a HiJackThisPro log that can be used for online troubleshooting assistance.

Anvir Task Manager, when running will place a couple icons in your system tray. One icon readily gives you your CPU Usage and Processes; and another icon readily gives you a drive listing, disk load of each drive and free space on each drive. If you “right mouse click” on either of the icons, you can preview a list of most recently launched programs.

An option to definitely explore is that you can “Check any file with AntiViruses on Virus Total” which is handy when you need to analyze a suspicious file. Analysis of suspicious files can be quickly accomplished when troubleshooting file sources in the startup, processes and services areas.

For a complete feature list (see below). Anvir Task Manager is available in a FREE edition and several paid editions (Task Manager, Task Manager Pro, Security Suite). Click [ here ] to compare the various editions. For everyday use, the AnVir Task Manager Free Portable Edition should be sufficient to meet your diagnostic needs.  Overall this app is my choice task manager.

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Features of the FREE edition:

Basic Security analysis of processes, startup programs and Windows services

Startup monitor: alerts on new startups, block undesired startup programs

Check files on VirusTotal.com with 30+ antivirus engines

Startup manager: manage all programs running on startup including services and Internet Explorer toolbars

Save HijackThis log with additional info

Tweaker that gives direct access to hundreds of XP / Vista settings including settings that cannot be accessed in Windows at all without editing the registry directly

Drive’s free space as a colored horizontal bar in Windows “My Computer” (Vista style icons on Windows XP)

Click on title of any application:

  • hide window to system tray
  • make window semi-transparent
  • pin window ‘always on top’
  • change window size to 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768
  • change priority of the process

List of recently used folders in “Open”/”Save” dialogs

Minimize windows to system tray and save taskbar space

Quick access to last launched programs and last opened folders in system tray

Monitor processes, services, Internet connections, CPU, disk, memory, DLLs, drivers,locked files, windows

Icons and tooltips in tray for CPU, memory, network, disk load, HDD temperature, and battery

Find locked files and DLL

Log of processes start and stop

Graph of processor, memory and disk activity for each process and for computer

Compatible with all popular antivirus, complement antivirus software or make it unnecessary

Can replace Windows Task Manager

Can run as portable application

This is a guest post by Rick Robinette, who brings a background as a security/police officer professional, and as an information technology specialist to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Rick’s site at What’s On My PC. Like me, you’re sure to become a frequent visitor.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Manual Malware Removal, Software, System Process Scanners, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Look Under the Hood of Your PC with What’s Running

Regular readers are going to start thinking that along with my addiction to wine, women, and song, I must be addicted to writing reviews on Windows Task Manager replacements.

This review is a little different though, since I’ve written it with the casual computer users’ needs in mind, rather than the more experienced user I usually focus on. But, I promise, this will be the last one for some time.

If you are a new or a casual computer user, What’s Running is a free application that can help you easily find what is actually running on your computer. It presents a number of views, in a tabbed format, and each one relates to what’s really running on your machine.

Helpful definitions:

Let’s start with processes; the most basic concept – every program you start, or is started by the operating system, is a process. In the process view you can see all the processes easily.

Services are background tasks – keep in mind that a process can contain many services.

The modules are actual files with code and other data, that a process needs. Each process contains at least one loaded module.

Drivers are small programs loaded by the system, to handle hardware and specific system tasks.

IP connections are connections that your computer needs to make in order to send and receive data from the Internet.

Process View:

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Services View:

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Modules View:

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Internet Connections View:

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Startup View:

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Fast facts:

Processes – Inspect your processes and find all the relevant details that you need. Get performance and resource usage data such as memory usage, processor usage and handles. As well, you get details about what dll:s are loaded, what services are running within the process, and what IP connections each process has.

IP Connections – Find out information about all active IP connections in the system. Get a list of what remote connections each program has, and find out what applications are listening for connections.

Services – Inspect what services are running or stopped and  find the process for your services and inspect its properties easily.

Modules – Find information about all dll:s and exe:s in use in your system. For each module you can find all processes that have loaded the module. Also you can find the full path and immediately open the folder where the file is located.

Drivers – Find information about all drivers. For running drivers you can inspect the file version to find the supplier of the driver.

Startup – Manage all your startup programs. Disable, edit, delete, etc. Manage startup programs regardless of source (registry or Startup folder).

If you are a new or casual computer user, What’s Running is a terrific application that will help you become familiar with your computer; what drives it, and in an overall sense – how it works.

Once you become familiar with your machine, you can then start taking action, including stopping and starting processes and services, and preventing unwanted programs from running on startup.

Experienced users know, that applications such as What’s Running can be used as an aid in tracking down malware infections. As a new, or casual user, it won’t take long before you have the ability to do the same thing, once you learn to harness the power of What’s Running.

System requirements: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7

USB compatible: During the install process, you have the option of a minimum install to a Flash Drive.

Download at: Major Geeks

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Software, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows Task Manager Replacement, Windows Tips and Tools

Optimize Win 7 and Vista Services With Vista Services Optimizer

One of the most popular articles on this site is – “Speedup Your PC – Turn Off Unnecessary Services in XP”. It’s no wonder really – reducing the number of running services can often turn a sluggish PC around.

There’s no magic to it. Running with fewer services, especially a service that you don’t use, or need, puts less strain on both the CPU and system memory.

Tweaking services however is not without its hazards. For example, if a particular service is disabled, any other service/services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start. Worse, adjusting a service setting incorrectly has the potential to leave a computer in an unbootable condition. I know – I’ve managed to do just that, a time or two, over the years.

Recently, a free application that promises to allow a user to tweak Windows services in a safe and easy way, caught my attention. Vista Services Optimizer, an open source Windows tweaking utility, which despite its name has been optimized to run in Windows 7, makes good on this promise.

Vista Services Optimizer 1

The casual user with a few mouse clicks can easily optimize Windows services to increase performance and security, automatically. A more experienced user gets a little more leeway, and can manually tweak using a more in-depth feature list. In case your tweaking goes a step too far, recovery is just a mouse click away by simply using the built in Smart Rescue Center.

I don’t think it could be any easier to tweak Windows services than this. All the user needs to do is tick the appropriate check boxes, and Vista Services Optimizer takes care of the rest.

Vista Services Optimizer 4

Vista Services Optimizer 2

Fast facts:

System analysis highlights services that can be turned off

Automatic tune-up based on user’s system requirements

Restore function to restore to system defaults

Profile building

Automatic service state snapshots

Gaming mode

System requirements: Windows Vista with SP1 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 7 Beta build 7000 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit), Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1

Download at: Download.com

For those who need a portable tweaker you’re in luck – a portable version is available. However, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1, must be resident on the host machine.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Portable Applications, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista