Can stopping some Windows services really kill your computer?

Recently I downloaded the Autoruns program from Microsoft Sysinternals, a very powerful program which lists absolutely everything that starts when your PC boots up and allows you to disable or delete services or startups. The program comes with a dire warning that if you remove some services you will be unable to restart them, basically turning your PC into a brick. I hastily uninstalled the software. I had hoped to fiddle about and speed bootup times but this was way out of this dummy’s league.

But is it really true? Could stopping or deleting a service really have such dire consequences? Why couldn’t you simply restart them?

I can answer the last question. My technological expertise is too obsolete for the rest. If you stop the wrong ones I’d guess you can’t boot back up. If you can’t boot up you can’t undo what you did. Thus you now have an ugly paperweight. You’d probably need to re-install to fix it.

Depending on which services you shut off and the version of Windows, you still may be able to boot up in Safe Mode and undo the changes.

You might also be able to boot up from a Windows PE disk and fix the changes or even use System Restore to get things running again. Maybe.

If you want to speed up boot times, get a SSD (Solid State DisK).

and make sure you back up any personal files you don’t want lost/destroyed … before upgrading … and before configuring anything that could lead to disaster.

Stopping? Not likely. It would just start up again when the computer was rebooted. But deleting? Heck yes. There are some services needed for your computer. That said, any decent software like this won’t let you stop (as that would kill windows) or delete them. There’s just no point.

Windows is probably robust enough that if you delete a startup item it has a way to get it back during bootstrap if it’s missing unless you really screw up. You may have to explicitly boot into a recovery mode, however.

I wouldn’t, personally, test this however.

That said, any Microsoft-blessed program that lets you mess up with startup items generally marks things you shouldn’t mess with VERY CLEARLY for you. Probably with several warning dialog boxes saying “DON’T DO THIS, IDIOT. ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE?” if you try to turn off or delete the wrong one. You’re probably pretty safe.

Please note though, that the Sysinternals suite of utilities is a toolbox for IT pros, not a consumer product in any sense, and the user is expected to know what he or she is doing with them.

Yes, if you want to mess with startup programs as a user, I recommend either the startup tab on the task manager (ctrl+shift+esc) on Windows 8+, or msconfig on Windows 7 or below.

If you simply stop a service your PC may keep running or it may crash depending on which service. And as you say, a reboot will fix that.

If instead you configure an essential service to be disabled rather than the normal autostart on boot, now you’ve set a trap. The service will continue running until you stop it or reboot. But it won’t start on boot. And that’s how you can make Windows into a brick.

The brick is readily fixable with another computer and some IT-pro level registry manipulation skills. All things the OP lacks.

And no, in the many versions I’m familiar with there are no blocks in the built-in admin UI to prevent disabling an essential service.

Windows internals and its admin-level settings are just like what’s under the hood of your car. There is nothing to prevent you from opening your car hood, disconnecting then reconnecting different hoses & wires at random, loosening bolts and generally fiddling around. All in the name of “improving performance” of something you don’t understand even a little bit.

But when you try to drive your handiwork you’re going to be unhappy.

Echoing Jragon, the tool you want to use to manipulate system startup is the built-in tool msconfig.exe, which at least has some safeguards to prevent you from disabling/deleting core services and bricking your machine.

You can still cause quite a bit of havoc even with msconfig.exe, FYI. Don’t fiddle with Windows startup routines unless you know what you are doing.

YMMV, but for me “bricking” means getting the hardware into a state where it’s nonresponsive to the point of being unfixable without the manufacturer’s help, or at least without arcane, specialized knowledge. Certainly disabling essential Windows services may render your computer unable to boot into Windows, but that doesn’t mean that your computer itself no longer works. You can always pop in a Windows installation disk (or that of some other operating system) and reinstall, quite possibly preserving any data that may already be on the machine.

If you’re not an IT person then booting into alternative operating systems is pretty arcane, specialized knowledge.

Yes, you can brick your Windows. Don’t ask me how I know. :rolleyes:

I beg to differ; pretty much every modern graphical OS is simple to install and use. But using something other than Windows isn’t even required in the OP’s case. Doing a system repair/reinstall from the Windows installation medium would fix the problem. That’s why I wouldn’t call it bricking.

I’ve looked at various services that start up automatically using tools like Autoruns and try to limit them.

The big headache is trying to figure out what each one does and if it’s needed. Googling on the service leads to pages that pretty much all say:

“FooBar is a service that is part of Windows. Don’t disable FooBar if you need to run any program that relies on it.”

Which is really, really super helpful.:dubious:

Okay, dipsticks, what is FooBar (the names are almost never helpful) and what does it actually do???

E.g., do I need the telephony service or not? Don’t use the PC as a phone but …

If anyone knows a site that actually gives real information about these services, I (and maybe the OP) would appreciate knowing about it.

And since there are dozens of these little beasts starting up, a simple menu interface would be a bonus.

I think you vastly overestimate the savvy of the average PC user. Having said that, the average PC user isn’t fannying about with the startup process in the first place.

And I think you’re underestimating it. I’ve personally observed several people with little or no prior experience using computers whatsoever pop in an OS installation disc (whether it’s Windows or some flavour of GNU/Linux) and successfully complete the installation process unaided. All such processes have sensible installation defaults so there is literally nothing specialized that needs to be done other than clicking on a “Next” button a few times, waiting for several minutes, and then possibly entering a username and password. That is sufficient to recover a system from the kind of soft “bricking” the OP is talking about. Whether or not the user now has a system they are comfortable using is a different question; the only point I was trying to make is that it’s not bricked.

Agree with **psychonaut **that “brick” is too strong a term for “hardware good; OS won’t boot.” I contributed to the problem upthread by using it that way. I was trying to maintain consistency with earlier posters to reduce confusion & IMO that was a goof.

I also agree that there are the huge numbers of users who buy their PCs from Walmart, etc. These people have never seen an install disk or install dialog in their lives. For them “OS won’t start” is exactly equal to “need to drag it to a shop for somebody else to fix.” Not because they couldn’t operate an install disk if someone handed them one. Rather because their troubleshooting skills don’t extend far enough to know that’s what they need or how to get one.

The slowly gathering movement away from PCs towards tablets & phones and away from Windows to Mac & Android / Chromebook are all about further insulating the user from any need for knowledge beyond “hit on/off switch and use it.”

Excluding the ever-growing cadre in the IT industry, whatever the percentage of “knowledgeable power users” is among the public today, it’ll be half that in 10 years.

I’ve used Should I Remove It? in the past and found it helpful.

Naughty naughty, LSLGuy. This is precisely how we have loosed the scourge of advertisers using the word “backslash” for forward slashes in URLs. Surely a company spending millions of dollars on radio ads can hire a kid for $20 to look over the ad copy and correct their misdeeds, so I must conclude they make these mistakes intentionally. To “maintain consistency”. Or perhaps there is some of “hey we learned a new term so let’s use it as much as possible to sound hip”.

This is no doubt also how “the cloud” to some folks came to mean “any location that is not on this device, even if it’s a machine in my own darn basement”.