Sandy from Chicago writes:

Hi, I was going thru the ‘Computer 101’ area yesterday and learned about msconfig and taskmgr. I opened the msconfig and taskmgr and am confused. My question is….Under the Processes tab is I have at least 50 things listed. How do I know what each one is? Is there a way I can look them up individually so I know what it is before I decide if I want it there or not? Also, when I click on a line and attempt to ‘end process’ I get a pop up that asks if I really want to do this because it may screw with my computer. Do I really want to do that? Thanks, Sandy

You are right to be cautious here. After all, you could close a critical system file and crash a program or shut down your computer unexpectedly. On the other hand, it is good to know what you need, and what you don’t, in order for your computer to run as efficiently as possible. So, here’s how to do just that.

You can search the web for the name of each process, and filter through the results to find the answer you need, or you could skip the hard work and go straight to an online process database like ProcessLibrary.org to get direct access to the information you want.

Let’s run through an example together to show you how this works. I’ve identified a process on my PC that I don’t know, and I am wondering what it is and whether I should kill it or not. The process is called nvvsvc.exe. Here’s what to do.

1. Navigate to processlibrary.org and enter nvvsvc.exe into the search box.

search for a process at processlibrary.org

2. Click on the result that most closely matches the one you entered, being sure that you typed the process correctly with no typos.

search results for processlibrary.org

3. Read through the information box at the top of the page that identifies the process. In this case I can see that it is related to the driver for my NVIDIA video card.

processlibrary information box for nvvsvc.exe

4. Because it is an NVIDIA process and related to the running of my video card, I may feel fairly confident that this process is not doing any harm, but if I am concerned, I can scroll down further and read more about this particular process and the impact it might be having on my computer.

more information on nvvsvc.exe

5. This one looks okay, but if I still felt like I wanted to kill this process, I now have the information on hand to help me with that decision and can safely end this process if I need to.

End process

As always, you should exercise caution when killing processes from the Task Manager interface just to be sure that you are closing things that you don’t need. You should also make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date and running regular scans to help cut down on the number of malicious or masquerading processes you might find. However, following the procedure above with something like ProcessLibrary.org is a great way to spring clean your computer when it appears to be running slower than it should.

~ Jonathan Wylie