How to correctly disable unnecessary services in Windows

Updated: October 5, 2021

In general, I am opposed to system tweaking. I believe the operating systems ought to be left alone, because any divergence from the baseline can lead to unpredictable, untraceable issues much later on in the system's life. Tweak a service today, you experience an issue nine months later, and you have no idea why.

Alas, sometimes, tweaking is necessary, because many operating systems have horrible defaults. And in Windows, especially 10/11, things have become all too annoying. This means I need to disable various options, which previously never bothered me. On top of that, because Microsoft removed simple toggles for many of these annoying things, the only real solution is to disable these things completely, i.e. turn their services off. Let me show you how you should do this, in a persistent, correct manner. After me.

A bit more on why

I'm going to give you just a few small examples. Telemetry. No toggle to disable this through Settings. Defender anti-virus. You can turn real-time protection off, but it will still run in the background, still update, and still annoy you with notifications. For tech-savvy nerds, these are unnecessary annoyances. People who know what they're doing will not benefit whatsoever from having something like an anti-virus running, so why not just give them a simple option to disable what they don't want or need.

And so, as part of my essential tweaks for any Windows 10 installation, I go about pruning all sorts of extras that annoy me for no good reason. I don't want things starting with my operating system, I don't want things running at logon. If I need something, I'll run it. Simple.

Now, a wee warning

If you're not 100% confident and/or understand the implication of what each service does, then stop right now. Tweaking system services can be a good thing, but you can also very easily bork your machine if you just click on things randomly. Some services are truly critical for the system functionality. So, if you're not sure what gives, let the system be.

Disable services + recovery

Open the Service utility (services.msc) as an administrator. Better yet, launch it through ExecTI, so you have full control of all the services listed. As it happens, even if you're running as an administrator, some of the services cannot be easily disabled. Again, yet another unnecessary hurdle.

Services, running

First, identify the service that powers the "offending" functionality. This may not be always easy to trace. But again, if you are not sure, stop, walk away. Now, if you do, double-click on the service. In the general tab, click on Stop (otherwise the service will keep running until next reboot). Please note that force-stopping a service can cause erratic behavior in the affected application, or even the system stability. But in most cases, it should be okay. Next, expand the Startup type field, and change it to Disabled.

Disable service

Service stopped

Next, click on the Recovery tab. Depending on how the specific service logic is coded, and/or how the operating system treats the service, the operating system may attempt to restart the service, even if you've configured the Startup type to Disabled. Change the failures action to "Take No Action", and set the reset count to 0. This will make the system ignore the service failures, and will not attempt to start it.

Recovery

Recovery, no action

However, please note that this is still not a perfect guarantee that various services will not be restarted at some future point. For instance, I found out that Windows 10 semi-annual upgrades usually reset my services preferences to default. Then, for some services, there's "extra" recovery logic. In other words, there could be other services or system tasks that would try to restart or run a service, if they detect it's in the stopped or disabled state. I'm not going to comment on the philosophy of "your hardware, your rules" thing.

Scheduled tasks

Another thing to take into consideration are scheduled tasks. Windows has a huge list of preconfigured tasks, which periodically run and perform all manner of system maintenance duties. Some of these tasks may also include "healing" disabled services. To that end, you should also disable any task that affects the services you don't want to run anymore, to avoid services being restarted or activated without your knowledge and explicit desire.

Launch Task Scheduler. Then, in the left pane, expand the Task Scheduler Library. Here, you will need to find the relevant tasks. Typically, these will be under Microsoft > Windows. But please note that there could be other top-level categories, like say Mozilla, Google Chrome, and others. Locate the task you need.

Scheduled task

For each selected task, in the bottom of the middle pane, you will see what the task does - how and when it runs, the privileges, the trigger condition, the action, and other details. You do not need to bother with these in any great detail. But it's good to understand if and how the scheduled task may affect the service functionality, and vice versa.

If you want to disable a scheduled task, right-click on each task and click Disable. Do not delete the tasks, because at some point in the future, you may decide that you do want or need them. You can export the task, so if you ever need to import it, you can. The action for this are available in the right pane of the Task Scheduler. In general, it is always good to create a backup baseline before making any big system changes. A combination of system imaging and individual backups of options and settings (like task export) makes for a robust recovery option, if you ever need it.

Disabled task

Conclusion

There you go. As I said in the opening of this article, I don't like deviating much from the system baseline, as it can introduce complications and secondary problems later on. But with the deluge of low-IQ features and pure, almost petty annoyances in the more modern operating systems, and newer versions of Windows in particular, sometimes, I do have to tweak system services to keep my machines running quietly and efficiently.

If you have the same need, then you should a) understand what you want to do b) disable the relevant services c) change the recovery actions d) look at any scheduled tasks that may interfere with your desired state. The combo of these steps should give you the peace and quiet you seek. Well, that's about it for now. See you around, fellas.

Cheers.

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