Essential Processes needed to run Windows

When repairing a PC by either trying to shutdown a virus, trying to remove adware/spyware/malware or just trying to get a speed increase you need to shut down processes that run in the background. It is often nessessary to know the bare minimum processes which Windows needs to operate and it is sometimes difficult to know which ones are which, here is a list of the essential processes that Windows needs to run correctly.

  • System Idle Process
  • explorer.exe
  • taskmgr.exe
  • spoolsv.exe
  • lsass.exe
  • csrss.exe
  • smss.exe
  • winlogon.exe
  • svchost.exe – (There will be a few of these)
  • services.exe

By shutting down anything other than these processes, stand alone Windows should operate fine, however if any of these processes are shutdown, Windows will start to become unstable or unusable.

On most computers there will be multiple instances of svchost.exe, these control various connections on your computer wether its to the internet or within a lan. It is usually safe to switch off some of these however its not easy to determine which ones operate what so its best to leave these alone. In regards to Windows 98 and Windows ME, you can shut down everything except Explorer and SysTray to keep it running.

To shutdown a Windows process, Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, Goto the Processes Tab, Select a process and click End Process.

If you are not sure what a certain process does, then I recommend Wintasks which is a library that lists what each task does, its threat level and makes it easy to determine what is running on your (or your clients computer).

Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
More articles by me...
Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (14)

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  • Michael says:

    Thank you soooooooo much, this has been annoying me for ages even to the point of deleting anything I don’t know I should be running at risk to my computer. Kinda dumb I know but how else is one to learn? This has saved me some time.

  • Chris says:

    You can shut down explorer.exe I did only thing that hapens is your start menu disappears. If you want to get it back just re run explorer.exe.

    Had to do it a couple of times cause a virus attached itself to explorer.

  • Phil says:

    You can shutdown spoolsv.exe if you are not running a Printer.
    You will need to go into services to disable this permanently.

  • molotov says:

    explorer.exe is not required. It may be replaced with another shell, such as litestep or bb4win. Without explorer.exe you may still run programs from the command line.

  • Bryce W says:

    Oooh, interesting resource Molotov, I’ll have to play around with those shells sometime.

  • Andrew L. says:

    A couple of notes:

    As has been mentioned, you can kill explorer.exe or replace it with a custom shell. (Killing explorer.exe will kill you desktop and start menu)

    taskmgr.exe is not required. It’s the Task Manager; it only runs when you’re looking at the running processes. It’s not required at all.

    spoolsv.exe (also as mentioned) can be killed if you don’t need to print anything.

  • Ted H. says:

    What do you do when a Trojan and/or malware program(s) have cut you off from Task manager and regedit?

  • vigge_sWe says:

    spoolsv.exe – not required
    taskmgr.exe – not required
    explorer.exe – not required – just no taskbar or folders, there are replacements for the taskbar, ie rocketdock

  • KennyM says:

    BEWARE!Apparently there is a virus, AntiVirusPro 2009 . Anyway, this attached itself to ALL my svchost(S) and made iexplorer.exe . IT can also be deleted. And if anyone knows how to get rid of this rogue antivirus, i would like to be emailed at

  • jamal says:


  • jamal says:

    and spoolsv.exe is need to run explorer.exe

  • Meena says:

    spoolsv.exe is not necessary it is never opened in my process explorer or task manager. if it is . then i close it and it doesn’t affect the computer

  • Phaoloo says:

    Thank you for listing these files, just notice the svchost.exe and don’t know what it is before.