3 August 2021

What's Your Computer Doing In The Background?

A lot can escape our notice when it’s not right in front of us. And in terms of
everyday tech, your computer does a very good job of updating and patching and running critical processes without clueing you in. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you probably wouldn’t see anything amiss either! 

But why is this a worry? Technology is constantly running on a network, and if you want a working PC, you need to let it do what it needs to, right? Indeed, there are a lot of processes your computer undergoes throughout your time using it. These processes usually run in the background, and often in a power saving mode, to prevent your use of the PC from being interrupted. 

However, when it comes to having too many processes going on, or if your computer is being much slower than ever before, it could be a sign that something is going wrong without you knowing. And it’s important to know how to take charge in these situations; here are the things you need to do if you’re worried about what your PC is getting up to. 

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Check with Task Manager

The first thing to do, to make sure you’re aware of just how many processes are running at once, is to open up Task Manager and click the ‘More Details’ button at the bottom of the window. 

You’ll be able to see a ‘Background Processes’ section once you do, which will show you what’s running, how much CPU and memory power it’s taking up, and you’ll be able to close something down if need be. 

You’ll also see a list of more tabs at the top of the window as well, and it can be hard to understand what they do from first glance. However, here’s an in depth guide as to what they mean, and what kind of programs are running within the categories. 

Learn How to Use Computer Management

No, this isn’t just learning how to manage your computer overall! There’s actually an application that comes built in (if you’re using a Windows computer) called ‘Computer Management’. Many people don’t know of its existence, but it’s been around since Windows XP, and it can be an incredibly helpful tool. 

Computer Management allows you access to many admin tools, as well as detailed logs indicating how well your computer is running, and you can also manage disks, devices, and services from this window as well. All in all, it’s a great clean up and monitoring tool, and you should absolutely know how to use it! 

To open it up, you can search for it in your Start Menu. You can also press the Windows and X key together, and choose the option from the menu that appears. From within this window, you’ll have to navigate to the points you’re looking for, and you can find an easy and detailed breakdown of doing so right here

Delete What’s Taking Up Disk Space

A lack of disk space is an ongoing issue in the world of computers. Of course, storage devices are getting smaller, while also being able to store larger amounts of data, but that doesn’t mean your computer will never have any trouble! Every so often it’s a good idea to check on your disk space, as well as your computer’s total RAM, and ensure there’s a bit of space for everything you have installed. 

And a lack of storage on your PC can make it run into some major issues, and having too many processes running while you’ve only got 125MB available is going to slow things down by a mile. Similarly, you won’t be able to open multiple apps, or even internet tabs, at the same time, and you won’t be able to save anything else to your hard drive. 

But what can you do? If you’re on Mac, you can check out this link for more in depth advice for clearing out your computer. But if you’re a Windows user, there’s quite a few things possible here. 

Best of all, if you’ve been through your files and can’t remove any more, manually increase your space using external hard drives or USB storage sticks. If your critical data is stored elsewhere, it won’t be much trouble to have things running in the background! 

Scan for a Virus

We all know just how bad a virus can be for our PC systems; they can worm their way in via a number of routes, and cause havoc in the background and turn your computer into a shell of what it used to be. However, it’s not all cause for alarm - it’s actually quite unlikely you have a virus running somewhere on your PC, but you do need to know how to spot one, and what it might be doing to your background processes. 

If your computer is suddenly slow, and there’s no other explanation (such as low storage, or limited bandwidth if you use a metered internet connection), it could be the sign of a virus. Similarly, take a listen to your computer - does it sound like it’s running fast and for absolutely no reason? Is it hot to the touch? Both potential signs your computer is infected! And of course, if you have problems opening apps, or you notice new apps that you don’t remember downloading, you could have a virus present. 

To either confirm or lay your suspicions to rest, be sure to run a scan using whatever antivirus software you’ve got installed. All antivirus software should be able to spot malware, ransomware, simple viruses, and even rootkits (be sure to check if that’s enabled), and then either remove or ‘quarantine’ such programs for you. 

Once again, you may be able to use Task Manager (on Windows) to check for malicious processes - simply right click and choose the ‘search online’ option for information. On Mac, your Gatekeeper application should be able to hold any malicious software ‘at the gate’ for later reference. 

Know What Background Processes are Normal

Finally, it’s a good idea to know what background processes are normal for your PC and what aren’t. However, finding this out can be hard; all PCs run a little differently, and are used differently, and that means different processes are going to run in the background. 

Unless you know what you’re doing when it comes to computers, and you’re up to date on the latest software and hardware, you’ll probably just take a look at your ‘Background Processes’ list and stare at it totally confused! 

But on average, most people tend to find between 60 and 150 processes running in the background of their PC, but it can also be normal to have less or more. Don’t worry if you’re experiencing a great many - you only need to worry if they’re taking up too much space, and slowing down your computer. At that point, follow the steps above to clear your drive, and ensure that your PC has not been compromised by any of your activity, or even someone else’s. 

How Well Do You Know Your PC? 

Your computer is doing a lot in the background, and it’s usually nothing to worry about! However, sometimes the processes that run automatically can be too much to handle, and can even be malicious in nature, so it’s a good idea to always keep an eye. And with built in management tools, it won’t be hard to consistently monitor how your PC is performing. 

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