There are several different ways to disable a program and stop it from running, depending on whether you want it to be permanently disabled or not. Unless you are totally sure that the program is spyware or a virus, it is a good idea to first try temporarily disabling the program to see what will happen when the program is disabled. PC Pitstop's test results often include specific instructions to disable programs in the color-coded running programs list, so check there first before trying the procedures listed here.
Usually, a program runs "in the background" so that it can provide some sort of service while you are using the computer. For example, it may support special function keys on the keyboard, or interface to a scanner. Other programs are spyware or adware, and are designed mainly to benefit the companies that wrote the program--not you. (For more information see our spyware and Gator information centers.) Each program that runs consumes some computer resources such as system memory, and may also consume CPU time. This can reduce the performance of the PC, so it is best to run only the programs you really need.
The best way is to look at your PC Pitstop test results in the Details page. There is a color-coded list of the programs that are running. If you click on an entry, it will usually tell you more about what the program does, why you need it (or don't need it), and how to disable it. If PC Pitstop has no specific information, the page provides links to web sites that may provide more detail, and a link to a Google search for the program.
Windows 95/98/Me: Press Ctrl-Alt-Del and select the program you want to stop from the list of running programs. The name on this list will usually match the file name without the extension. Click the End Task button to stop the program.
Windows NT/2000/XP: Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up Task Manager. Click the Processes tab and select the program you want to stop from the list. Click the End Process button to stop the program.
If the program has been automatically configured to start, it will start the next time you boot your computer. This is a good way to see if a program is really needed. Stop the program using the method above, then use the computer for a few hours. If you do not see any negative effects or loss of functionality, then you can probably disable the program permanently.
The best way to permanently stop a program from running is to uninstall it. Click Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs. Find the name of the program you want to remove on the list and select it. Then click the Add/Remove button. Some programs, particularly spyware and adware, may not completely remove themselves when they are uninstalled. In these cases you may need to use a spyware cleaner such as Pest Patrol.
In some cases, you may only want to disable one part of a program, or the program may not have provided an uninstall entry. Windows 98/Me/XP users can use the System Configuration Utility (MSConfig) that is provided as part of those versions of Windows: Click Start | Run and type msconfig. Then click the Startup tab. You will see a list of programs that will run each time you start your PC. Clear the checkbox next to an item to prevent it from running. If you later find that you need that program, go back to MSConfig and check the box next to that item, and reboot.
There is a separate interface that controls services. Click Start | Programs | Administrative Tools | Services. Find the service that you want to change and double-click it. From there you can start or stop the service, and change whether it should be started automatically when the system boots. PC Pitstop's running programs list shows running services as well, and will recommend the best settings for services. In general it is not a good idea to "Disable" services unless you are completely sure that the service is not needed. Use "Manual" instead.