Identify Windows XP processes in Task Manager

The Task Manager may tell you more than you want to know about what's going on with your Windows XP system. If you're baffled by the myriad processes running without programs, you can learn what they are before you shut them down. Greg Shultz explains how to identify svchost.exe and services.exe processes in Task Manager.

When you're troubleshooting a problem in Windows XP, you may turn to Task Manager, which is designed to provide detailed information about the programs and processes running on a system. But when you access the Processes tab, you'll probably see that there are many more processes running than programs.

Some of the processes are easy to identify, especially if they represent an application (e.g., the notepad.exe process corresponds to Notepad). However, other processes, such as svchost.exe or services.exe, are not as easy to identify.

Svchost.exe is a generic host process name for services run from dynamic-link libraries (DLLs). You'll also see a process titled services.exe, which hosts several essential Windows operating system services. You can learn more about specific services that are running as svchost.exe or services.exe processes by using the Services tool. Here's how:

  1. Go to Control Panel | Administrative Tools, and double-click Services.
  2. In the Services tool, click on the Status column header to sort the services so those that are started are at the top of the list.
  3. Double-click on one of the services and check the Path To Executable text box.

If the Path To Executable text box lists svchost.exe or services.exe, you've identified a specific service that is associated with a running process. To learn more about the service, you can check the Description panel on the Extended panel of the Services tool.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Professional.

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About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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