Do you really know what Windows Services are? Most of you have a general idea, so let's look at exactly what they do and how to manage them.
You must have wondered at least once, what Windows Services are. When you first heard about them you probably thought they were little apps that magically activate and offer you something that, given their name, is probably useful.
And yet Windows Services affect you much more than you think. Thanks to them Windows can manage network connections, play sound through the speakers, remember passwords and credentials, encrypt your data and a whole lot more.
In this article, we'll describe what Windows services are and show you the basic tasks you can do with them.
What are Windows Services?
A service is an application almost like any other, in the sense that a Windows service is (usually) an .exe (executable file). However, there are some key differences between the Services and other programs:
Windows services run in the background and don't have a user interface to click or tap something to run.
Unlike regular applications, Windows services can be started by the operating system at startup and do not (usually) require a user login.
Windows services may have special privileges that user-run applications do not.
What are Windows Services used for?
Core Windows Services produced by Microsoft are intended to provide basic functionality of the operating system, such as accessing web resources, logging events, accessing files, printing, or reporting errors. However, not all Services are developed by Microsoft. Some applications and drivers install their own Services.
Security suites are a great example, as they install different services to provide real-time monitoring of your system activities, malware protection, firewall protection, etc. They must use the advantages offered by the services.
One such advantage is that they can start at system startup, before other programs, and even before the user is logged on. However, the most important advantage is that they can monitor everything running on your computer while being perfectly integrated into the Windows core. In this way, they can provide a high level of protection.
Another example of a non-Microsoft service could be an SSH server, often used in offices for secure remote connections, or an automatic update service for your web browser, such as the Mozilla maintenance service used by Firefox.
Why should you know what a Windows service does?
Knowing what a service does, or when it does something, can be useful information. For example, if you know you won't need its features, you can disable it to speed up your system. If you have a router installed to manage your local network, you may not need Internet Connection Sharing.
Alternatively, if you need a service but it's not that important, you can set it to start a little later, after Windows, startup apps, or other, more critical services start.
In our case, one of the services we don't need is the one called "Certificate Propagation - CertPropSvc".
It is used by Windows to work with smart cards, which are (still) sometimes used in large organizations but not by us on our computers. So it is safe to disable it.
How to get to Windows services?
There are several different ways to access Windows services. But since this is not the purpose of our article, we will not describe them all to you. We will tell you only the easiest one.
- In Windows 11, click or tap the Search button on the taskbar, type “services” and press Enter.
- In Windows 10, enter the word “services” in the search field from the taskbar and click the Services result.
Then the Services window will open. It's a place where you can view, start, stop, and configure all Windows services.
How to view information about a Windows service
In the Services window, you can see five things about each of the services:
Name – The service name can be useful if you want to get an idea of what this service does. Unfortunately, though, that name is often too cryptic to help you figure out what the service is.
Description – The service description shows some brief information about the purpose or identity of the service.
Condition – Indicates whether this service is running or stopped.
Startup type – This shows you how this service is started by Windows. Services can be started automatically, automatically but with a delay, manually, or they can be disabled, meaning they never start. We will talk about the startup type of Windows services below.
Login as – This allows you to choose whether the service will start using the local system account or another user account (that you specify manually).
Note that you can also see the same information in the Properties of each service by double-clicking on its name in the Services window.
How to start or stop a Windows service
Starting or stopping a Windows service is easy: all you have to do is right-click on the service and choose the desired action from the menu that appears. To run a service, press Start.
If you want to stop a running service, you need to tap on the option Vacation.
Apart from Start and Stop, there are some other options available: you can also Pause, Resume or Restart the selected Windows service.
The last option is self-explanatory. Pausing stops the service, but only for user accounts that don't have admin or service privileges, while still running for the rest. Of course, Resume starts a paused service for these accounts.
The action you take applies only to the current computing session. After Windows restarts, the selected service resumes its default state.
NOTE: There is an alternative way to start or stop a service: you can also do it from the service's Properties window. Right-click the service, and then click or tap Properties (or double-click it). Then, under the General tab, you should find the same options as in the right-click menu.
How to change the startup type of a Windows service
To change how a Windows service starts, you must first open its Properties. To do this, right-click the service and then Properties.
In the Service Properties window, the General tab displays information about the service name, display name, description, path to the executable, and the option to modify the startup type. The second section displays the status of the service and allows you to specify custom startup parameters if needed.
You can set the startup type of a Windows service to be:
- Automatic (start delay): the Windows service starts only after the system has loaded all other services set to start automatically.
- automatically: the service starts at startup.
- Manually: Windows service starts only when needed.
- Switched off: the service never starts, even when its operation is requested by other Windows services or applications.
Even if you can, we recommend that you don't change the startup type for Windows services unless you know what you're doing. It is particularly dangerous to set a service disabled, as other system components may depend on it. This can lead to a malfunctioning operating system, broken applications, or even failure to boot.
If you need some guidance on which services are safe to disable, you should read this article:
Windows Turn off Unnecessary Services
If you want to have a computer at full speed then some services that may slow down your system should be disabled.
However, this is only possible if you do not need these services at all, and if disabling them does not cause you any problems or inconveniences.
You should be very careful when playing with Windows Services. With third-party services you can try your luck more safely.