Whenever you open the Task Manager, you’ll notice the Processes tab, which lists the programs you have open, and the Services tab, which lists the…what, exactly?
To answer that question, we’ll have to look at the processor.
Oh boy, processors.
Processors have, as you know, cores. Typically multiple cores — AMD processors like to have 4 to 8, and Intel processors like to have about the same amount.
A core is the part of the processor that does the work. Threads, on the other hand, are assignments that each core is given — in the past, one core would correspond to one thread, but Intel’s hyperthreading allows one core to work on multiple processes simultaneously. Hyperthreading makes a single core act like two or more virtual cores — so on your computer, it’ll assume you have an extra core.
Contrary to popular belief, most of what you do on a computer isn’t multitasking. Most users are on dual-to-quad core processors, and once you pass two-to-four processes (hint: you’re already long past that) you aren’t multitasking anymore. This isn’t a bad thing, though, and there’s a reason you don’t notice — these cores are juggling your processes so fast that, to the human senses, the difference is unnoticeable — and, of course, when you do notice lag, these processes are obviously going a little slower than usual.
But processes and services are treated the same by your processor, but not your operating system. The difference between a process is that it manifests itself in an application that you directly interact with, like your web browser or your IM client. A service doesn’t abide by the same rules, and it generally runs outside of your direct interaction — always-on antiviruses, your system clock, things like that.
So, basically, the difference between a process and a service is that you mess with one all the time, but generally don’t call the other one that often. You can manage your services by searching for Services in your Control Panel and choosing what services are launching and when they’re launching. Make sure not to mess with a service unless it’s causing you a problem, or you know what you’re doing — scrapping vital services could crash your operating system, and nobody wants that.
Steve Horton has been working with computers for over 20 years. He's dedicated to helping people get the most out of their PCs, and likes playing cards and writing comics.
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