For what it's worth, I have 82 processes running in the background - and I make an effort to keep this number down (but I do run a lot of active things concurrently and intentionally and everything there is something I need and understand) - but I'm not slow and sluggish (which may have more to do with hardware than software or what's running and the resources it takes. But if your computer is sllow and sluggish, here's what I usually suggest. It's written for Vista, but most of it applies to XP or Windows 7 though the procedures may vary slightly and some of the links will need to be adjusted for the correct OS (but as you didn't post your OS, I can't be more specific).
Here's my little blurb on improving space and speed in Vista systems (and it also suggests other things of value that you can consider or ignore - the choice is entirely yours). All of this is your choice, actually - I'm just presenting some options that may help and that have helped many others (and that I pretty much use myself though sometimes I do procrastinate I'm sad to admit and there are some things I won't do no matter how beneficial - for example, I refuse to delete my cookies (but that's a personal choice as I prefer the benefits of having them when going to previously-visited web sites over the limited amount of space recovered and speed gained given their small size)). Much of this should be part of normal maintenance, but that includes some other things (like creating periodic system restore points - probably at least weekly as they don't necessarily improve speed, space or performance and may in fact even do the opposite in some cases) not addressed here.
A great many things influence the speed and performance and available space of your system - mostly the existence of various files and what's loaded on the system. There are ways to handle this in Vista (and you should follow all the suggestions) - and of course the amount and type of RAM and the speed of your processor and motherboard (but I'm just going to discuss software solutions here - you can go to your computer vendor/manufacturer for hardware solutions if any are available (I, for example, am maxed out at 2GB RAM by my motherboard and there is no better motherboard available for my model of laptop but if your system can handle it, Vista 32-bit can use up to 4GB of RAM (well, almost 4GB, more like 3.5 actually) and the 64-bit version can use even more). If space is the issue, replace your hard drive with a larger one, add a second hard drive (if it is a desktop system), or add an external hard drive. Those are hardware answers (which cost money). We'll now discuss software solutions (which are mostly if not entirely free - at least the options presented here - there are 3rd party programs that provide additional options but they really aren't necessary).
One very important thing to begin – do NOT use any Registry Cleaner or Registry Booster or Enhancer, or Repairer or Fixer software (or whatever it calls itself) no matter what it says (scans will tell you have thousands of errors just to get you to download and install the program or worse, buy it) or where you got it (even safe sites sell these products but they are not worth the headaches they can cause). Most do nothing of value and some can do great harm (to the point where you need to do a clean install to fix the problem – and that’s not even counting the fact that many such programs are actually malware in disguise). Vista keeps the registry clean on its own quite well and doesn’t need any help.
http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/76073-disk-cleanup.html. Delete as much as you feel comfortable doing – nothing deleted there will harm your
system in any way. This includes deleting the Temporary Internet Files. If you want to keep this from building, go to Tools / Internet Options / Advanced and check the box Empty Temporary Internet Files Folder whenever browser is closed and then that folder
will always stay empty (except when you're using the program).
To improve your speed and space, do Disk Cleanup using:
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Optimize-Windows-Vista-for-better-performance. Do all of
the options (or at the very least, consider them - many can help a great deal).
Also do an Optimization:
At least once every month or so, run CCleaner http://www.piriform.com/ with as many options as you choose to delete (but be careful because this program if not used properly and with caution and with you paying attention to what you are doing can delete important and even critical files that could cause a great deal of trouble).
Clearing out your temporary files can also save you much space and improve performance and while some of the above will clear a lot of the temp files, they won't cover them all. This will. I recommend running it every month or two. It is TFC by Old Timer TFC - Temp File Cleaner by OldTimer - Geeks to Go Forums and you should download and save it to your desktop. When run, it will close everything else, so be sure to save anything you're working on and basically close all your programs. If it asks (and when done even if it doesn't ask), reboot to complete the process.
System Restore can take up to 15% of your partition's space but that can be reduced. It's a trade-off. The less space you allocate, the fewer restore points you will be able to retain - but many people reduce this to save some space while leaving enough to save 3-4 restore points at least (which is usually enough - until you need them). Here's the procedure: http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/76227-system-restore-disk-space.html.
http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/default.aspx is an excellent AV/AM program that has one of the least impacts on system performance
and resources according to reliable sources and it does the job very well. If you're using MSE, you don't really need Defender and MSE will deactivate it when installed (but you would with many other AV programs - though some of them also deactivate Defender).
I would also suggest downloading http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php and running it monthly to catch anything that MSE might miss.
Go to Start / Search options and type in msconfig and enter and then double click on the program icon that appears. Go to the startup tab and uncheck any program that you don't need starting at startup. That will probably be the majority of items there - if not most of them (some are needed like the AV program and Windows Defender but most are there to make opening the source programs faster and make you think they're more efficient). This will free up a lot of RAM and help a lot in making your system faster (though perhaps not so much that you'll be able to notice the difference - but maybe depending on how much unnecessary stuff is loading at startup). When I did this on my system I removed over 90% of the entries and suffered no ill effects – to the contrary, I noticed startup was quicker, response times when working were better and I could open more programs at the same time and still have no problems, and shutdown was also faster. Better still, download Autoruns http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx which is much superior to msconfig and click on the Everything tab and do what was suggested above (though here you can’t delete everything as with the start menu in msconfig because there are some very important files and services included which MUST not be deleted or it can cause serious harm to the system). If unsure, leave it alone.
You also want to have good AV and AS programs on your system (so no malware is operating in the background draining resources). Windows Defender is a good AS program. The new, free Microsoft Security Essentials
If you follow this advice and do it periodically (at least monthly) then I believe you will have as fast and clean a machine as it is capable of going given the hardware.
If this doesn't help, the problem may be related to malware.
First, try the following programs if you haven't as they may help. I recommend you download, install, update, and run full scans with Malwarebytes:http://www.malwarebytes.org/ and SuperAntiSpyware:http://superantispyware.com/ and then run a full Security Scan from Microsoft:http://www.microsoft.com/security/default.aspx. These may or may not remove the infections, but will probably not repair any damage caused by them. Even if they or your current AV software seem to work or indicate you aren't infected, you shouldn't completely trust them and need to continue with the recommendations that follow (so it's up to you if you want to try them first or just skip over all of this and get the expert help you really need as described below).
Properly and completely removing such infections can be complex and often require manual removal procedures (which may or may not be entirely effective either). Even if they work, I'd suggest the following anyway, so we may as well start there (you can ignore the above removal methods if you want as this is really the way to go, but it won't hurt to try them).
Please follow these recommendations compliments of JimR1 - MVP:
Are you running Microsoft Security Essentials?
If so: Start here - https://support.microsoftsecurityessentials.com/ and select the link that says - I think my computer is infected - and then select the support option for phone, chat or email (options will vary by Region)
If you are in North America, you can call 866-727-2338 for free help from Microsoft for virus and spyware infections.
You can start here: https://consumersecuritysupport.microsoft.com/ or here:http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/cu_sc_virsec_master?ws=support#tab0 for help and support for malware infections.
If that doesn't work or they can't help, try one of the following malware-removal forums compliments of PA Bear - MVP:
I can recommend the expert assistance offered in these forums:http://spywarehammer.com/simplemachinesforum/index.php?board=10.0,http://www.spywarewarrior.com/viewforum.php?f=5,http://www.dslreports.com/forum/cleanup,http://www.bluetack.co.uk/forums/index.php, andhttp://aumha.net/viewforum.php?f=30
I hope this helps.
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