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Turning off a Service in Windows 2000/XP

Microsoft's 03-43 Security Bulletin alerted us to a bug in the Messenger Service that affected Windows NT, 2000, and XP. In addition to a patch, the bulletin gave the workaround of turning off the service.

It turns out that while this service was configured to be on by default by Microsoft, there is almost no reason that a home or small office computer would need this service running. It is used to pass messages between client and server computers -- it is not related to the Windows Messenger IM (instant messaging) application. If you don't know how, here is how to turn off a service in Windows 2000 and XP. There are some cosmetic differences between the two versions of Windows, but the overall process is the same:

Go to the Control Panel, and then Administrative Tools. (If the Windows XP Control Panel is using Category Views, you need to go to Performance and Maintenance first.) Then click Services. This will open up a two-paned window (called a Microsoft Management Console) that will look like this.

Figure 1

These will show all the Services on your computer, and whether they are running or not. Move down the list until you find Messenger. Double click on it to edit its Properties.

Figure 2

The Service status should show that it is started, and the Startup type as Automatic. Click the Stop button. After a slight pause, you should be told that the service is now stopped on the computer. Then click the dropdown menu for Startup type, and choose Disabled. You want to end up with the Properties looking like this

Figure 3

At some time in the future, if you find that you need this service after all, you can just reverse these steps.

When you first started scrolling through the list of services, you may notice there are quite a few, and many of them are turned on by default when Windows 2000/XP is installed. Like the Messenger service, not all of them are needed. Possibly the best explanation of these services, and whether you need them or not, is at a web site run by "Black Viper" at http://www.blackviper.com/WinXP/servicecfg.htm. Mr. Viper has put a lot of time into researching these services, and whether you need them running or not. While I haven't tested every one of his recommendations, those that I have tested have all been accurate. Turning off unneeded services frees up RAM and can make your computer perform better. In addition, Microsoft has already admitted that some of these unneeded services allow security breaches, so turning them off may make your computer safer, too.

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