Whenever a PC is running,
there are many tasks that are executed "in the background". That is, you may not see
any evidence of their actions: There may be no window showing on the DeskTop, and no
Tab in the
Taskbar. There may also be no icon in the System Notification Area.
However, be assured, there are many such tasks executing or standing-by in your
Additionally, some programs, when first started, connect to databases on the internet
to ensure that they are up-to-date, or have up-to-date information, and thus perform
tasks which are not obvious.
A common example of this is some web browsers now have 'safe surfing' and/or 'anti-phishing' options
which, when turned on, must obtain current information before they are fully functional.
For a computer that is running all the time, and always connected to the web,
this is usually not a problem. If the tasks have been scheduled to begin at reasonable
times (very late at night), they will not interfere with your work.
As an example, many anti-virus facilities schedule a weekly full-scan of all local hard drives
to detect any problems. Typically, then, at the scheduled time, the program will
start, query some website for any pending updates, download the updates,
then scan the drives.
This may take anywhere from minutes to hours to complete, depending on the size of the drives, the
efficiency of the scanning program, etc., etc.
If the task is scheduled to begin at, say 4:00 am, then when you sit down to web-surf at 9:00 am,
everything will be fine.
However, let's say that your computer isn't always on (it's either off, sleeping, or
hibernating), or isn't always connected to the web: You only occasionally turn it on
and use it for relatively short periods of time...
So, you start the computer and experience annoyingly slow response.
Here's what might be happening:
In order to ensure that the scheduled tasks perform
their duty, they are often created with the options to:
What this means is, that while you're trying to do a quick Google search for a
telephone number, your computer is busy trying to catch up on it's maintenance tasks
for possibly many days, each time you restart it.
- Start as soon as possible after a scheduled start time is missed.
- Stay "activated" for a number of
hours (or even days) after the scheduled start time, until the
- Continue to execute/restart the task until it completes.
Then, when you're finished with your work
(but the scheduled task's work has not completed)
and you shutdown/sleep/hibernate
the computer, the process is set to pickup where it left off the next time.
Therefore, if your computer usage is in the "occasional" category, I
suggest the following:
- Change the options on "scheduled" tasks to prompt you before they take action.
Refusing usually re-schedules at some later time.
- Alternatively, schedule them for a time when you purposefully leave
your computer running - say, every Monday night.
- If neither
of these is possible, then see if you can change the tasks such that they require
you to manually start them.
You can then do your desired work first, then start the
maintenance tasks, and walk away.
Microsoft Windows Update
You can modify the default setting for Windows Update and select to
"Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them" (or some similar
There are many software packages that install scheduled tasks: Adobe Reader, iTunes, Sun Java, etc. If
you can determine which are active on your system, and tune them as described, you'll experience
Note that some of the suggested
changes may produce warnings: For example, since Microsoft recommends fully automatic
updates (rather than you choosing when to perform the updates),
some security-checking programs will report that your security "may be compromised".
Just remember the changes you've made are legitimate deviations from the 'normal' situation, and
enjoy a more responsive computing environment.