Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Thief that's Stealing your Processor Cycles
Windows 7's wmpnetwk.exe

I spent most of my morning today trying to wrestle Windows 7 back to reasonable performance. My performance meter showed the processor was working hard all the time. Also, over time startup performance has deteriorated, shutting down, going to sleep and waking up became slow and iffy propositions.

When I looked into it, it soon became clear that my year old Windows 7 laptop had two major problems. The first had to do with ill-behaved drivers for my HP-8500 series printer. Setting the drivers to not install at start-up seemed to solve that problem.

The second problem was more invidious and more difficult to solve. In fact, I still don't have it solved. It involves Microsoft Media Player. More particularly, a "service" file in the Windows registry called wmpnetwk.exe. According to my research, this program allows your PC to share media files over a network. You know, like the guy on the Windows commercial who carries his laptop all over the house. Apparently, it has been common knowledge for years that for this marginal bit of utility, this program can take half or more of your processor cycles all of the time. A Google search returned over 48,000 hits for this search

problem wmpnetwk.exe windows-7

Like Hal-2000, this program refuses to just let you turn it off. You can go to the resource monitor and try to turn it off all day long and it refuses to budge. I got it turned off through the Task Manager. Windows 7 has a built-in utility player called services.msc. With that program, you are supposed to be able to set the various service programs to automatic, automatic (delayed start), manual, or disabled. I used services.msc to return wmpnetwk.exe to "manual", restarted, and low and behold, the freaking program ignored my instructions and started automatically again.

I still don't have the problem completely solved. I know now though that if my process meter shows 55% of the cycles used when I'm not doing anything, I need to go to task manager and disable wmpnetwk.exe. I also know that if I do that, I'm unlikely to suffer any ill consequences. That's better than nothing. I hope that Microsoft has a service pack for Windows 7 on the way that will resolve this issue. So far Microsoft's response is bringing truth to the proverb, "once you go mac, you don't go back."

Here's a very relevant video I found on Youtube.

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