Question: In a prior column (see, you advised readers to conserve PC processing power and memory by using the Windows “Task Manager” to turn off unneeded PC “processes.” How can I tell what’s unneeded? — T.B., Oil City, Pa.

Answer: The column you mention was about the possible causes of a sluggish PC, one of which is too much software running in the background.

If too much software is the problem, the Windows Task Manager (press the Ctrl, Alt and Del buttons and choose Task Manager) allows you to:

  • Turn off whatever PC process is using the most processing power (the CPU column) or the most computer chip memory (the Memory column.)
  • Turn off PC processes that have recognizable names, such as “Google Chrome” or “Dropbox.”

But many of the PC processes listed in Task Manager have bizarre names such as “igfxEM Module,” so it’s hard to know whether it’s safe to turn them off. To deal with them, you can use an alternative to Task Manager that limits how many PC processes are started up when the computer is turned on.

That can be done by using the Windows “system configuration utility.” By changing a setting there, you can make sure that only Microsoft software starts up automatically when the PC is switched on.

To try it, see and scroll to bullet point three. Keep scrolling to find “system configuration utility” in blue lettering. Follow the directions for changing the “startup selection” from “normal startup” to “selective startup.”

What are the practical effects of limiting the number of startup programs this way?

  • Non-Microsoft programs won’t become active until you click their icons to start them.
  • Any non-Microsoft firewall or antivirus software won’t be turned on. But that’s less of a problem than it appears to be, because Windows 8 and 10 automatically activate their firewall and antivirus software. If you have Windows 7, download the free Microsoft Security Essentials for antivirus protection (see and make sure the Windows 7 firewall is turned on (see

Question: Computer technicians can’t find a missing folder containing 200 emails that were sent to the address of our nonprofit organization. What can we do? — D.H., Tucson, Ariz.

Answer: The emails might be lost. But there are two places to look.

  • If your emails were backed up in a Windows file, open Windows Explorer (File Explorer in Windows 10.) In the search box at the upper right, type “” without the quotation marks. The PC will search your hard drive for any emails sent to an account.
  • If your emails were stored in an mailbox, look at the left side of the screen for a folder created specifically for saved emails.

If there isn’t a special folder, look in the inbox. Take advantage of the fact that emails are listed from newest to oldest; scroll to the end of the list and work backward. Use the “arrival date” of each email to narrow the search.

If that doesn’t work, try restoring deleted email messages (see

Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers can write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: Include a full name, city and phone number.

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