Microsoft operating systems ship with features, several of them enabled by default, that many Windows users may not need when it comes to running the computer.
These features are enabled for compatibility purposes, and while that is a good thing, may use memory, cpu cycles, or even expose the device to attacks or security issues.
The following guide lists installed features on Microsoft’s operating system Windows 10, and their purpose.
The guide explains what each feature is designed for, and whether it makes sense to disable the feature on your machine.
Obviously, you don’t want to disable or turn off features that you require, but since it is a simple “flip a switch” process, it is easy enough to restore functionality should you experience any issues after turning off features.
Windows 10 Features
The first thing you need to know is how to access the features listing on a device running Windows 10.
- Right-click on the Start Menu icon, and select Programs and Features from the menu.
- Alternatively, use Windows-X to display the menu and the mouse or touch afterwards to make the selection.
- When the Program and Features window opens, select Turn Windows features on or off.
A checkmark indicates that a feature is installed, a dot that only part or a subset of it is available, and a blank box that nothing is turned on.
A click on the plus icon in front of a feature opens it, and displays the available items listed under it.
Please note that you may need to restart the PC before the changes take effect. Windows displays a prompt if that is necessary.
Internet Explorer 11
The default browser on Windows 10 machines is Microsoft Edge, but Microsoft ships a copy of Internet Explorer 11 with the operating system for legacy support reasons.
Recommendation: IE11 is the only browser that can access the Microsoft Update Catalog currently to download patches manually. If you don’t require that, and don’t need the browser to access legacy apps, turn it off.
Legacy Components DirectPlay
DirectPlay is a deprecated API that was once part of Microsoft’s DirectX API. Microsoft deprecated DirectPlay in favor of Games for Windows Live more than ten years ago.
Classic computer games, those created ten or more years ago, may require DirectPlay but modern games released in the past ten years definitely don’t.
Recommendation: Turn off unless one of your games requires DirectPlay.
Media Features Windows Media Player
Windows Media Player is the default multimedia player on Windows 10. It is a so-so program that lacks support for several popular video and audio codecs.
Recommendation: If you use a third-party client like VLC Media Player or SMPlayer, turn it off.
Microsoft Print to PDF
The feature adds an option to Windows to print any document to PDF. This is a virtual printer service that you can use to create PDF documents on Windows.
Recommendation: Turn off, unless you require the functionality.
Print and Document Services
The dot in the checkbox indicates that some items under Print and Document Services are enabled: Internet Printing Client, and Windows Fax and Scan.
Internet Printing Client
The Internet Printing Client — as the name suggests — enables printing using local network or Internet printers using the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP).
Recommendation: Turn off if you don’t print at all, or if you only use a local printer.
Windows Fax and Scan
Windows Fax and Scan enables scanning and faxing support on Windows 10.
Recommendation: Turn off if you don’t use the feature.
Remote Differential Compression API Support
Microsoft introduced Remote Differential Compression API Support with Windows Server 2003 R2, and included the feature in later client and server operating systems as well.
It is used by a small number of programs, especially on Windows Server machines, but rarely used on non-server systems.
Recommendation: Unless you know that a program uses it, turn it off. If you notice any issues running programs afterwards, turn the feature back on again.
Windows PowerShell 2.0
Windows PowerShell 2.0 may confuse users as PowerShell is an integral part of Windows. What you need to know to better understand the feature listing is that PowerShell 2.0 is not the latest version of the technology.
The most current version is PowerShell 5.0 which means that turning of PowerShell 2.0 support won’t have an effect on the machine’s ability to use PowerShell.
Recommendation: Unless you require PowerShell 2.0 support, turn it off.
Windows Process Activation Service
Windows Process Activation Service “generalizes the Internet Information Services (IIS) process model.
All the features of IIS that were previously available only to HTTP applications are now available to applications hosting Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) services, by using non-HTTP protocols. IIS 7.0 also uses Windows Process Activation Service for message-based activation over HTTP. (source)
The feature is aimed at developers, and usually not required by most Windwos users.
Recommendation: Unless you are a developer who requires the feature, turn it off.
Work Folders Client
Work Folders is a business / enterprise feature that allows you to access work related files while offline and on any device associated with you.
Recommendation: Turn off, unless it is used.
XPS Services and XPS Viewer
XPS is a file format created by Microsoft that has been designed as an alternative to Adobe’s PDF format.
XPS Services add functionality to Windows to print and create XPS documents, and XPS Viewer to view XPS documents on the machine.
Recommendation: Unless you require XPS functionality, turn it off.
A large part of features that you can turn on or off are there for legacy purposes. Disabling features won’t impact the loading of the Windows operating system negatively so that you can turn them on again should the need arise.
Now You: Which features have you turned off, or kept?