Background Services

A client called this week looking for some training on Windows 8 and email as he is having trouble accessing his email now. So I duly went to help this client, but the problem was his computer was running so slow that it was not possible to provide the relevant training. When asked how long this has been happening the response came “a few weeks now”.

The computer was already up and running (using Windows 8.1). The client had already had a friend look at this, but had appeared to make things worse. The first part of any troubleshooting is the diagnosis of the symptoms, the symptoms here were that the email was exceptionally slow to load, as was the internet browser. Given that the “knowledgable” friend had already attempted to add a printer onto the local network the most obvious test was to check the network settings, which proved to be OK.

Again one of the key principles of troubleshooting is to gather as much information as possible, including the startup, so it was back to the beginning and the power up sequence. Starting in normal mode this revealed a missing crucial fact, an error message with “Group policy client service failed sign in” error message during the initial sequence after logging in.

Group Policy Client is a computer service which is responsible for applying settings configured by administrators for the computer and users through the Group Policy component. If the service is disabled, the settings will not be applied and applications and components will not be manageable through Group Policy. Any components or applications that depend on the Group Policy component might not be functional if the service is disabled. This has absolutely nothing to do with the computer being stand alone or as part of a group of computers, the name is obviously misleading. This service is running (and should be running) on all Windows computers.

Quick investigation revealed that the fix here required some registry setting adjustment. Now the registry should not be tampered with normally as the settings in this control the operation of the computer, however the fix applied and worked, email, internet, and all computer operation restored,

There are lessons to be learnt here:

Lesson 1: Regardless how well-meaning friends are, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and they can unintentionally make things worse.

Lesson 2: There’s a lot going on in the background of computers, much of which is essential, play with the settings at your own peril.

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