background program

Definition of background program in The Network Encyclopedia.

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What is Background Program?

Any program that runs while the user performs another task on the system - for example, a spreadsheet (background program) that calculates data while the user types a letter using a word processor (foreground program).

Operating systems usually assign fewer CPU resources to background programs than to foreground ones. In Microsoft Windows NT, the System utility in Control Panel allows you to boost the performance of the foreground application over any background applications running. Setting the performance boost to None gives both foreground and background applications equal processor time, while setting it to Maximum gives foreground applications greater priority.

In Windows 2000, the System utility in Control Panel offers you one of the following options for optimizing performance:

  • Applications:
    Provides more CPU resources to the foreground program and allocates short, variable quanta to running applications


  • Background Services:
    Divides CPU resources equally among the foreground program and any running background programs and allocates long, fixed-length quanta to applications



Select None for a performance boost on Windows NT servers. This will optimize the performance of the server for servicing network requests. Select Maximum on Windows NT workstations to optimize responsiveness for user applications.