One of my virtual machines is used extensively for word-processing. For reasons that are tangential to this post, I use Office 2003 on Windows XP. Recently I’ve had an issue where every few seconds, the mouse cursor turns into an hour glass, the text cursor vanishes and my typing ceases to appear on the screen in real time (gets delayed until the condition stops a second later). This is incredibly annoying and distracting and occurs continuously even after a reboot. It turns out that the problem is due to some sort of resource hogging. Here is what the CPU usage looks like when the machine is idling:

Clearly something weird is going on! Closer inspection of the process monitor revealed that spoolsv.exe was the culprit:

What is spoolsv.exe?

Spoolsv.exe is the Windows print spooler service. It is a core part of the printing system. If you choose in your printer settings to spool print jobs, they are passed completely from your program to the spooler which drip feeds them to the printer as it needs the data, to allow your program to finish sooner. Spoolsv.exe is more than this though. It is also a core part of the printing system and without it, it is not possible to print at all (spooling or not).

Hackish workaround

Since I seldom print, I have taken to disabling the print spooler when I want to type long documents and enabling it when I want to print. This is annoying but less hassle than reinstalling and none of my searches for a solution yielded a working result. Print spooler can be disabled or re-enabled from the Administrative Tools folder in your control panel. Choose services and scroll down to Print Spooler. Here is what the print spooler panel looks like:

I have experimented with the startup type to see if I could get it to start automatically when needed but had no luck. Hopefully I will find a proper solution to this issue, but it is looking more like I will complete my thesis in the near future, relieving me of the need to use Office 2003 on Windows XP.

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