Preventing BBC iPlayer running all the time

The BBC’s iPlayer is a wonderful thing and I love it. Between the iPlayer and Sky+ we’re now no longer bound to the TV schedules. These two innovations let you watch the programmes you want to watch when it’s convenient for you to watch them. For example, I’ve taken to watching my favourite programmes in the batch. I’ve got a big Dell laptop with a great screen. Plug in some speakers to improve the sound and it works just great.

iplayer However, the downside of the iPlayer is that it’s a peer-to-peer service that installs a Windows service that starts each time you start your computer. In most situations there’s not much harm in this, except that it’s using up some memory (which might be a problem if you’re trying to run other applications that need that memory) and it’s using some of your Internet bandwidth by uploading the programmes you’ve downloaded (which may be a problem if you don’t have much bandwidth to spare).

While this isn’t usually a problem at home, if you install iPlayer on your work laptop then it means the iPlayer service is going to be sapping some of your network bandwidth while you’re at work, which you network administrator probably won’t like. You only have to have a few people on a network running the iPlayer service (which works away in the background even when you’re not using the iPlayer) to significantly slow down the network for everyone.

The heart of the problem is that, the iPlayer works like a bit torrent client. Once you download programs it passes them on to other people who want that programme. This is a good way to share files, if you know what’s happening and you know the consequences. The trouble is that the iPlayer does this surreptitiously. Unlike bit torrent clients, like Azureus, you can’t tell what iPlayer is up to. You can’t tell how much data is getting uploaded, and it’s not so easy to turn it off.

settingsMy experience – and I may be imagining it, but I don’t think so – is that even if you go into the iPlayer’s Setting page and remove the check box selections for autostarting and sharing it still does both of those things regardless.

In this article I’m going to show you how to stop the iPlayer service running automatically every time you start your computer, and I’m going to show you how to add desktop icons to start and stop the service whenever you want to.

Note: I’m using Vista Ultimate but things should be pretty similar on other versions of Windows. The instructions assume that you have logged in to Windows using an administrator account.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to Start > Run on XP, or just Start on Vista.

    1-msconfig

  2. Type msconfig and press Enter.
  3. In the System Configuration dialog, click the Startup tab.

    2-system-config

  4. Find the item called Delivery Manager by the manufacturer Kontiki Inc.

    Kontiki is the company who make the peer-to-peer software the BBC use for iPlayer. Kontiki’s marketing literature says:

    Kontiki's secure and scalable commercial P2P delivery platform 
    powers the world's largest media companies' broadband video on-
    demand download services including the BBC iPlayer, Channel 4's 4oD
    and BSkyB's Sky Anytime on PC service, in the UK. Kontiki's ISP-
    friendly protocol, fine network controls, security, edge throttling
    capabilities and client application flexibility are ideal for all 
    constituents in the broadband video delivery value chain - content
    owners, network operators and consumers.

    If you look in the Command column you’ll see that the program that you’re trying to prevent from running automatically is called KHost.exe. This is the iPlayer client application.

    Note: You might notice in the screenshot above that I’ve got two entries for Delivery Manager. That’s because I previously uninstalled iPlayer and this entry didn’t get removed.

  5. Remove the selection from the check box for Delivery Manager and click OK.

    You’re prompted to restart your computer.

  6. Click Exit without restarting. You’ll restart the PC later.

    Note: When you next start Windows you’ll probably be notified that your system configuration has been changed. Just uncheck the check box that causes the message to be displayed every time the computer starts and confirm that the change is OK.

  7. Go to Start > Run on XP, or just Start on Vista.
  8. Type services.msc, or “services.msc” (in quotes) on Vista, and press Enter.

    The Services window shows all the installed Windows services, whether they’re set to start automatically and whether the service has been started:

     3-services-list

  9. Find the KService entry in the list (K for Kontiki).
  10. Right-click this service and choose Properties.
  11. Change the Startup type to Manual and click OK.

    4-manual-start

  12. Close the Services window.
  13. Open Notepad.
  14. Enter:

    NET START KSERVICE

    START “label”

  15. Leave the Notepad document open.
  16. Find the start icon for BBC iPlayer – for example, on your desktop or in the Start menu:
     
    b-programs-list
  17. Right-click the icon and choose Properties.
     
    b-iplayer-properties
  18. Copy the Target text.
  19. Leave the Properties dialog box open.
  20. Paste the text you copied into Notepad, after “label”:
     
    b-notepad-start
  21. Save this document, giving it a name with .bat as the file name extension – e.g. iPlayer-START.bat.
     
    Note: If you’re wondering why you need START “label” before the path to the KHost.exe file, it’s because this tells Windows to run the command that follows but to continue without waiting for the command to be completed. Without this, the Console window would remain open until you quit KHost.exe. The “label” part is necessary, although the text can be anything you want as this label isn’t displayed anywhere.
  22. Still in the Notepad document, select and copy the path to the KHost.exe file – for example, “C:\Program Files\Kontiki\KHost.exe”.
  23. Open a new document in Notepad.
  24. Paste in the text you copied, followed by the word close.
  25. On a new line enter:
     
    NET STOP KSERVICE
     
    b-notepad-stop
  26. Save this file as another batch file – for example, as iPlayer-STOP.bat.
  27. Remember the location of KHost.exe (e.g. C:\Program Files\Kontiki\) and quit Notepad.
  28. In Windows Explorer, go to the location to which you saved the two batch files.
  29. Using the right-click menu, create a shortcut for each of the batch files.
  30. Drag the two new shortcuts onto your desktop or to the Start menu or the Quick Launch bar, or wherever suits you. I’m going to assume you want the shortcuts on your desktop.
  31. Right-click the shortcut for starting iPlayer and select Properties.
  32. Click Change Icon.
     
    b-changeicon 
     
    A message is displayed saying that the batch file contains no icons.
     
    b-noicon
  33. Click OK.
     
    A dialog box is displayed showing a set of standard Windows icons.
  34. Click Browse.
     
    b-changeicon2
  35. Browse to the location of KHost.exe (e.g. C:\Program Files\Kontiki\).
  36. Browse into the iplayer_live\cache subdirectory.
     
    b-changeicon3
  37. Double-click iPlayer.ico.
  38. Click OK.
  39. Click the General tab of the shortcut Properties dialog box.
  40. Change the name of the shortcut to BBC iPlayer START.
  41. Click OK.
  42. Repeat the process for the shortcut for stopping iPlayer.
     
    This time choose one of the other icons and give the shortcut the name BBC iPlayer STOP.
     
    You now have two icons on your desktop: one to start KService and then start KHost.exe (the iPlayer program), the other to stop KHost.exe and then stop KService.:
     
    b-desktop-icons
  43. Restart your computer.
     
    When it comes back up KService won’t have started and KHost.exe won’t be running.
  44. Right-click the shortcut icon for starting iPlayer.
  45. Choose Run as administrator.
     
    Important: On Vista you can’t just double-click this icon, you must run it with administrator privileges.
     
    On XP you should be able to just double-click it. If this doesn’t work, use the Run As right-click menu option to run the shortcut command as an administrator user.
     
    This Microsoft article explains how to enable Run As on XP if it’s not in your right-click menu.
     
    A command console is displayed indicating that the service is starting.

    service-starting
     
    The console window will then close and the iPlayer will show up, as usual, in your system tray.

  46. When you’ve finished with iPlayer and you don’t want to leave it to share out your downloads (the way you got them from someone else who was sharing them), just use the STOP shortcut (remember, for Vista, you have to use the Run as administrator right-click option).
     
    If you want to make sure it worked, check your Services list. The entry for KService will not have “Started” against it. Check Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and there will be no entry for khost.exe.

    But remember, if bandwidth and memory aren’t issues for you, why not just leave iPlayer running, that some of the people who want to download the programmes you downloaded will get those programmes just a little bit quicker thanks to chunks of data uploaded from your computer.