If you feel your computer is sluggish, what's going on? One reason could be your Windows startup programs. let's take a look at how to manage your startup programs, and pump some speed back into your system...
Understanding and Managing Startup Programs
When you start up Windows, it loads a bunch of programs into memory and runs them in the background where you don't notice them, normally. Many applications do likewise, loading little programs that help them do their jobs faster, or periodically "call home" over the Internet to see if there are updates to be downloaded. Some programs are designed to load entirely at startup and show you no more than a little icon in the system tray.
Then there are malicious startup programs that don't want you to know they're there at all; malware that got past your computer's defenses.
How can you tell what startup programs are loading when Windows starts; what resources they consume; whether they're really necessary; and whether they're harmful? And how can YOU take control over which programs start up with Windows?
Windows Task Manager can give you some idea what's currently running in background and what resources are being used. But it won't tell you if a background program loads with Windows, and it won't allow you to tweak your startup program list. For that, you need other Windows components or a third-party utility.
Trimming Your Startup Tasks
The first place to check is the Startup folder. Click Start, then All Programs, and look for the Startup folder. Open it to see what's in there. Any programs in the Startup folder will be loaded automatically when Windows starts. Delete an item in the Startup folder and it will no longer load at startup. Usually, the Startup folder items are shortcuts pointing to an executable file in a subfolder of the Programs folder, so deleting the shortcut won't delete a program you may need later.
Greater control over startup programs can be achieved with the System Configuration utility built into Windows. Click Start and in the Run box type MSCONFIG and hit Enter. The System Configuration console will pop up. Click the Startup tab for a complete list of what loads at startup. You can even see the name of the program's manufacturer, so you can get idea of why it's running. Check or uncheck the box to the left of a program to enable or disable its loading upon Windows startup.
Here are some startup programs that I always disable on my computers:
- IPodService - Part of iTunes. Not needed unless you have an iPod. Probably not even then.
- ItunesHelper - Helps iTunes load faster. Not needed unless you use iTunes regularly.
- Microsoft Office - Helps Office programs load faster.
- Msmsgs - Part of MSN Messenger. Who uses this, anyway?
- QTTask - Helps QuickTime load faster. Not needed unless you use QuickTime regularly.
- Reader_sl - Helps Adobe Reader load faster. Not needed, because Foxit Reader is better!
- Realsched - An annoyance that's part of RealPlayer.
X-Ray PC is a free a diagnostic tool which identifies every process that's running on your computer, and will show you which of them are automatically started. It's kind of like Task Manager on steroids. X-Ray PC lists every program, system service, toolbar, browser plugin, and AutoStart item, along with a Good, Bad or Undetermined safety rating. X-Ray PC is a useful tool to identify and zap malware, but I generally only recommend it for techies, because it's such a powerful tool.
If you can't tell what a startup program does, just search for its filename on the Web. There are many sites that specialize in describing filenames and advising you whether it's safe to disable a program. One that I like is ProcessLibrary. Do some research before disabling a startup task. But even if it turns out you need one that's been disabled, you can always go back into MSCONFIG and check the box to re-enable it.
Some programs are persistent about wanting to be in your startup list, and will reappear even after you've disabled them. I've noticed that QTTask and MSmsgs keep showing up as enabled, probably after updating iTunes or doing a Windows update. Also, malware can sneak a startup program into memory when you're not looking. Windows Startup Inspector is a free utility that loads upon startup and monitors for changes in the things that are set up to load upon startup. If something - perhaps a virus, perhaps not - tries to add or delete a startup program, you will get a popup alert window and the option to allow or block the change. http://www.windowsstartup.com/startupmonitor.php
Generally speaking, if you have fewer startup programs, your system will start faster, run faster, and you'll have fewer sources of potential problems.
Do you have something to say about startup programs? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Oct 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Startup Programs (Posted: 2 Oct 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved