Are Autoruns Slowing Your PC?
When you start your computer, there are a bunch of programs that automatically run, before the familiar desktop appears. Most of them are essential; some are dispensable; and others may be malicious. Learn how to tweak your autoruns to improve performance and security...
Tune Up Your Startup
There are many software tools designed to keep your Windows system tuned-up and running as efficiently as possible; see my recent article, Seven Free PC Maintenance Tools. Some utilities, like Advanced System Care, are designed for one-click simplicity. Today, I want to discuss a powerful maintenance tool that requires a bit more effort from its user.
Autoruns for Windows provides information that can reduce Windows launch time, free up memory and other system resources, or help you track down especially stealthy malware. It shows you all programs that automatically run when your PC boots up or a user logs in, and what extensions load into various Windows processes such as Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer. It works on Windows XP and higher, including 64-bit versions.
The Windows System Configuration Utility (msconfig.exe) lets you view and disable a number of startup files and services, but it omits a lot of things that Autoruns catches: toolbars, browser helper objects, Windows Explorer shell extensions, to name a few. These items can be hiding places for malware or they may simply be long-forgotten, unnecessary burdens on your system.
To get started, download the Autoruns.zip archive and extract its contents to a folder of your choice. Then just double-click the autoruns.exe file to start the program; there is no installation required.
Autoruns displays the name and location of each auto-running item, which are referred to as “images.” For registry entries, it shows the exact registry key. For files, it shows the directory path and file name. Double-clicking an entry takes you to its directory or opens its registry entry in the Registry Editor. Unchecking an image disables its automatic execution. The Del key deletes an item (image) from your system.
Right-clicking on an image opens a drop-down menu with several options. “Search online” is one of the handiest drop-down options; it launches a Web search using your default browser and search engine, effectively asking “what is this thing?” The search results can help you decide whether the image should be left alone, deleted, or disabled.
“Check Virus Total” is a new option in version 13.0 of Autoruns. VirusTotal.com is a Web service that scans files or URLs with a total of 57 anti-malware engines. When Autoruns checks Virus Total, you’ll see a ratio such as “8/57” to the right of the item selected. That means 8 out of the 57 anti-malware engines flagged this image as malware. Double-click on the Virus Total ratio to see the full results on a VirusTotal.com Web page. Note that a VirusTotal score of 1 or 2 is probably not an indicator of a virus. On my computer, CCleaner and Google Updater both got a score of 1, but there's no cause for concern there.
The Autoruns screen is a bit busy, possibly overwhelming at first glance. But there's a way to eliminate the items that do not require immediate attention. The Options button on Autoruns’ main menu lets you hide or unhide groups of images, reducing the number of items that you need to examine. Hiding all images signed by Microsoft, for example, limits your view to third-party software. If you hide both Microsoft-signed and VirusTotal Clean entries, you can focus on items that are either unverified or potentially malware.
I recommend that you click Scan Options on the Options menu, then check the boxes labeled "Check VirusTotal" and "Submit Unknown Images", then restart Autoruns. It will then check all items against the VirusTotal database and display
Images highlighted in red are “unverified,” meaning no digital signature is attached that enables verification of the author’s identity.
Images highlighted in yellow are missing a target file. You may want to delete such items (after doing a web search) so that Windows doesn’t waste start-up time trying to launch programs that aren’t there.
Autoruns is a powerful tool for deep troubleshooting. But don’t use it casually or you may delete something that your system needs in order to function. If you fear a finger-fumble, create a System Restore point before making any changes, and you'll be able to undo any mistakes.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 20 Feb 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Are Autoruns Slowing Your PC? (Posted: 20 Feb 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved