Startup Programs

Category: Windows

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...

Managing Startup Programs

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.

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...

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Most recent comments on "Startup Programs"

Posted by:

02 Oct 2009

A good site to find startup programs if you need 'em or not is

check it out !

Posted by:

02 Oct 2009

What I get the MOST annoyed with is that I disable the quicktime from starting up and then when I start my computer again it magically starts up too. Anything I can do about this without just uninstalling quicktime?

Posted by:

03 Oct 2009

I have been using Startup Control Panel 2.8 by Mike Lin along with his little watchdog program, Startup Monitor for about three weeks now, and I think you couldn't do better for any money. These programs are free, donations accepted, at
Now I start four programs at power-up and the Startup Monitor has caught a half-dozen attempts to change that in the short time I have been using it. Hope this enhances the discussion. ~Charlie

Posted by:

03 Oct 2009

Two other free utilities from Sysinternals are Autoruns and Process Explorer. Autoruns shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them. Process Explorer is divided into two informational panels. The top panel shows a list of currently active (open) processes while the bottom panel shows relevant information depending on what mode Process Explorer is set up in. >Autoruns >Process Explorer

For me, the best part of both utilities is they don't have to be installed. They can be run in your browser.

Posted by:

Jerry Williams
03 Oct 2009

Nothing mind boggling, but as an old PC user I use the old Ctl - Alt - Del keys to bring up the Task Manager. Have used it for so many years that it is almost second nature to use it. That is, even though it no longer does what it originally did on older versions of Windows.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2009

The Sysinternals (now Microsoft) program Autoruns for Windows v9.55 is a mighty powerful and thorough way to see what auto-starts on a Windows PC. . The latest version came out 2009-10-01, so most people haven't played with it yet.

Posted by:

Gary Lefmann
03 Oct 2009

I cannot speak highly enough about Bill Pytlovany's WinPatrol. It does everything you talk about above and does it well. There is a free version, but if you subscribe to WinPatrol Plus you can get additional information on any program with a few mouse clicks. Great job, Bill!

Posted by:

03 Oct 2009

Great info.


Posted by:

Tom Smith
03 Oct 2009

Another program that I find helpful in stopping certain programs from loading when XP starts up is jv16 PowerTools 2009 which has a Startup Manager where you can either just stop the program from loading or delete it entirely.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2009

For Michelle who dislikes QuickTime as much as I do, have you tried the free QuickTime Alternative? Available from , be sure to choose the second or third download link. Do not choose "Download QT Lite," or you won't get the Media Player Classic that you will need for some formats.

I found that it was better to leave the regular QuickTime program installed, but disabled, and use the QuickTime Alternative, rather than uninstalling QuickTime altogether. The Alternative program will not persistently run in your system tray.

As an aside, there is also a free Real Alternative available from the makers of the above program, which is available at .

Just so people feel safe with the tinyurls, the domain name of the sites is, should you want to go that route and find the programs yourself.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2009

I usually disable anything from Apple - I have an iPod but I don't connect it to my computer more than once a week. Open Office quickstart - so what if it takes a few seconds longer to load - you those few seconds on Windows start up if it's left enabled.I agree with Bob on Foxit but I have to have Adobe installed for the very rare occasions that I get a PDF that Foxit can't open. (Note: To access task manager on XP through WIndows 7 just hit ctrl-shift-esc)

Posted by:

04 Oct 2009

First Off Bob Thanks For Your Great Site!
Michelle There is a Quick time Lite Version Just Google it.. has it and their site is safe!
Thanks For all the Info Everybody!
Question A Guy on the net Says! In the Start up utility to disable everything Except Protection Programs Under Boot/Services check hide all Microsoft services and uncheck the others and on the advanced Boot tab Check No GUI Boot+ Select# of Processors and Memory Amount. is this Nonsense? For a Safe Boot? it Does Speedup your Startup and Shut Down

Posted by:

Brian C.
04 Oct 2009

Thank you, Bob! I will try your suggestions re: Vista OS speed up! Many thanks to your readers also for their input and suggestions!

Posted by:

pepper kay
06 Oct 2009

Have tried to download wither/or Start Up inSpetor and Start Up Monitor with no success ...

When I click the links to download, I'm just returned to an image of the screenshot and nothing more ...


Posted by:

08 Oct 2009

Re: Diana's comment on trusting tinyurl's

The tinyurl has a preview feature in case you want to know where you are going before you go to it.

All you need to do is to add preview at the beginning of the link.


For other links (or for checking on what is returned by "preview") you can use the McAfee site advisor program. This is a free program from Mcafee that you download to your browser and it will give you a green, yellow or red check mark next to any sites in Google.

To use this feature you can type the link into google's search box and it will show its opinion of the site before you go there.


Posted by:

08 Oct 2009

I guess these sorts of utilities are a dime-a-dozen, but I'm fond of Mike Lin's "Startup Control Panel",

It installs into the Control Panel (duh...), and provides an easy-to-use view of all of the places where things get started from, and what is currently started from each. The "Startup" folders (there are two), HKey-Local-Machine, HKey-Current-User, and the run-once-then-delete stuff.

It's easy to selectively disable individual items and, if things don't work on reboot, just as easy to reenable them.


Posted by:

Brian Quigley
01 May 2011

Try Soluto for controlling start-up programs.

Posted by:

12 Aug 2011

bob! Many thanks. I shall try your suggestions. My site:

Posted by:

07 Sep 2015

you may want to eliminate the link for start up inspector because it does not work & got me a bug in the pc.

Posted by:

08 Sep 2015

Bob Process Library says csrss.exe is a Trojan Microsoft says its necessary for windows to run. How reliable is this Process library you recommend? Can you shed some light on this file? My task manager process shows it with nothing under user name or description and when I right click and get a drop box and select location of file or properties nothing happens. Is this normal?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Although csrss.exe is a legitimate Windows file, there are viruses that masquerade with the same name. If your antivirus tool doesn't flag it, you should be fine.

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