One of the many complaints users have of Windows is the slow start times they may experience. Some of the time, the slow start time is due to the number of programs that are loaded when Windows starts up. These programs will sometimes create an icon in the system tray near the time in the lower right part of the screen. Others may load but give no indication that they are loaded, except when viewing the processes.
There may also be times when one of the applications causes your system to crash. The reality is that most of those programs don’t need to start up, but are there to make your life easier. In this post I’ll explain several ways of preventing those programs from loading when Windows starts.
Microsoft System Configuration Utility (MSConfig)
This is one of the handy utilities included with the Windows operating systems. It was first included with Windows 98, and it is also included with Windows ME, and Windows XP. For those on Windows 2000, you can copy the msconfig.exe version from Windows XP.
The purpose of the system configuration utility is to help troubleshoot system problems by allowing you to modify your system configuration. This is done by checking and unchecking a series of checkboxes. I mainly use this tool to help control the programs that are loaded at startup, since it will list all programs in an easy to read list.
To manage the programs that startup when Windows starts, use the following steps:
- Click Start->Run to open the Run dialog box.
- In the dialog type msconfig.exe.
- Click the Startup tab.
- Read through the list and uncheck any programs that you don’t think you want loaded. Don’t worry, the program won’t be deleted from your computer, it is just being prevent from starting when Windows starts.
- Once you are satisfied with what is left in the list, click the OK button, and then accept the reboot prompt to allow your computer to restart.
- Once your computer restarts, you will notice that the programs you specified not start no longer start.
The tool displays several tabs at the top. The one will be focusing on here is the Startup tab.
A list of all the programs that start when Windows starts is listed, along with where the program is called from. We will discuss the various locations later in this post.
Windows Startup Locations
The startup programs list contained a column called Location. What is the value that is displayed there, and how does it affect the loading of the programs?
There are many locations within Windows that you can copy or create a shortcut to an application that will cause it to load once Windows starts. There are two in the registry and two in the start menu.
Startup in the Start Menu
I will start with the start menu, since you may be more familiar with that one. When you display your start menu, you may notice a folder in there called Startup. This is system folder that displays programs that will start when Windows loads. Although only one is displayed, there are actually two startup folders that are used.
When you right-click the Start Menu button, and select Explore, you will open Windows Explorer to the Start Menu directory for your login ID. If you expand the Programs subfolder, you will see the Startup directory associated with your login ID. If you scroll through the list of login IDs, you may see one called All Users. Expand that folder, and you will see the Start Menu and Programs folders that applies to all users of you system. There is also a Startup folder in there as well.
Simply delete a shortcut from the Startup folder to prevent the program from loading once Windows starts.
When Windows loads it first executes any programs in the All Users startup, and then the Current User startup. Before those programs are executed, however, Windows first runs programs specified in the registry.
Startup in the Registry
I recently wrote a post titled Understanding the Windows Registry where I explained the various registry hives. The two hives we will be looking at here is the HKEY_CURRENT_USER and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.
Within these two hives are contain the key structure: SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. If you navigate down through this structure in each of the two hives you will notice a list appear on the right side of the editor.
This list contains the programs that start once Windows loads. The Name column is the name of the program while the Data column contains the complete path to the executable. You can edit any of the entries by simply double-clicking the entry.
Simply left-click a program in the list and press the Delete key to prevent it from loading once Windows starts.
It is really easy to prevent a program from loading once Windows starts by using the Microsoft System Configuration utility. Simply uncheck the checkbox associated with the program to stop it from running.
The more advanced users may want to delete the program’s shortcut from the startup folder in the Start Menu, or the string value in one of the Run keys in the registry. For most users, however, the MSCONFIG utility will do the task nicely.