Speed up your PC's boot time by finding the worst startup offenders

One of the pains of Windows is how long it takes for an older PC to start up. Sometimes this can be caused by hardware problems like a faulty hard drive, but more often than not the culprits are all those programs trying to activate at boot.

As you install more programs on your system, you inevitably end up with more apps that want to insert themselves into your PC’s startup routine.

Some of those operations are critical and shouldn’t be turned off such as antivirus, but many are really unnecessary. I suppose it’s nice to have Google Now alerts and Hangouts on your desktop at boot, but I think I can wait until I turn on Chrome to find out the latest World Cup scores or chat with friends.

Before Windows 8.1, figuring out which programs were causing start-up problems was not as easy as it should’ve been. That’s why programs that promise to speed up your boot times—like CCleaner and Soluto—have flourished.

In Windows 8.1, life is much simpler thanks to a new addition to the Task Manager.

Here’s how to maximize your startup time and find out which programs are slowing you down in Windows 8.1.

Don’t worry, Windows 7 users: There’s a way for you to trim your startup bloat as well.

For Windows 8.1

windows8 1taskmanager

The Windows 8.1 Task Manager’s Startup tab. 

Microsoft built into the Windows 8.1 Task Manager a fantastically easy way to check your Startup programs. Hit Control-Alt+Delete on your keyboard and then on the next screen select Task Manager with your mouse.

Now you’ll be kicked back to the desktop. Inside the Task Manager window click on the Startup tab. Next you’ll see a list of programs that turn on when you boot up your desktop.

What we want to focus on is the Startup impact column and those with a rating of “High.” These are the programs we’ll want to consider disabling at startup.

Keep in mind that any programs you disable have to be manually started later on if you want to use them. An antivirus program will inevitably have a high rating, but it would be unwise to disable it at startup since you want it scanning your PC all the time.

Don’t worry, you’ll have no trouble finding programs to dump. For myself, I went after BitTorrent Sync, which is a great program, but I don’t use it enough to justify always having it on. BlueStacks, which lets you run Android apps on Windows, is also an unnecessary item for me at startup.

Other programs that felt my wrath were Google Chrome, Google Music Manager, and MP3 Skype Recorder. Once you’re finished with the “high” impact programs, you can also take a look at the ones with “medium” impact to ferret out other startup offenders.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which programs get dumped at startup. As a general guide, don’t disable stuff that works in the background, comes from a component maker like Intel or your PC manufacturer, or is a mission critical app such as antivirus.

Windows 7

The System Configuration Utility’s Startup tab in Windows 7.

The first thing a Windows 7 user should do is click Start > Startup and see what’s there. This folder houses all the third-party apps that activate at start-up. If you see anything you don’t want right-click it and select Delete.

Another option is to get a window similar to what Windows 8.1 users see via the Windows System Configuration Utility. The name alone sounds scary, so if you are not comfortable with this step, don’t sweat it. Just download a program like the ones mentioned at the top of this post to clean up your PC for you.

For those brave enough to sally forth, click Start > Run and type msconfig in the box that appears. Once the configuration utility starts up look under the Startup tab.

Unlike Windows 8.1, Windows 7’s approach is far less friendly to look at and doesn’t include any helpful startup impact information. This is really a window for more advanced users. However, if you find programs like Google Chrome, QuickTime, and Skype in the list, feel free to disable those by unchecking the box next to their names.

One thing I would not recommend disabling if you often connect an Apple device with your PC is Apple’s “iTunes Helper.” If you disable this, it won’t turn on by itself and can lead to hassles every time you want to sync a device with iTunes.

It can take a few minutes to figure out which programs should be disabled on your PC. If you take the time,  the benefit of shaving those few extra seconds off your boot time is worth it.

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