After reading my article on killing unwanted processes, Joe Balbona asked how he could keep those processes from loading in the first place.
There’s no direct correlation between the programs that load when you boot and the processes slowing down your PC six hours later. Many autoloaders (programs that automatically load when you boot) do their thing and then close down properly. And some programs you load manually long after the boot leave processes running even after you’ve closed them.
Nevertheless, most Windows PCs load way too many programs at boot time. These definitely slow the boot process. Some remain running and can slow Windows. And some may cause conflicts and instability, although that’s rare.
So let’s see how we can trim your autoloaders.
[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The fact that you like a program doesn’t necessarily mean you want it running all the time? For instance, regular readers know how much I like KeePass. But I turned off its autoloader because I just didn’t see the point. A password manager only needs to run when you need a password. On the other hand, your antivirus program needs to watch over your PC constantly, so it’s a legitimate autoloader.
Windows 8 significantly changed how we manage autoloaders. I’ll therefore give you two separate sets of instructions.
Windows 7 and earlier versions
Click Start, type
msconfig, and press Enter. This brings up the System Configuration page.
Click the Startup tab for a table listing your autoloaders. Now you can uncheck those you don’t want.
But first, you have to figure out what each autoloader does. Usually the program’s name makes it obvious. But sometimes the names aren’t clear.
If the name isn’t helpful, you can usually get an idea by examining the Manufacturer and Command columns in the table. These will tell you who published the software, and where the file is on your drive (usually the folder for a program you installed). If all else fails, use your favorite search engine to find more about the name.
Remember that you can always experiment. Uncheck something and see if that makes things better or worse. The last column, Date Disabled, provides a record of what you’ve just unchecked.
In the old-fashioned Desktop environment, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Once it’s up, click the Startup tab.
This table doesn’t give as much information as the old Msconfig one, but it’s easier to read. And if you know where to look, the information is there.
One particularly useful column is the last one: Startup impact. It tells you—in admittedly vague terms—how much that program slows boot time. This can help you decide what to remove.
To disable an autoloader, right-click it and select Disable.
And take a look at the other options on that context menu. Open file location shows you where the program is located on your hard drive—a good clue about who put it there. And if you really can’t figure it out, select Search online to see what the Internet says about this program.
Unfortunately, this Startup tool lacks Date Disabled information. If you’re going to experiment with disabling various autoloaders, make a note about which ones you just disabled. That way, if something fails, you can fix it.