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Trim Your Startup

A lot of programs set themselves up to load automatically at startup. Which ones really need to run every time I boot?

Nick Perez, via the Internet

Very few programs need to load automatically at startup, but those that do generally fall into one of two categories: security programs and Windows components.

To see what programs your PC runs at startup, select Start, Run, type msconfig, press Enter, and click the Startup tab. (If you have Windows 2000, download Mike Lin's free substitute, Startup Control Panel.) Uncheck any items listed under the Startup tab that you don't want loaded automatically with Windows, which will probably be most of them. However, on the list too are some programs you absolutely, positively want to load when Windows starts. (Note that in Win 2000 there are no required startup programs.)

In Windows 98 and Me, keep ScanRegistry, TaskMonitor, and SystemTray checked (see FIGURE 2

Figure 2: Keep these programs checked when paring apps from Windows' startup.
). Keep both listings for LoadPowerProfile checked. If you use Scheduled Tasks, keep SchedulingAgent checked; otherwise, uncheck it. Windows Me users need PCHealth and StateMgr checked.

In Windows XP, leave msmsgs checked. You'd probably like to get rid of Windows Messenger (not to be confused with the MSN Messenger instant-messaging client), but Windows objects if you try.

Your firewall and your antivirus application need to load programs when they boot. Let them. You can generally figure out the relevant listings by examining the entry name, but here are some common ones: Norton Internet Security 2004 loads two files, ccApp and UrlLstCk. PC-cillin loads pccguide, PCClient, and TMOAgent. ZoneAlarm loads either zlclient (for the free version) or ZoneAlarm Pro (for the Professional version).

You shouldn't find any hardware drivers on the Startup list. Some drivers, though, load extra programs with bells and whistles, so don't be surprised if you see them. You can probably uncheck them, but be wary: You may have to restore the entries later if the devices start to misbehave. You can generally recognize a driver-related program because its name is similar to that of the hardware--for instance, "NvCpl" for some NVidia cards.

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