Is your computer slow to start up?
by, 08-09-2010 at 02:08 PM (7985 Views)
One of the most common complaints by computer owners is that their machine takes a long time to start up. Whilst there can be a number of reasons why that happens, the usual culprit is the operating system having to load numerous processes that may or may not be required.
Those that are definitely required include your antivirus software and third-party firewall (if installed), but there may be others depending on your machine configuration. That could be a UPS battery backup, an external audio controller, or programs like Skype or MSN if used regularly. Pretty well everything else can be removed from the Startup list (see below for instructions on how to do that).
In addition to speeding up the startup process, you'll also gain some RAM memory which will be particularly noticeable on machines with 512Mb or less of installed RAM. Additionally, some of those processes may also have access to the internet, particularly updaters, which will be 'calling home' regularly, checking for the latest versions of installed software. The most common include Java, Adobe, Quicktime, Google and RealPlayer, none of which are required to run at startup. Stopping those processes will prevent them using valuable bandwidth. For dial-up or slow connections, the difference will be noticeable.
So, how do you find out what's running on your system?
The traditional Windows option is to run the inbuilt utility called msconfig (see below), which does require some degree of computer experience, but there are much simpler ways.
There are numerous small programs (see list below), all free-to-use, that will show the programs in the startup list, and which will allow you to disable or remove entries completely. Of course, that implies you know which ones are required and which aren't.
Certain of those programs, particularly Startup Inspector, are able to link to a website which contains lists of 90% of known startup processes. Once started, the program checks what you have in your startup list and displays them. When you press Consult, each of the entries will be classified as to whether they are required or not, so you can choose to disable or remove. Startup Optimizer does a similar job.
Alternatively, or in addition, for the more-technically confident, there's always the option of running a HiJackThis scan and choosing to create a logfile. The startup entries are designated as 04 in the logfile, but that still doesn't tell you whether they are needed or not.
For a definitive explanation of what the startup entries are and whether they are required, you can enter each one into the search box here...
SystemLookup - Startup List
Highlight the .exe file on each 04 entry, then individually copy and paste into the Search box on the webpage, then click on the magnifying glass. The next window will tell you what the .exe does. If classified as Y, leave the entry. If U, you must decide if you need that utility at your finger tips 'pre-started' or remove it. If the latter, check the box next to the entry in HiJackThis. This does not delete the program, just the entry.
There is also an N for 'Not needed' - check the box on these also. If noted as an X or ? leave alone and check out the following tutorial...
How to start removing viruses spyware your computer
In HiJackThis, after you've checked the box next to the ones you want stopped, click the Fix Checked button and reboot the machine. Do not check any other entries unless specifically asked to by a volunteer. To do so, may damage your machine, so be warned.
Once you've completed the above you should be left with no more than 4 - 6 entries.
For Laptop owners, you'll also need to leave the touchpad software entries in place.
Monitoring future entries
So, now you've trimmed down the number of applications set to run at startup, how do you stop them reappearing without you knowing? Or new entries being slipped in without your knowledge when installing new programs? Or malware installing itself in the registry and set to run every time you start your computer?
Actually, it's very easy. There are a number of small, free, utilities that will monitor the startup list and the registry, and let you know when anything tries to add an entry. You'll then have the option of allowing or denying the change. The best known is probably Mike Lin's StartupMonitor.
Recommended free software
Startup list management software
Startup Control Panel
Ccleaner Please note that we don't advise using the Registry clean option unless you are able to understand what you are seeing. If you don't, you may cause major problems. See here and here for more info.
Autoruns (for advanced users)
WinPatrol (for advanced users)
Startup monitoring software
WinPatrol (for advanced users)
One thing to bear in mind is that both of the above programs will install themselves in the startup list by default. That's normal and necessary for their operation. Of the 2, my choice would be, and has been for a long time, Startup Monitor which is dedicated to monitoring and nothing else.
For those wishing to learn about Windows msconfig utility, this will explain how it's used.
How to use MSCONFIG: NetSquirrel.com