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Is there an easy way to temporarily turn off online activity during startup?

When I’m travelling, I use a Sprint connection in my computer that has limited
bandwidth available and/or internet cafés and the like. I want to turn off the
automatic online things that happen when I start my computer: online backup,
virus protection, checking for updates, Dropbox syncing, and even a few
mysterious things Dell sent in my new computer. Is there a way to figure out
what all is firing up to connect, turn it off when I don’t want it, and turn it back on
when back in my office?

In these days of almost ubiquitous and constant connectivity, many
applications now assume online access and begin checking for an assortment of
things when they start running.

In this audio segment from an Ask Leo! webinar, I’ll discuss the
chances of being able to manage that at a more granular level.

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Transcript

When I’m travelling, I use a Sprint connection in my computer that has limited bandwidth available and/or internet cafés and the like. I want to turn off the automatic online things that happen when I start my computer: online backup, virus protection, checking for updates, Dropbox syncing, and even a few mysterious things Dell sent in my new computer. Is there a way to figure out what all is firing up to connect, turn it off when I don’t want it, and back on when back in my office?

So, I can give you a partial answer on that. I believe (and we’d actually have to test this)… I believe if you hold down the Shift key, everything that’s in your start up folder gets bypassed. It doesn’t run what’s listed in the start up menu. The problem with that is that (besides the fact that I could be wrong) it’s a vague memory, but I think that’s the way it works.

The problem with that is that of course not everything is in the Start menu. I know for a fact that things like Dropbox and so forth are not. And to be honest, I really don’t have a good solution for this particular problem. What I would be tempted to do is (since this is a bandwidth issue) is to make sure that the network connection hasn’t been made so that anything that is suspecting to connect to a remote service (Dropbox comes to mind) doesn’t.

It fails on start up until you then connect to the net, which for example, things like an internet café, Starbucks, and such typically end up having to accept an interstitial agreement anyway so a lot of that already happens that way. As far as some of the things that kind of automatically just start doing things like your anti-spyware, anti-malware tools, I don’t have a good solution for you.

If this were a serious enough problem, what I would do is have those services to the extent that you can, not be set to autostart. A lot of them you can do that and in fact for various reasons, Dropbox is an example that I use; I can’t start Dropbox automatically because in fact, my Dropbox folders are on a Truecrypt volume that haven’t mounted yet when Windows starts.

So, start what you can manually instead. That’s one approach. We have a suggestion, ‘Wouldn’t setting up a limited service account on the computer which doesn’t have all those automatic logons defaulted?’ That helps some. You can certainly do that. The downside is that (much like the start menu) not everything qualifies; not everything is controlled by logging on.

Let me go and re-read the question, yeah, ‘when I start my computer’ so when you reboot your computer a lot of things happen that aren’t necessarily controlled by your log on account and I think those are also some of the things you want to be able to have more control over in a situation like that. I think you’re anti-malware tools for example, are probably going to run regardless of whether or not you’re logged in.

Again, depends on the tool of course. So that is another partial solution that can certainly take care of some things but not all of them I’m afraid. So the short answer is I really don’t have a great solution for you. It turns out to be pretty piecemeal to make that kind of thing happen.

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6 comments on “Is there an easy way to temporarily turn off online activity during startup?”

  1. What about unchecking (disabling) everything from msconfig or using the free WinPatrol which shows even more than msconfig?

    MSConfig doesn’t include everything. Unchecking everything, particularly in tools like WinPatrol or Autoruns that show more, may result in system instability since there’s no easy way to know which are required and which are optional.

    Leo
    26-Jun-2012
    Reply
  2. Because I have a limit on my internet usage, I never start my PC with access to the internet. This stops all the automatic stuff using my allowance ‘just checking they are up to date’.
    Virus updates are a difficult one, as it may be you cannot stop them updating without turning the program itself off (not a good idea) but you can stop other items before you switch on your internet hardware.

    Reply
  3. My Sony laptop running Win7 has a slide switch marked wireless, on the front edge. I can manually turn off the wireless connection before I start my computer, or turn it off at any time, such as when on battery power to conserve energy. Also I can hit windows button and the X key to bring up the Windows Mobility Center and there toggle the wireless connection on or off. When traveling you might want leave the connection set to off until you need it.

    Reply
  4. Suggest DL of Soluto (www.soluto.com) which lists all programs, services, etc that run on startup, along with description and recommendations whether to delay, pause, disable, etc. Using this prog can shorten boot time a great deal.

    Reply
  5. There are a number of apps that control the apps that run at startup time. Be aware that Windows contains MANY different lists of startup programs and there is also a separate list of startup services. So, tweaking this is inevitably flawed.

    As for apps (not services), msconfig is a joke, forget it exists. Autoruns, a freebie from Microsoft is very comprehensive and is aimed at nerds; probably overkill for many. Not familiar with WinPatrol. I use Startup Control Panel from Mike Lin at mlin.net. Works on XP and 7 (I don’t use Vista). It is more comprehensive that msconfig but less so than Autoruns. Shows a handful of tabs, each is a different list of auto-started programs. Like the other apps in this class, a simple checkbox controls whether a program runs at startup time or not.

    Reply
  6. I find MSConfig fine for most purposes. It is quick and easy to use, and is already available on Windows PCs. I just start by disabling all non Microsoft services and all startup items, and that normally works okay to avoid conflicts or delays.

    I would only use Autoruns if MSConfig didn’t achieve the objective – which is usually ensuring an uncluttered system on someone else’s PC before installing software. If you leave it enabled on your own PC then you can always adjust the settings and reboot whenever you need to.

    Reply

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