What’s all this stuff running after I boot Windows?
When you start Windows you’re starting much more than just
the operating system. Many applications that have been
installed will also have tools or utilities that start
automatically when the system starts or later when you log in.
And there’s a bunch of places that start-up tasks get
defined; besides your programs-startup folder there are
several places in the registry as well.
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Many start up tasks are necessary to carry out the things
you expect your computer to do. For example if you run MSN
Messenger then chances are you’ll want want it to be running as
soon as the computer starts. Another important example might be
virus scanning software.
However, many are not required at all. My favorite (or
least favorite) examples are the Real Audio and Quick Time
media players. The players themselves are fine and I use them
both. However they both also install additional tasks that are
started each time you log in to Windows. In most cases they
simply check for software updates, but in some cases they also
periodically present you with pop-up “messages” that, in my
opinion, are really just another form of pop-up spam.
And some start up tasks we’re never really sure about until
we disable them and something breaks.
Identifying what gets started when you log in has gotten a
lot easier in Windows XP. A program called “MSCONFIG” is
included that lists exactly what happens on startup. (Start,
Run, type “MSCONFIG”, and then select the startup tab). Using
MSCONFIG it’s very easy to turn off those items you don’t want
starting every time.
In Windows 2000 and Windows 9x there was no embedded
support but there are tools available. Sysinternals has the
that’s recently been updated to make deleting auto-start items
easier. For years I ran a free download utility also called
which was published in a PC Magazine article. Alas, the utility
is no longer free as PC Magazine’s library is now subscription
only, but I still recommend it.
Advanced Startup Cop
while also not free is another application that will help you
identify and control what’s running.
So what’s safe to delete? Well, if you’re not sure it’s
probably safest to leave it alone for now … BUT … for the
record, I have both realsched.exe (Real Audio’s annoy-ware) and
qttask.exe (Quicktime’s equivalent) disabled.
And I’ll look at how to identify the tasks running on your
machine in a future post.