Startup Programs and Removing Them

Written by Mark Sanborn: Aug 9, 2007

So you start up your computer only to wait 5 to even 15 minutes for Windows to fully load before you can go ahead and use your computer. This can be very frustrating to the user. More and more, programs are inserting themselves into the startup process so that every time you turn on your computer all sorts of unnecessary programs are running in the background without your permission. Most computer manufacturers including Dell, are notorious for pre-bundling unnecessary software that runs in the background of your system. The problem is that all of these programs and processes take up memory, CPU time, and other resources that can significantly slow your computer.

This annoying problem can be easily solved by investing only a few minutes of your time to identify the programs running on computer startup and prevent them from running. If you frequently start or restart your computer you will find that you will save a lot of time and your minimal time invested will be well worth your trouble. Now lets get started!

Note: this howto is not about removing any program components, only preventing them from running on startup. The computer user can then retain the option of running something at any time, while removing it from the startup process.

OK, the first step is to identify the programs that are running themselves when your computer first starts up. An easy way to do this is to save whatever you were working on and restart your computer. When your computer is finished starting up don’t open any programs just notice the icons in the lower right hand portion of your screen. You may have one or two or maybe a bunch. Make a mental note of what they are or write them down if you have many. If you are unsure what the program is hover your mouse over the icon and a tool tip will tell you what it is.

A Few Example Startup Programs

The only running program I tend to have on startup on a Windows machine is Anti-virus. You will usually find your startup programs hanging out in the system tray (Lower right hand corner near the clock-You may have to click on the expand arrow to see all of these programs if you have many) Your needs may vary so I will give a few examples of what I would consider a waste of resources from startup programs. You then can decide if that little messaging program is absolutely necessary to run every time you start your computer. Chances are that you have some programs in your system tray that you don’t even know what they do. In more cases than not there is no need for a program to be running in the system tray and it is safe as well as recommended that you get your system tray to be as minimal as possible. With that in mind when in doubt get rid of it.

Quicktime I have no need to have Quicktime running in the background collecting information about me and causing my computer to use unnessesary CPU cycles. When I want to watch a movie I will open up my media player and play my movie. After all Quicktime is only a codec and doesn’t need to be running anything in the background of your computer ever! This is only one example of course. Lets look at another.

Skype Skype is a program that many people use and want as a startup program because they cannot accept incoming calls unless it is running. The way I use Skype is to turn it on when I need it. If I know that I will be expecting a call from Norway at a specific time I turn it on a few minutes before I expect the call. After all you are probably not sitting at your computer all day anyways so if Skype is running while you are away people will be trying to call you. Rather when you are online with Skype make it mean that you are at your computer and ready to talk if someone wants to call. This is why I prevent Skype from running on startup. If you are at a work computer and/or use your computer to make many calls via Skype you may need to keep Skype running while you are at work.

Java Java is a great programming language and is often required by many Windows programs; however, the Windows Java runtime installs a program that sits in your system tray and looks for updates and generally wastes CPU cycles and system memory. I am all for updating your software. Almost always it is a good idea to have updated software. The only problem is that having a program constantly running looking for updates is a complete waste of your computer’s resources. Java is like the Quicktime codec example. There is no reason that the program has to be running unless you are running a program that requires the Java runtime. The program that requires the Java runtime will open it when needed and close it when it is done. There is once again no reason for this to be running at all times.

More serious problems with startup programs

There are more serious versions of startup programs and these are the ones you really have to watch out for. These programs are generally spyware or adware and don’t reveal themselves in the system tray. Why would they? If they did you would become aware that they are on your computer and you would probably attempt to remove them. For more information about spyware/adware see my spyware adware guide. Fortunately for us however, there is a program that will reveal most of the hidden startup programs and best of all it is built into Windows if you have Windows XP or Windows 98 (If you still run windows 98 you need to upgrade). If you are unsure which version of windows you have you can press the “windows key” + break (The windows key is the key on your computer with the Windows logo) and a window will pop up showing you the version of windows you have. To run this built in program click start > then go to run > type in ‘msconfig’ (without quotes).

Using Msconfig

Once you have msconfig running you will notice some tabs along the top. The tabs in this program we are going to focus on is the General tab and the Startup tab. The General tab has the three options for startup:

  • Normal Startup - Default loads all programs set to run on startup. If you make changes in the Startup tab this will move to the Selective Startup automatically

  • Diagnostic Startup - Probably the most useful of the three options allowing you to disable ALL programs from starting on startup in one fell swoop. This is not entirely useful by itself since you are going to want some of your aplications to run on startup, but if you select this option hit apply and restart your computer you will get a feel for what your computer would be like with no startup programs.

  • Selective Startup - This is probably the option you will end up going with; however, you do not need to select this option. If you make ANY changes in the Startup tab of Msconfig this option will automatically be selected. This means that you have startup programs that you are preventing from running via the startup tab (Do not change anything below this option).

The startup tab lists all the programs that Windows will run the second your computer boots up. Inside the Startup tab window you will notice that there are three columns to sort by one is by:

  • Startup Item - This is a short usually one word description or name of the item that is starting up. It will sometimes say what it is and other times be totally obscure. For example Skype’s Startup Item says ‘Skype’. Where the Java runtime says ‘jusched’. Sometimes if you are unsure you can do a Google search and find out what the program is.

  • Command - This is usually the best way to identify a Startup Item as it shows the path of where the program is. The program path usually indicates what the program is indirectly by saying for example c:/Program Files/Java/jre1.6.0. As you can see the ‘jusched’ Startup Item is some sort of Java program we can tell that because under the command column it says java in the program path.

  • Location - The information in this column is usually not needed for identifying Startup Items.

Go ahead and go through this list and unselect all of the programs that you think are unnessesary startup programs. If you have an antivirus program make sure not to unselect it; although, if you do select it you can always open up Msconfig again and select it again and restart. These actions are NOT permanent and this does not actually remove the program it just simply instructs windows to ignore these on startup.

Just experiment and turn these off one at a time or if you are pretty sure its not needed just go crazy and start unchecking. Remember these are not permanent you are NOT removing these programs you are just telling Windows to ignore them on startup.

If you still unsure about what to remove you can type them up and send them to me via my contact form at the top of this page. As long as I don’t get a swarmed with requests I will email you back with suggestions on which programs I would remove. Here is a list of programs that I usually disable. I will add to this list as a find more of these running unnessesary CPU resource eating programs :)

Common Programs that Should not Need to be Run on Startup

Quicktime - Get QuickTime Alternative instead. Real Player - Real Alternative instead. MSN Messenger Windows Live Messenger Divx - Get defilerpak instead.

Startup Programs and my Recommendations

  • NvCpl – Nvidia Control panel (you can disable if you want)

  • nwiz – Nview Desktop Manager (you can disable if you want)

  • RTHDCPL – Realtek HD Audio (I would disable)

  • ALCMTR – Realtek Event Manager (disable)

  • AzMixerSel - Azalia Mixer Selector (I would disable)

  • AGRSMMSG - SoftModem Assistant (disable especially if you don’t use a modem)

  • vsnp2std - Camera Monitor from Sonix belonging to PC Camera Monitor Application

  • CSWalker – Not sure (disable)

  • Wireless Select Switch – (may be the switch on your laptop that enables/disables wireless you can probably leave this on)

  • PDVDServ - PowerDVD Remote Control (disable and use MPC instead)

  • Language – (disable unless you need another language)

  • dpmw32 - Netware Distributed Printing Client (Leave it I guess)

  • zentray - Part of Novell’s ZenWorks (Leave it)

  • NWTRAY - Novell Netware tray application (leave it)

  • ccApp – Norton Antivirus (leave it)

  • VPTray – Virus Protection Shield icon (leave it)

  • jusched – Windows task manager (leave it if you use it)

  • Reader_sl – Acrobat Reader (disable and use foxit reader)

  • SpySweeperUI – SpySweeper (leave it)

  • realsched – Real Audio (disable and use Real Alternative)

  • qttask – Quicktime (disable and use Quicktime Alternative)

  • ctfmon - Alternative User Input Text Input Processor, this is part of the language bar (leave it if you use another language)

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