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Monitor program installs and speed up Windows

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A brand new computer is fast and responsive, starting up very quickly and performing tasks in an instant. A year or two on though, and it's just a source of major irritation. It takes ages to start up and seems to take forever to do anything. What's wrong with it? The problem is that when you install software, frequently items are added to the list of programs that are run on startup. When the operating system boots up it loads lots of programs in the background and each one adds to the time taken to get to the desktop. Many of these programs continue to run in the background and contribute to the poor performance of the computer and they increase the time required to shut down too. It happens in Windows, Apple Mac OS X and Linux, but of the three, the problem is the most serious with Windows. Using Autoruns you can detect when program installations add items to the startup process and run items in the background. It can be used to disable these items and therefore boost the performance of your PC.

AutoRuns is a free program that everyone should have on their computer and it has been around for many years. It's frequently updated though, so if you have an old version you should get the latest one. It is supplied as a zip file and it doesn't require installing (there's no point in making things worse). Just extract the files into any folder you like.

Although you can just double click autoruns.exe to start it, you won't be able to use all of its features. Instead, you should right click autoruns.exe and select Run as administrator. The first time you run it, it will scan the registry and display a long list of items, many of which will be incomprehensible unless you are a technical expert. Let it finish its scan and then go to the Options menu and tick the option to hide Microsoft and Windows entries. Click the Refresh button in the toolbar afterwards. This setting will be remembered for next time, so you only need to do it once.

Monitor software installations

A great feature of Autoruns is the ability to save the long list of Windows startup items and then to compare the current list with a saved one. The next time you want to install some software, run Autoruns first and when it has finished its scan, go to the File menu and select Save. Save the file somewhere where it won't get lost, such as your Documents folder. Quit Autoruns and then install the software.

It's best to run the software you installed at least once because it might make configuration changes to Windows. Then you can run Autoruns again. After the startup scan, go to the File menu and select Compare. Chose the file you saved earlier and Autoruns will load it and highlight any differences in green. It's really easy to see if the software has made any changes to the Windows startup process.


Autoruns lets you disable startup items by clearing the tick box next to them. Some items are essential, like firewalls, anti virus and so on, so don't disable everything you see added to the startup! The highlighted green items should be investigated using Google and Bing to search for the filenames. You could also try disabling a startup item, test the software and if it still works OK you can leave it disabled, or you can enable it again if it is necessary.

It's impossible to give advice on what to disable and what to leave because there's just so much software out there. At least with Autoruns you can discover the reason for slow startups and start investigating why a program needs a background item.