RAW Computing

Stop pop-ups, errors and messages on startup

A common problem that many people get when they start their computer or restart Windows is that a message is displayed on the screen, a pop-up window appears, an error occurs, or something else irritating happens. People frequently say, "How do I stop X appearing every time I start Windows?"

One reason why this is occuring could be because some application is starting automatically with Windows and is running in the background. This can then display pop-up windows or perform some other action. Another reason is that something was configured to start in the background and is now missing. Windows then displays an error message saying that it can't find such and such a program. All you need to do to stop these programs and errors is to find out where they have been configured to start from. It requires a little detective work.

The Startup folder

Click Start, All Programs, Startup. Any programs on the menu will automatically start when Windows starts. You can click and drag these out of the Startup folder and drop them somewhere else on the Start menu, or even on the desktop. If you need them you can always run them manually.

Windows Startup menu

Windows 8 doesn't have a Start menu, but it does still have a Startup folder. You just can't see it. Open an Explorer window and go to C:\ProgramData \Microsoft \Windows \Start Menu \Programs \Startup and also C:\Users \YourName \AppData \Roaming \Microsoft \Windows \Start Menu \Programs \Start-up. (There are hidden folders there, so open Folder Options in the Control Panel and on the View tab select Show hidden files, folders and drives.)

Use msconfig

Many programs don't bother with the Startup menu and instead they add an entry to the registry where Windows keeps a list of programs that are to start automatically. There are several places in the where this information is stored and although we could use the registry editor, it is easier to use msconfig. Click Start (and Run in XP) and then type msconfig and hit Return. Click the Startup tab to see a list of programs that start with Windows.

msconfig

Some items in the list are obvious and you can see iTunes, QuickTime, Mobile Me, Java, an audio control panel and so on. The rogue item causing the startup problems could be listed here, so check each entry and use Google to search for anything you don't recognise. You may need to look at the command column to get the filename of the program that is running and then type it into Google. Clear the tick against anything you don't wat to run.

Select the Services tab and then tick the box to Hide all Microsoft services. What's left is software that has been installed after Windows was put on the PC. Once again look for items you don't recognise and try to find out whether they are useful or not using Google. Clear the tick against anything you don't wat to run.

msconfig

Windows 8 has a new tool for checking startup programs. Go to the desktop, right click the taskbar and select Task Manager. Select the Start-up tab.

Use Autoruns

Autoruns is a more powerful version of msconfig and it finds a lot more items that start automatically with Windows. The trouble with it is that many items are obscure and are essential to Windows or the hardware components in your PC. Run it and on the Options menu choose Hide Microsoft and Windows entries, then click the refresh button in the toolbar. That helps, a bit. You can right click entries and select Search online to find out more. This can often help determine whether something is useful or not.

Autoruns

Since everyone's PC is different it isn't possible to give a list of what's useful, essential, not essential, or malware adware or spyware. The thing to do is to look at the list of startup items when the PC is running fine and see what's there. When it goes wrong you may be able to spot the rogue item if you know what should be there and what shouldn't.

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