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Windows Vista hints and tips

Tips index

Disable startup items with msconfig

Windows loads lots of items automatically when it starts up and some of these items are not strictly necessary. Programs and utilities are loaded by Windows and frequently these items do not announce their presence and you don't know that they are running. Sometimes you get an icon in the notification area of the taskbar (the section at the right-hand side that shows the clock and all those icons), but sometimes you don't see anything at all.

You might find that some of the items that load with Windows are really useful and typical examples of these are anti virus and anti spyware software, or a firewall. However, not all the items that automatically load with Windows are useful and some simply use up processor time and memory, which can cause the computer to perform poorly or cause it to take many minutes to start up. A few items that are loaded automatically with Windows can be downright irritating and adware and spyware belong to this class.

Click the Start button at the left-hand side of the taskbar and type msconfig. Hit Return and the System Configuration utility will open. Select the Startup tab. It's a good idea to resize the columns so you can see the entries better by clicking and dragging the column separators (like in Excel).

msconfigNow just clear the ticks against anything that you don't need. It sounds simple, but the problem is that it's hard to tell what is needed and what isn't.

A few items in the list will be obvious, but others will not be. Typical examples of obvious ones are Windows Defender, iTunes, and QuickTime. These are useful to have around, so it is best leave them well alone, but other items in the startup list may not be obvious.

If you can't tell what something is from the name in the Startup Item column, take a look at the Manufacturer column. The entry may tell you where it is from or what the program is, but it is not always helpful.

Finally, you might need to look at the Command column. This tells you the folder that the program is stored in and the filename. In the screen shot above SODCPreLoad means nothing, and it just says Unknown in the manufacturer column. However, you can see from the command that it is part of IBM Lotus Symphony. The tick has been cleared against it so that it is not loaded authomatically with Windows. (Sometimes part of a program is held in memory to make it load faster and disabling this feature just means that a second or two is added to the program's startup time).


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