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Windows Vista hints and tips

Tips index

Disable startup services with msconfig

As mentioned in an earlier tip, Windows loads lots of items in the background when it starts up - stuff you've never heard of or didn't know about. Most of it is useful, but sometimes items are loaded that are not important. Naturally, the software supplier thinks its software is the best thing since sliced bread and so sets it to load every time you switch on the computer. The fact that you only use it once a week never occurs to the software supplier and you end up running stuff you don't need most of the time.

There's a quick and easy way to see what services are loading with Windows and to disable them. Click the Start button at the left-hand side of the taskbar and type msconfig. Hit Return and the System Configuration utility will open. You might need to resize the columns so that the text of each item is not chopped off. Just click and drag the column separators (like you would in Excel) to resize them

msconfigFew of the services mean anything to most people and only technical boffins can make sense of the list. However, there is a very simple way of pruning it. Just tick the box at the bottom labelled Hide all Microsoft services. Standard Windows services are best left alone and they should not be altered unless you know what you are doing. After hiding them you'll see a much smaller list and these items must be related to the software you have installed.

It's impossible to list the services you might find here because there are hundreds and possibly thousands. Everyone will have slightly different services installled because they have different software installed on their computers. A typical item that most people have though is iTunes. If you only use iTunes once a week to update your iPod you could disable the service by clearing the tick box and then enable just when you want to use iTunes. After all, if you're not running the software, why do you need the service? It's just wasting processor time and memory.

Don't disable anything you might need, like anti virus, anti spyware, or firewall services. However, software you have uninstalled or software you need only occasionally can be turned off. If you disable a service and find that the computer or some software you use isn't working properly, return to msconfig and enable then service by ticking the box. Restart the computer and everything will be back to normal.

Google is good at tracking down services, so if you see something you don't understand, try entering the service name into Google's search box.