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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Auto start programs can slow computer

By Kim Komando

Remember when your computer was new? It took mere seconds to greet you with the Microsoft Windows desktop. But today, the time it takes for your computer to start seemingly takes forever.

This is pretty common. One area of your computer that gets bloated over time is the Startup folder on the Start menu. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to clean up.

As Windows boots up, other programs automatically begin running as well.

It's advantageous to have some programs automatically start. For example, your anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall should always be active. But unnecessary programs also start automatically. More than five or so running simultaneously will slow down any computer.

How do these programs get there? You may give them permission to start automatically when you install them. The biggest culprits tend to be music players and instant messaging programs. In most cases, the automatic start has little value.

So how do you know what is running? Check the lower right-hand corner of Windows the notification area, formerly called the system tray. You should see a few icons there (you may have to click an arrow to display all icons). If you place your cursor over an icon, the program's name will appear.

The notification area only tells part of the story. There may be other programs (also called processes) running that aren't represented in the notification area. To find these, press Ctrl+Alt+Del.

This will show the Windows Task Manager dialog box. Select the Applications tab. If you just started your computer, it may not show any programs running. Now click the Processes tab. You might be surprised to find a long list of programs running.

Problem is, the processes aren't listed in clear English. For example, you might see a process called realsched.exe. That program schedules update checks for the multimedia software, Real Player.

How do you identify a process? Process Explorer (www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/ProcessExplorer.html) and Process Library (www.liutilities.com/products/wintaskspro/processlibrary) are two free ways. You also can research a process using a search site, such as Google or Yahoo.

Once you identify the process, you can restrict it from automatically starting. Each program is different, but you should find an "automatically start with Windows" option. If you can't, check the offending program's help section.

There are other ways to stop such programs. You can delete the program's icon from the Windows Startup folder. This doesn't always work, though.

You may need to dig deeper. Most programs that start with your computer can be stopped by using the Windows utility, MSConfig. To find it, click Start, then Run. Enter "msconfig" (without the quotes) in the box and click OK.

Select the Startup tab. Uncheck boxes for programs you don't need to have running (RealTray, Winamp or other audio utilities are good candidates).

You're not deleting the program, just preventing it from automatically launching. But be cautious, as there are a few programs that should be running (including SystemTray and your firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus software).

MSConfig is part of Windows 98, Me and XP. It is not present in Windows 2000, but there is a free way to get it. Download StartUp Control Panel (www.mlin.net/StartupCPL.shtml).