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This page is for the moderately skilled.  It is under construction (October 2009)

Many people find the Startup confusing.  It is a special part of Windows that contains a list of programs that are loaded soon after you start the machine.

So, if Windows wants it perhaps you had better leave it alone, right ?

Well, it is true that you CAN leave it alone and it probably wont do any harm. It tends to rear its head when too many programs find their way onto Startup, mostly without your permission. It is therefore an area which can be exploited by viruses and it is there one of the first places I look if someone has an infection. But the other reason to look at this is because each of the programs that is started by Startup takes some memory. It also is one of the factors that slows down your 'boot' time.  In a recent survey it was found that the two main factors slowing things down were insufficient memory and too much in the Startup. Those programs that are started will usually show as small icons in the bottom right of your screen.  Moving the mouse over those will tell your what they are.

There is absolutely no harm in looking at your startup to see if it is getting cluttered.  To get to it click on the Start button, then on Run, then type Msconfig and click OK.  A page with several columns will appear and one of them will be marked Startup. The list will show.  You can turn off any of the programs by 'unticking' the boxes on the left.  If you find that something doesn't work as it should then you can put the tick back and, after you restart the machine it will be back exactly as it was. There is even a facility for turning off ALL the items.  But you had better make a note of what you are doing so you can get back to where you were. Note that you can drag the columns of startup at the top, so widening them and see more of what each item refers to.  But this is very limited and you may still not recognise what programs they refer to. In fact I often spend a long time Googling each word to find out what they do.  There are even whole sites on the net which list items from Startups.  It is a very long list.

Why should these programs be mentioned there and how did they get there.

Many of them are put there when you install a program, ostensibly to make loading that program faster (if you should ever need it)  Good examples of this are the entire Microsoft Office Suite, a whole list of things that come from companies like HP and Canon (if you have installed a printer, camera or scanner. But, presumably if you want to start one of those programs you can do so from "All Programs".  Why use memory (and time) pre loading things you use occasionally ?

Then any program that issues frequent updates may add an item to the list.  So, when you start your PC it first checks to see what version of their program you have and then may connect to the internet (if you are on line) and start to download the latest version.  And you wonder why starting the PC is sometimes so slow ? Such programs include things like Quicktime (QT) and Real Player. But there may be several others. I can honestly say that I have unticked all startup items beginning in HP and Canon and not noticed any lack of facilities.

So what are the things you should leave in Startup.  Well, you shouldn't take off anything that looks like your security software e.g. antivirus programs or firewall or anti spam and anti adware programs.  There may also be items related to you broadband connection.  There are almost certain to be items relating to special facilities for your screen, sound and keyboard.  Not essential for basic use of the computer.  

System Restore can also temporarily slow the computer's performance if it chooses to make a restore checkpoint the system while a user is using the PC. It makes a restore point frequently, usually during startup, so that can be yet another reason that startup takes longer than you would otherwise expect.

To be completed

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