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How to change startup programs in Windows 7, 8, XP and Vista

James Temperton
24 Oct 2014
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We explain how to remove unwanted programs from startup in Windows

Your computer is probably clogged up by a plethora of spamming software that starts every time you turn it on. So-called startup programs can really slow down your computer and you likely don't even realise they exist. When you install software it will often set itself to run when your computer starts, which isn't always necessary. Removing unwanted startup programs is easy. The first two steps are for Windows Vista and 7, while Step 3 talks about Windows 8 only. 

1. START THE SYSTEM CONFIGURATION TOOL

Press Windows+R to open the Run window, type msconfig and hit Enter. The System Configuration window that opens lets you change which programs run at startup. Click the Startup tab and you'll see a long list of everything that runs when Windows starts. This list includes applications that are currently in the Start Menu’s Startup folder. Before we get started, it’s important not to mess around with this list too much as some programs do need to run as Windows starts – your antivirus software, for example.

msconfig

2. DEACTIVATE APPLICATIONS YOU DON’T NEED

Scroll through the list and remove any programs that aren't necessary or needed. Common candidates may include BBC iPlayer or iTunes. Select the tick-box to deselect them and then click OK. You'll then see a window asking you to restart your computer. If it is convenient to do so now click Restart or select 'Exit without restart' to do this later.

System Configuration in Windows 7 - restart computer dialog box

3. DEACTIVATE PROGRAMS IN WINDOWS 8

In Windows 8 and 8.1 right-click on the Taskbar and open Task Manager (you can also press CTRL-SHIFT-ESC). Click Startup to view a list of applications that start with your computer. Windows 8 will also list the Start-up impact of each application, so you can sort the list and look for the High impact (the slowest to load) applications.

Select a startup program you want to remove and click Disable. You can also right-click on each program you want to remove and click Disable this way. As we said before do not disable any startup programs unless you sure they're not important.

Windows 8 Task Manager - startup items

4. DISABLE SERVICES

If your computer is still struggling you can also disable services that run when it starts. You’ll need to open System Configuration in all versions of Windows (Windows+R, type msconfig, press Enter) but this time click the Services tab. You should never disable any services where the Manufacturer is listed as Microsoft Corporation. Be wary of any services that have your virus software’s name, too.

In general you should be wary of disabling any startup services, but there are some that can switched off. We recommend ticking 'Hide all Microsoft services' and then looking through the list and deselecting anything you think isn't essential. Click OK to make the changes.

msconfig services

STEP 5 – RE-ENABLE STARTUP ITEMS OR SERVICES

Any changes you make in Startup or Services can be reversed easily enough. Go to the relevant tab, scroll down to the bottom and you'll see a list of all disabled items and when they were disabled. Select the tick-box next to any that you want to reenable. You'll need to restart your computer to save the changes.

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