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Clear unwanted apps from Windows' Startup list

Windows can load quicker when you disable programs you don't need at start-up. Plus, stop Msconfig from opening automatically when Windows starts.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
2 min read

One way to get Windows to load faster is by using the System Configuration utility (aka Msconfig) to disable programs that start unnecessarily when you boot the operating system. To view this list in XP, click Start>Run, type msconfig, press Enter, and click the Startup tab. In Vista, open your Startup list by pressing the Windows key, typing msconfig, pressing Enter, and clicking the Startup tab.

Be careful not to disable a program that your system needs to start properly. Paul Collins' Startup Applications List can help you determine whether a program is required, or if it can (and sometimes definitely should) be disabled. Play it safe by disabling the programs one at a time, and restarting your system to make sure everything's copacetic before disabling another and repeating the process.

After you uncheck an entry in the Startup list, it remains there, waiting for you to change your mind, I imagine. You can remove the unselected items by editing the Registry, but a simpler way is to use the free MSConfig Cleanup utility from Virtuoza. After you download and install the program, simply open it to view a list of the deselected items in your machine's Startup list. Check those you want to remove permanently and click Clean Up Selected to give the entries the boot for good.

The MSConfig Cleanup utility for clearing unchecked items from Windows' Startup list.
The free MSConfig Cleanup utility removes unchecked items from Windows' Startup list.

Stop Msconfig from starting automatically
One of my Windows XP systems insisted on starting Msconfig every time it booted. I tried clicking Start>Run, typing Msconfig /auto, pressing Enter, and checking "Don't show this message or launch the System Configuration Utility when Windows starts," but the Selective Startup window still popped up whenever Windows opened, requiring me to click OK>Exit Without Restart.

I found a script written by Doug Knox called xp_nomsconfig.vbs that is intended to close the Selective Startup window once and for all, but it didn't work on my system, generating an error message about needing Administrator permissions to run the script. I opened the script in Notepad (right-click it and choose Open With>Notepad), and then noticed that it removed a particular Registry entry called MSConfigReminder. After opening the Registry Editor (click Start>Run, type regedit, and press Enter), I noticed that the entry wasn't located in the key referenced by the script, but was in another: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run (one level up from the key the script pointed to). I deleted the key, restarted the machine, and was delighted to see it start without Selective Startup appearing. Note that before you make any changes to your Registry, create a system-restore point, just in case.

Tomorrow: Troubleshoot Ubuntu Linux wireless-adapter woes.