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Software Explorer keeps unneeded apps from auto-starting

This component of Vista's Windows Defender security program makes disabling auto-start apps a breeze.

A lot of programs you don't need to start with Windows do anyway, or try to. And many that you try to prevent from auto-starting just re-enable themselves. Yesterday I described how to remove recalcitrant apps from Windows XP's auto-start list via the System Configuration utility, or Msconfig. Vista's new Software Explorer makes it easier to get rid of the unnecessary auto-starters on your PC.

(As I mentioned yesterday, the $30 WinPatrol, the free CCleaner, and many other Windows utilities can be used to prevent applications from starting with Windows. Here I'm focusing on the tools built into Windows.)

To open Software Explorer, press the Windows key, type defender, and press Enter, or click Start > All Programs > Windows Defender. Select Tools > Software Explorer, and choose Startup Programs on the drop-down menu (if it isn't already selected). Scroll through the list of programs in the left pane, and select one to see information about it, such as the date it was installed, whether it is part of Vista, and its location in the Registry.

The list of auto-start programs in Windows Vista's Software Explorer utility
Vista's Software Explorer provides information about the auto-start programs on your PC. Microsoft

You can either disable or remove the program from Vista's auto-start lineup. If an item is grayed out, click "Show for all users" at the bottom of the screen. When you disable a program from auto-starting here, you don't get nagged about any settings changes the way Msconfig bugs you with pop-ups about diagnostic and selective startups whenever you reset something.

In addition to startup programs, Software Explorer lists the processes currently running on your PC, the programs connected to the network, and Winsock Service Providers, which handle TCP/IP and other network protocols. You can end a process listed under Currently Running Programs by selecting the entry and clicking End Process. However, choosing the Task Manager button merely opens that utility; you have to navigate manually to the process's entry in Task Manager to see more information about it there.

Tomorrow: smoothing the transition to