Windows XP Automatic Boot Startup Items
How to Stop them

Windows application developers LOVE TO DISPLAY THEIR WARES and they do so by having them automatically start up with windows.  Well, usually they start up a little "hook" in the system tray (lower-right portion of your taskbar) that can be used to access and control their apps.  They desperately want you to see that tiny icon whenever you use your PC . . . it is an advertisement !!  Unfortunately, it is not needed.

 

the majority of these apps DO NOT NEED TO BE LOADED AT STARTUP !!!  So you can remove their Windows autostart entries by following these instructions. 

 

The exceptions are (keep these - you want them to autostart):

 

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Antivirus "Auto-Protect" applications

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Personal Firewalls such as Black Ice or Zone Alarm

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Automated backup software that runs nightly

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Any personal automated task that you have setup to run

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any special software that must run continuously in the background (such as Laptop touchpad drivers)

 

All else you can generally delete from startup.  Windows has several methods of automatically starting applications upon bootup. 

 

Applications vs Processes

 

There is a fine line between these two.  Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to bring up the Windows Task Manager, which itself is a process (taskmgr.exe) to see all of the currently running Applications and Processes.  There is a separate Tab at the top for each.

 

 

Identify Startup Items

 

Download these two tiny utilities which will display most of your automatic startups and will allow you to remove them.

Autoruns  -  lists all the executables that are configured to automatically start when you boot Windows.  You will find quite a few programs just taking up system resources with this - then go and shut-em-down !!

Autoruns Manager (Startup Control Panel) - similar to Autoruns but has checkboxes for removing startups.  Don't worry about removing them - it does not delete files - just stops them from starting with Windows bootup.  In addition, you can recheck the boxes later if you find that you need any of them to autostart.

Autostart Processes that are not in the Usual Autostart Locations

***  the next few sections will describe where all the usual Autostart locations are.  

Typically, you can stop about half the processes with the Task Manager by clicking on the process and then clicking the End Process button.  Critical System processes will give a message that they are critical and cannot be stopped.  All others can be stopped on the fly.

BUT - there will be processes that you cannot find the AutoStart entry for  anywhere !!!  You can stop them in Windows - but they return upon reboot !!  Most of these are "Services", and they are started deep within the Operating System code - not from an entry in the Registry.  With WinXP they can be turned off by running "Services.msc" - but be careful - you need many services to run Windows !!  See www.blackviper.com for details on this.

Over time, your list of running processes may grow to a harmful length, even though the Autoruns utility shows only one or two processes in the usual Autostart locations.  If this happens, uninstall as many of the offending apps as possible, and buy Registry First Aid, which is an absolute hound dog at finding excess registry entries !!  

Personally, my Task Manager showed a list of approx 6 or 7 processes that were Auto-starting yet were not listed in any of the traditional Autostart locations !!!  Autoruns did not show them either !!!  Even common ones such as Norton Ghost and Black Ice kept starting upon every reboot.  I had to uninstall them, reinstall, and then remove their startup entries which magically popped up in the usual locations - this finally got rid of their errant Autostart behavior !!

This page lists the common areas where process and apps are started from, but just be aware that there will be some that you will never stop from running.  There will be others that can only be stopped by uninstalling the Application.

The Auto-Startup areas of Windows

First, you must understand the primary areas where auto startup commands are issued from, upon bootup:

 

MSconfig

 

This is the most often used editor for startup items.  Most users click Start/Run . . . msconfig . . . select the Startup tab, and uncheck the entries they want to remove from startup.  It does not remove the entries from your registry - and keeps them showing in Msconfig !!

 

To completely remove the entries - look at the “Location” of each entry.  This is very important in finding these shortcuts – should you wish to delete them instead of un-checking them.  The locations listed will tell you where the shortcut is as follows:

-  check all "Run" folders (do a search) and MAKE SURE to look in:

 

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Shared Tools/MSConfig  -  this is the main Autostart registry folder.  There are two sub-folders that contain Autostart items here:  StartupFolder and StartupReg

CommonStartup – the shortcut will be in the folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

(use Explorer to delete)

Startup - the shortcut will be in the folder:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

(use Explorer to delete)

           

Any of the msconfig entries can be either checked to start, or unchecked to not start with Windows.  If you only want specific items toi start and want some of them unchecked, make sure that when you are done, click the "General" tab and check the "Selective Startup" radio button.

 

Remember - MSconfig does not delete the entries when you uncheck them - it just disables them from starting automatically.  They can only be deleted using regedit.

 

Config.sys and Autoexec.bat

 

For Win95-98 only, these are the two DOS startup files.  They are simple text files that reside at the root of your C drive and can be edit with Notepad to remove any unwanted startup items.

 

Win.ini

The lines "load ="  and "run=" can automatically start applications.  Win.ini is a text file and can simply be edited to add or remove these items.  Typically you should not need to start any items with Win.ini although there are exceptions.

 

The "Start Menu" folders

 

  Any shortcuts placed in these folders will automatically start when Windows boots.  It is located at:

 

Win95-98        c:\windows\start menu\programs\startup *

Win2000-XP:   c:\Document and Settings\username\start menu\programs\startup *

    And              c:\Document and Settings\All Users\start menu\programs\startup

 

*To quickly access this folder, right-click on the START button, and then left-click on "Explore"

 

 

The Registry Autorun Locations

 

CAUTION - messing with the Registry can mess up your machine, although you can always to a System Restore to an earlier time.  A quick way to safeguard yourself is  . . .  when in doubt, first export the keys - click on the key (the folder) and select File/Export . . .  You can export them to a temp folder on your hard drive and name them:  temp1.reg,  temp2.reg,  etc.  If problems occur or you want something back that you deleted - just start up Regedit again and import the ".reg" files.

There are numerous registry entries that can cause an application to autostart with Windows.  Here are the most common ones.  Pay particular attention to the entries in the msconfig\startupreg folder  -  the startup items in it will be keys (folders) - NOT values.  The keys can only be viewed on the left, so click the plus symbol next to both msconfig keys (folders - startupfolder and startupreg) , and it will expand out to show you the sub-keys (sub-folders).  These sub-keys are the autostart items the appear as checkboxes in the actual msconfig application (Start/Run . . . msconfig), under the Startup tab.

 

To see if these items are actually autostarting - open the Windows Task Manager (CTRL-Alt-Delete) and view the Applications and Processes tabs.  Here are the most common XP registry autostart locations .

 

 

NOTE about the "HKEY_USERS" registry branch:  as stated, the long key under "HKEY_USERS" that contains S-1-5-21 . . . etc  -  will be named differently on your machine.  There are also often several of these folders.

 

 

S-1-5-21-515967899-113007714-854245398-1003

(several Autorun's)

 

S-1-5-18

(just one Autorun - but that is a "RUNONCE" entry, so it can probably be deleted)

 

 

 

NOTE2:  there are other reg locations that can cause items to Autostart !!  Not many, but they do exist with certain, odd applications.  If this fails to stop an application from autostarting - search the entire registry for that application.  Also check the other autostart areas outside of the registry (see the rest of this page).  If you still cannot get rid of it - it is either absolutely required and not stoppable, or the application is corrupt and you will need to remove and reinstall it.

 

To get rid of these, you will want to first export the keys - just in case.  Since there are numerous keys, you can export them to a temp folder on your hard drive and name them:  temp1.reg,  temp2.reg,  etc.

 

 

IMPORTANT !!  Bookmark the keys   -  these keys are so commonly used, since so many garbage apps add unwanted entries - that you should bookmark them in regedit.  It works just like IE !!   Navigate to each folder, select it, and click "Favorites/Add to Favorites", and name the folders.  I nemaed them  “Local_Machine – Run” and “Current_User – Run”, etc.  

 

Other Registry folders - Win95-98 also contain a folder called "Run-" which contains all the "unchecked" items in msconfig.  So you need to check that folder also if you want to delete a startup item.  All versions of windows have a folder called "RunOnce" and "RunOnceEx" which you should also check - although they are usually empty, since they are used for application that reboot the system and run one routine one time to complete an installation.