CXO

Bump performance in Windows 7 by trimming startup programs

Greg Shultz shows you several methods that you can use to investigate startup programs and eliminate some of them to improve performance.

The minimum memory (RAM) requirements for Microsoft Windows 7 are 1GB for the 32-bit versions and 2GB for the 64-bit versions. However, we all know that the operating system runs better with more RAM. If you're currently running Windows 7 on a system with only 1GB or 2GB of RAM, you know that the system can be slow at times — especially when you are running extremely memory-intensive applications.

Of course the ultimate solution would be to add another GB of RAM to your system, but what if doing so is not feasible at this point in time? Are you stuck with a sluggish system? Fortunately, you are not, as you can bump up performance by trimming back startup programs that may not always be needed. By preventing unnecessary programs from automatically starting, you'll have more memory to spare for the programs that you do want to run.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you several methods that you can use to investigate those programs that run automatically at startup. I'll also show you how you can eliminate or at least temporarily prevent them from automatically starting up.

WMIC

You can investigate startup programs using a specially configured WMIC (Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line) command. WMIC (pronounced "WeeMek") is built in to the Windows operating system and allows you to tap into a wide variety of application systems, hardware components, and operating system subsystems. Using a WMIC command, you can easily create a very nice HTML-based report of those programs that automatically start up on your system. You can then print the report to have on hand as you investigate whether you can safely eliminate any of those programs.

To create the report, open a Command Prompt window and type the following command:

wmic startup get /format:hform > startupreport.htm

When you do, the report will be created in a matter of moments. To access the report, just type the following in the same Command Prompt.

startupreport.htm
You'll then see a report, similar to the one shown in Figure A, displayed in your web browser.

Figure A

Using a specially configured WMIC command you can create a nicely formatted report on startup programs.

As you can see, the report is set up in a table and uses color to make it very easy to read.

Resource and Performance Monitor

You can also investigate startup programs using Resource and Performance Monitor. Click the Start button and type Performance in the Search box. When the results appear, select Performance Information and Tools. When the Performance Information and Tools window appears, select the Advanced Tools. When the Advanced Tools window appears, scroll to the bottom and select Generate a system health report.

When the Resource and Performance Monitor window opens, the utility will begin compiling its report, which will take about 2-3 minutes. Once the report is compiled, expand the Software Configuration section and scroll down to the Startup Programs section, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

The Resource and Performance Monitor creates a much more concise report on the Startup Programs.

System Configuration

You can investigate and disable startup programs using System Configuration. Click the Start button and type System in the Search box. When the results appear, select System Configuration. When the System Configuration dialog box appears, select the Startup tab, as shown in Figure C. As you can see, the Startup tab provides a straightforward listing of the programs that automatically start up on your system.

Figure C

You can view and easily disable startup programs on the Startup tab of the System Configuration utility.
You can disable a startup program by clearing the adjacent text box. As you can see, the Startup tab makes it easy to keep track of those programs that you have disabled by recording the date and time they were disabled. When you click OK, you'll be prompted to restart the system to activate your changes, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

When you click OK, you'll be prompted to restart the system to activate your changes.

Autoruns

If you really, really want to delve into a deep investigation of startup programs, there is no better application than Autoruns from Windows Sysinternals and Mark Russinovich. This tool, shown in Figure E, provides a very comprehensive look at all the places in the operating system from which a program can be configured to automatically run.

Figure E

Autoruns provides a very comprehensive investigation into startup programs.

You can learn more about Autoruns on the Windows Sysinternals site. The program also comes with a detailed Help file.

What's your take?

Have you used any of these methods to examine and disable certain startup programs? If so, did you see a boost in performance? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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