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Increase Vista performance by trimming startup programs

You can bump up Microsoft Windows Vista performance by trimming back startup programs that may not be needed. Greg Shultz shows you several methods that you can use to investigate, and ultimately turn off, the programs that automatically start up on your system.

As you may know, the system requirements for Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate all list 1GB of RAM as a minimum. However, we all know that Vista runs better with 2GB of RAM or more. If you're currently running Vista on a system with only 1GB of RAM you know that the system can, at times, be frustratingly slow -- especially when you are running extremely memory-intensive applications.

Of course the ultimate solution would be to add another 1GB 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 can bump up Vista performance by trimming back startup programs that may not 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 Vista Report, I show you several methods that you can use to investigate the programs that automatically start up on your system. I show you how you can eliminate or at least temporarily prevent them from automatically starting up.

This blog post is available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Using WMIC

You can investigate startup programs using a specially configured WMIC (Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line) command. WMIC is built into the Windows operating system and allows you to tap into a wide variety of application systems, hardware components, and operating system subsystems.

Using 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 file, just type the following:

startupreport.htm

You'll then see a report displayed in Internet Explorer similar to the one shown in Figure A.

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.

Using Reliability and Performance Monitor

You can also investigate startup programs using the Reliability and Performance Monitor. Open the Control Panel, click the System and Maintenance category, and then click the Performance Information and Tools subcategory. Then under the Tasks panel, select the Advanced Tools and click the Generate a System Health Report icon. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly.

When the Reliability 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 Reliability and Performance Monitor creates a much more concise report on the Startup Programs.

Using System Configuration

You can investigate and disable startup programs using System Configuration. Open the Control Panel, click the System and Maintenance category, click the Administrative Tools subcategory, and then click the System Configuration icon. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly.

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.

Using Software Explorer

You can also investigate and disable startup programs using Windows Defender's Software Explorer. Click the Start button, type Defender in the Start Search box and press [Enter]. When you see the Windows Defender Home page, click the Tools link on the menu. Once you see the Tools and Settings page you'll find the Software Explorer link in the second column under the Tools heading. Once you click that link, you'll see the Software Explorer, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Software Explorer combines detailed descriptions of each startup program with the ability to disable those programs you deem unnecessary.

As you can see, the Startup Programs category contains a list of programs and provides a detailed description of the currently selected program. To disable any program, you first click on the Show For All Users button and deal appropriately with the UAC that pops up. Once you do, you'll see that the Remove and Disable buttons are activated. You can then click the Disable button, which will display a confirmation dialog box. To remove a program from memory and reclaim the RAM, you'll need to restart your system.

When the system restarts, you'll receive a pop-up message in the notification area that tells you that Vista is currently blocking some startup programs. This warning will display only momentarily, but serves as a reminder that you have disabled some startup programs each time the system is restarted.

What's your take?

Is your Vista system bogged down by unnecessary startup programs? Have you used any of these methods to disable certain startup programs? What was the result? If you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion Area and let us hear.

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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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