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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.

31 comments
edteacher30
edteacher30

I think this is a great article to a point. I had discovered this opportunity before. This article gave several alternative means for achieving the goal of finding which programs are on at the startup. I like that. I was looking for the next step. How can you tell if those programs are needed? If I disable one at startup what happens if I need that program as an add-on?

Night_Watch53
Night_Watch53

Tried the CMD prompt option several times. I just get "Invalid XSL format (or) file name". Defender is turned off (Kaspersky IS installed), I can't find a way to get to Software Explorer. Shame!

rfebol
rfebol

This is great! for someone like me starting a journey in Vista.

lcdata
lcdata

it's definitely not for everyone but, if you know what you're doing, msconfig is a place where to see and modify everything about startup.

jschat1-techrep
jschat1-techrep

The article seem to imply that if you already have 2 GB then there is no benefit to trimming unnecessary startup programs. Is this true? I have no performance issues but faster is always better especially if it comes without cost. Signed, A Newbie

harry.audus
harry.audus

Running wmic from Run didn't appear to work (the output file wasn't created), but the window closed so quickly it was impossible to tell. Running wmic from cmd didn't work either - "access denied".

etruss
etruss

Nothing happens when I click on the Print button for this article.

cowofdoom88
cowofdoom88

I've actually liked Vista since I got it over a year ago, especially after SP1, but I went on the adventure to dual boot Vista and XP. And XP is just faster on my laptop, so it is what I have been using. My laptop was one of the early generation laptops for Vista and XP is just snappier. On topic, I've used at least 2 of those methods to trim Vista and I especially like method A. I usually us msconfig.

oursouls
oursouls

I've always used msconfig (3rd method) for cleaning up start up programs. However, I find some programs add themselves back in after an update, usually that damn itunes. Do any of the other methods solve this problem, or are they just different UI's for the same result?

blackmonoffive
blackmonoffive

I have had great luck using the software explorer haven't figured out how to add a program not listed like my Palm Calendar alert feature.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

My box isn't particularly slow, but there's a couple of things in there I don't need. Going to run it on my work box tomorrow, it's performance is horrendous.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

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?

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

msconfig is definitely a good place to go without third party software. One thing that annoys me about msconfig is that upon reboot, it keeps warning the user that certain things were disabled (I forget the exact message). So, in case I forget to reboot and check "don't ask me again", I get calls about this afterwards. So, I prefer to use a third party (Sysinternals Autoruns works well for me) to disable startup items since it does not give warning messages upon reboot.

oursouls
oursouls

Trimming the startup programs can dramatically increase system performance for a system that is struggling. That said, a system that appears to be running smoothly can still be improved on. There are some things that will only make a small difference, but if you don't use the program then why have it start at all? e.g. I don't use iTunes software for anything other than updating the songs on my iPod. So why on earth do I want 3 iTunes related programs running on startup? I would certainly agree that faster is always better, and the simpler the system, the more efficient. Whether you notice the difference or not, always keep your startup as minimalistic as possible.

dlc46
dlc46

Use the Command Prompt

WilliamWest
WilliamWest

FYI, Typing in the wmic command line as printed did not produce the HTML startup report with IE Explorer 8. I even tried deleting some spaces from the printed command line...all, but to no avail. FYI, W. West

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin

I have found that SP2 has had a marked increase in the start/shutdown and speeds to my Vista machines. Most impressed. I only recommend keeping the minimum of programmes in the startup and in the implementation of this I am ruthless!

blackmonoffive
blackmonoffive

In my experience the System Explore lets the option/program remain in Start up but you can deny it the ability to open on it's own. A register monitor has also helped me check when something is trying to rewrite as a start up program like Messenger does even with out updates. Hope this was helpful.

Richard Noel
Richard Noel

Here's how I've dealt with applications that insert unwanted entries into the Windows Registry Run folder. The file path is in the registry. Delete the file. Create a new text file in that same folder and rename the text file to be the exact same name as the file referred to in the registry. Finally, make that file read-only, so that it cannot be overwritten the next time the application updates. There's probably an error when Windows tries to launch a file that's not isn't an executable file, but I never see it, and the offending process is not running.

GBot
GBot

Put a shortcut to the program in C:\Users\your username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\St art Menu\Programs\Startup or for all users: C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup [On topic] +1 for Software Explorer in Windows Defender.

TAB4217
TAB4217

open a Command Prompt window and type the following command: wmic startup get /format:hform > startupreport.htm OK. but the response is 'access denied'. Why? I am using Vista as an administrator.

edteacher30
edteacher30

I just did a check and have 25 programs. How do you know which are needed and which are not?

leo8888
leo8888

Just as a test I ran the WMIC report on my XP workstation and it came up with: "Node: WS08 - 5806 Instances of Win32_StartupCommand" When I scroll through this extremely long report it seems that every entry in the table has "Startup" as the value for the "Location" property. Where are all these entries stored in the registry? I know all the usual "Run" locations in the registry but they don't account for 5806 entries that this report shows. I tried searching the registry for one of the entries in the report but only got three results and they didn't relate to "Startup".

nationjd
nationjd

I would recommend going to the website for Blackviper, if you want to speed up your machine just a little or go barebones on startup processes. Also, when you do go to shut down services, do not use msconfig, you should use services.msc

nickadam31
nickadam31

Yes it often happens. When we install some certain software applications like Microsoft Office, ProjectWhois etc, it resides in our startup and load files at startup. Then Vista system bogged down by unnecessary startup programs. The best possible options is to disable these programs to run at startup or uninstall the unnecessary programs. Nick

somebozo
somebozo

My work pc has following specs pentium D 651 on intel 945GC chipset 2GB DDR2-667 RAM and im running vista ultimate x64 with standard vista theme (without aero) and all fancy animations disabled. I find it quite response and often better than XP for all the similar task i used to accomplish on past XP system. The rest all systems I have at my arsenal are servers which I use for virtulization to simulate customer requirements.

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin

I regularly use Glary Utilities a free excellent download from http://www.glaryutilities.com/ I regularly use the startup manager to trim startup programmes out, the startup manager has a rating bar and an on line web rating on what the programme is from or what it does, you can also contribute your findings to the database.The tools allow you to delete or disable programmes that load at the boot. It suits my requirements I think its an excellent suite.

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

Sysinternals Autoruns is a fine tool for seeing what is running on startup etc.

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