Chuck Has A Lot of Background Clutter
All kinds of things are running in the background on my computer. Is there any way to determine only the ones that are needed?  I'm sure if I could eliminate all the startup items that are not actually needed, and all the unnecessary things running in the background, that my computer would boot up quicker and run more smoothly and efficiently. The only trouble is, most of these items I have no clue as to what they are even for.  Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. I use your start page, and I appreciate your newsletters.  Thank you ever so much Chuck.

Answer
Thanks, Chuck. Your question is complex. There really is no single list that tells you which programs should be running in the background and which you can remove from your start up list. First of all, make sure you don't have any spyware, adware, malware or hijackers installed on your computer. Run a scan with a good anti-spyware product, if you have not yet done so. These kinds of programs always start with Windows and they install themselves in several locations to ensure they always start with Windows no matter how many times you try to remove them.

As a rule of thumb, almost anything you install these days is going to want to start with Windows. Most often these programs will ask during installation if you want the program to start with Windows. The installation default will almost always be to start with Windows. If you don't see it during installation and you do not remove the check mark next to "Run at Windows Startup" then you've just added another program to you start menu. So always be vigilant when installing new software and make sure you don't accidentally opt for having the program start when you start Windows.

Please remember however: Sometimes you install an anti-virus, firewall, or anti-spyware program and these should be set to start with Windows. So be careful when installing these types of security programs that you do allow them to start with Windows.

The kinds of programs that you do not need to start with Windows are programs for printer support (HP is famous for this), scanner support, digital camera support, chat programs (MSN Messenger loves to run at Startup), graphics programs, computer monitoring programs installed by the manufacturer (Dell and HP are famous for this), email programs, browsers, image viewers, etc. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to think about it logically. While you might think at first your printer software needs to be continually lying in wait in the background in case you need to print something, your printer will function quite well without any printer software continually running in the background. The same is true of scanner software and digital camera software. Keep those kinds of programs out of your Windows Startup list.

A good way of looking at this is - If you installed it and it's not a firewall, anti-virus, or anti-spyware then it doesn't need to be starting with Windows. If it's a Microsoft system file or a MS application located in C:\Windows\System or C:\Windows\System32 then be careful. Things like explorer.exe. svchost.exe, lsass.exe, which are MS processes, need to run in the background and therefore need to run at Windows start. So be careful removing any sort of system start up file. One of the main problems you'll find with trying to control start up programs with MSCONFIG (the built-in Windows application) is that the interface is bare bones and you don't get a lot of information about the processes and programs that run at Windows start. That's why we've long endorsed "Starter" as a safe, effective, and free means of controlling Windows startup programs. Starter gives you a lot more information about each process and program that starts with Windows so that you can make an educated decision about which programs to leave in your startup list and which programs to remove. You can learn more about Starter, and download a free copy if you like, from the following location: http://members.lycos.co.uk/codestuff/products_starter.html .

After you've finished removing any unnecessary startup programs, your next task will be to remove any unnecessary Windows Services (Windows XP) that start with Windows. We've written a comprehensive article about Windows Services (applies to Windows XP Home and Professional only). We show you which services you can normally safely stop and which services must run at Windows services. To see this article visit this page.

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