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A Lean Mean Computing Machine
Part One - Start Up Programs

Stopping programs from running at start-up can be a chore because there is no one place you can go to stop them all. Some run because they're in the Startup folder, others because of logon scripts, others because they're buried in different places in your Windows Registry - where programs can hide and be difficult to ferret out. Don't be dismayed! With a little time and the right tools, you can regain control of the programs that start with Windows. And controlling these start-ups, is one of the best ways there are to speed up the boot process and make your computer faster and more responsive. Start-ups are well known system cloggers. When you start getting too many programs starting with Windows, you'll notice your computer seems to take forever to boot up. And, if you're funning with a minimum of RAM, you'll notice programs seeming to "freeze up" or taking forever to open. Why? Because programs that start with Windows run with Windows. All the while Windows is running these programs that start with Windows are running in the background soaking up memory and slowing your computer down. .

Start by cleaning out your Startup folder. Find it in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Start Menu\Programs\Startup, where username is your Windows logon name. Delete the shortcuts of any programs you don't want to run on start-up. As with any shortcuts, when you delete them, you're deleting only the shortcut, not the program itself. (You can also clear out the start-up items by going to Start > Programs > Startup, then right-clicking items you want to remove.)

Next, clean out your Scheduled Tasks folder. Go to C:\Windows\Tasks, and delete the shortcuts of any programs that you don't want to run automatically on a schedule. Be careful here. Schedule tasks are not necessarily undesirable. Some tasks like automatic virus scans, spyware scans, backups, etc. can be important - and can save you time too. So, use good judgment when removing scheduled tasks.

Did you know that you can bypass all the programs in your Startup folder while your computer is booting up? You can. Here's how: Hold down the Shift key during boot up - this prevents XP from loading any programs in the Startup folder. This does not remove the items from your startup folder; they will still be there, and unless you remove them, they will start up the next time you boot.

MSCONFIG How to use the System Configuration Utility
The steps shown above give you some simple ways to kill the more obvious start-up programs. A more thorough way of disabling hidden programs that run on start-up is the System Configuration Utility. To run it, click Start/Run and type MSCONFIG and press Enter.

To prevent a program from running at start-up, go to the Startup tab at the top and uncheck the box next to the program you do not want starting with Windows. It can be hard to tell what some programs are while others like MSN Messenger are obvious. But often, you'll see a phrase or collection of letters, such as ashDisp.exe which is part of the free anti-virus program AVAST.

The limitations of the System Configuration Utility are that it can be difficult, at a glance, to learn what some of these start-up programs are. Sure, you can hover over the "Command" column and see the installation directory, but still no detailed information about the startups are shown. That's why we recommend a startup manager like the freeware program Starter. (See for more information and to download this great freeware utility). With "Starter" you can right-click any program starting with Windows and not only get the installation directory but useful information about the program. It may not be "tech-savvy" to use a startup utility, but it sure does make good common sense. We've never figured out why advanced users love to make things difficult for themselves. We are guessing it's because they love the arcane. Well, arcane is nice, for them ..but not for us or you. We like to get thing accomplished in a minimum amount of time - with the maximum amount of results. Don't you?

Anyway, don't go wild stopping start-up programs. Take it one step at time. While you can disable things like printer software, scanner software, digital camera software, chat programs, image editors, and email programs from start-up without problems, there will be others that you'll need to think about. If you're not sure, do these one at a time and see what affect it has on the way you use your computer. Don't ever disable anti-virus, anti-spyware, or firewall software. And, be careful when disabling anything labeled Microsoft or Windows that lives in the System or System32 directory. Some start-ups are essential for your computer to boot properly.

When you get down to the start-ups you're not sure about, disable each one separately then restart your PC. See if everything seems to work normally then go back and remove another startup program. Do this until you've got your Windows start-ups whittled down to a minimum. This will drastically speed up your boot time and maximize your system memory. Running with lots of RAM in reserve makes your computer faster and more responsive.

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