Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Managing Windows Startup Programs

Organize Start-up Programs

 

When you start your computer, what happens? After a brief but thorough checking of system’s hardware by BIOS, the installed operating system’s kernel loads in the memory of your computer. But, the operating system alone is not capable to perform unlimited task that are assigned to your computer. Host of other programs are needed to perform these tasks. Some of these programs that include some device drivers are needed to run during system start-up so that your computer may function the way you want it to. These essential start-up programs are set to run automatically in a certain predetermined condition without user intervention during system start-up. These programs are controlled and started through various ways according to installed Operating System. Often these programs are loaded through various initialization processes and start-up scripts files like Autoexec.bat, Config.sys, Win.ini, System.dat, [in Windows] and /etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit [in Linux] etc. Some start-up programs run once and terminate while some run forever in background till they are closed intentionally. Some start-up program may start when a particular user has login, whereas some start-up program loads irrespective of user.

While some start-up programs are extremely essential for your computer to function, most are not and over the period, these startup programs are piled unnecessary in start-up settings. They may not necessarily be required to run during system start-up. Some viruses too install themselves as system start-up program and run every time when the system starts. In some typical situation, you may find 30-40 start-up programs running, most of them unnecessary. These unwanted programs need to be identified and removed from system start-up since they slow down system boot up process and may put burden on your system’s performance. Moreover, you can always put short cut of these applications on your computer’s desktop if you use them frequently. You have to believe it, there are thousands of genuine Windows programs identified as Start-up programs! See yourself the complete list at www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_pages/startup_full.htm to believe it.

Know your Start-up programs

            Before you proceed to manage your start-up programs, you must know what start-up programs your computer is running. You must also differentiate between start-up programs and services. Services are essential part of system especially in networked environment and should not be touched.

To know Start-up programs in Windows, Click on Start button, then click on Run and then Type msinfo32 in the input box, and click on ok button. Microsoft System Information program will start which can tell you host of system information including start-up programs. Here, go to left pan and click on plus sign of Software Environment to expand the list. You will see an entry: Start-up Programs. Click on Start-up Programs to see how many start-up program you have. You will be amazed to see fairly large number of entries there. Though you can get information about your Start-up programs with this tool, managing them is difficult. Third party software like StartMan can easily be used instead. Start-up programs can also be managed through Windows registry entries. Following registry entries are meant for start-up programs. And they can be disable or removed from there as required.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

            Some Windows Start-up programs can also be found on program group menu entry Start  > Programs > StartUp. You can remove start-up programs from here as well.

In Linux, you may find difficulty in dealing start-up programs. Further, Linux provides true multitasking environment and manages its application and system resources in different manner and when it finds an application simply sitting running and doing nothing, then it sends such application in to sleep mode. Still need to manage start-up program arises in Linux too. Depending on Window managers and Linux distribution you use, you have to dig out which application is proper in dealing start-up program in Linux. You have to manually edit the start-up programs and services from various init files in Linux. A simple command chkconfig - - list can tell start-up services and programs assigned at various run levels.

Need for small Start-up script

A bulky Start-up script having number of program to load during start-up not only make your computer’s start-up time longer, they eat your system resources, memory and consequently slow your computer’s overall performance. Some of these programs are designed to monitor your key stroke or mouse pointer behaviors. For example, when you install Microsoft Office, it installs Microsoft Office fast start and search tool in Windows Start-up, which are rarely of any productive values unless you are using your computer exclusively and extensively for Microsoft Office products. Similarly, the popular music player program Winamp installs Winamp Agent in Windows Start-up simply to provide a fast start of Winamp, which is often no use to an average user. Programs like Getright and Zonealarm start with Windows and are not necessary unless you are connected to Internet permanently. Such application should be removed from start-up and should be manually started. When you visit a web site and click a link that promise to provide you something for free, or you use advertisement supported freeware, then they may install some program in start-up so that it run constantly in background and as and when you log on to internet, you are pumped advertisement through these programs. Similarly, some special programs and special hardware needed to be initialize prior to their running and it is a better way to put their initialization program in system start-up for convenience. But if the said program or hardware not needed for fairly long time, it is advisable to temporarily disable their initialization program from start-up. Further, at times, you may find an application essential enough to be included in start-up. Manual manipulations of start-up procedures are often difficult, cumbersome and lengthy. However, management of start-up programs can effectively and easily be done through some specially designed programs. You can find review of some of these programs elsewhere in this article.

Managing Start-up Programs

            Start-up programs are essential, but at times, they may be completely unnecessary and hence needed proper management. There is a built in tool in Windows OS called Microsoft System Configuration Utility through which you can manage some Windows start-up applications and programs. But this utility may not provide you the functionality you want since it is designed primarily as a trouble shooting tool and hence you need powerful, third party tool such as Start-up Organizer and Start-up Manager etc.  In Linux too, you can find some nice tool such as tksysv and chkconfig etc. for managing start-up programs and applications.

Microsoft System Configuration Utility

            Though this utility is primarily meant for system diagnostic tool designed to modify system configuration through process of elimination by selecting or deselecting check boxes, you can remove start-up application by editing system configuration files within this application. However, you may not be able to know more information about start-up programs with this utility, and hence you may need third party utility. To run Microsoft System Configuration Utility, click on start button then click on run menu that appears, type msconfig and click on OK button. Within application’s window that appears, you can edit your computer’s Autoexec.bat, config.sys, win.ini, system.ini and start-up settings.

Startup Organizer

This Windows application lets you neatly organize Windows start-up programs. You can add, remove or temporarily disable start-up applications. It also lets you to manage interactive start-up through which you can get full control over each and every start-up applications. But this method requires user input during system start-up and may make your system slow in booting. After running, this application displays all the programs that run automatically at system start-up. It even displays these applications category wise i.e. a programs that start through win.ini or through windows registry or through start-up menu, run forever or run once etc. The application also indicates current running application by green flags. You can delete an entry to remove it permanently from start-up or temporarily disable it by removing checkmark against the said application’s entry. Startup Organizer lets you to know the full path of the start-up executable file which is helpful in finding exact location of the program group from which it is running. With this application, you can backup your start-up configuration settings which are useful when you make big changes in start-up or you are frequently changing start-up settings. Once installed, Startup Organizer automatically checks future changes in all start-up scripts including windows registry, and warn you about the new start-up application that is added. If you set it so, it will automatically remove auto start entries added by any other application.

While managing start-up applications, often, you may find yourself peeking at few dozen entries and thinking that which start-up program you really need and which are burdening you. If you accidentally disable start-up program that is essential for the system, then you may left with a system that refuses to start. However, you can get fairly good idea from Startup Organizer that which programs is worth keeping in start-up.  Startup Organizer can tell you details about the start-up executable file. Simply double click the executable file in the Startup Organizer window and click on the File Info tab in the popup window that appears. If you find product and copyright information strange enough other than Microsoft, Intel or other familiar hardware installed in your computer, then you can safely delete those entries.

In Startup Organizer File Info, you may see something like this:

Product:          Microsoft® Operating System

Copyright:      Copyright© Microsoft Corporation

Description:    Microsoft infrared control panel

Here, the said start-up program is meant for initializing the infrared devices you installed in your computer, and deleting this entry may render your infra red devices unusable. Hence, you must not delete such start-up entries unless you know what you are doing. However, if you find file descriptions like Microsoft Office search service then you can safely delete those entries as described earlier. You can get this shareware program from its website: http://www.metaproducts.com

StartEd

            StartEd is a simple windows application that can be used as an effective Start-up Editor. With this application, you can view, add or remove Windows start-up programs. You can backup and restore start-up settings with this application. Though it does not provide you file information like Startup Organizer, it displays full path of command line and shows the start method used in running application.  You can get more information about this utility from: http:// www.outertech.com

StartMan

            StartMan is a Windows application very similar to StartEd in functioning but with some extra features. It works on all versions of Windows9x and above. It can show you duplicate and orphan start-up application. When you click on a start-up application’s entry that is displayed on StartMan window, you will get information like Name of program, executable file name, its Path, any argument included, start-up groups, its location and description. StartMan is available at its web site: www.forrestandassociates.co.uk.

Start-up Delayer

            When Windows loads, all the start-up programs started to load simultaneously. Now if there are many program in start-up, then it further delay loading of Windows. For managing this, a unique program called Start-up Delayer may be used. This program identifies start-up applications and through its settings Window, you can assign the delay in seconds by which start-up program can be started after the previous one. However, no practical benefit appears to have been gained by using this program. Download this application from http:// www.r2.com.au to test yourself.

Start-up program in Linux

            In Linux, you can always add or remove your start-up program and services including system services through its various init files. You can also find some nice tool to manage Linux Start-up programs such as graphical tool tksysv and command line tool chkconfig. The graphical tool tksysv is easy and all you have to drag and drop the program to able or disable from start-up. Command line tool chkconfig too has simple usage. For example, to disable the start-up program harddrake, the Mandrake Linux hardware detection tool from run level 3, following simple command will do the rest:

chkconfig - -  level 3 harddrake off

and to start the said application in run level 3, give following command:

chkconfig - - level 3 harddrake on

Statutory Warning

            Playing with Start-up applications may be injurious to your computer. You may unknowingly disable essential system service, device drivers etc., leading to system failure. Further, some application put program in start-up group through its preferences settings, and if you remove it from Start-up manually or through start-up manager tools mentioned earlier, then when you run main application, they will make duplicate entries again as start-up application if they do not find one there. Hence it is always advisable to remove the start-up entries from application’s preference menu. For example, to disable start-up program Winamp Agent that installs with Winamp Player, start the Winamp player, click on its top left corner to invoke context menu. Go to Options and then Preferences and then click on Agent and uncheck “Enable Winamp Agent” and close the application. When Windows restart, Winamp Agent will not load on start-up, since it has been removed from there by Winamp main application itself.

Screenshot Descriptions:

  1. Startup1.jpg     In Windows, Current running applications and services can be viewed by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del key simultaneously.
  2. Startup2.jpg     Microsoft System Information Utility gives you information about Windows Start-up programs.
  3. Startup3.jpg     You have to remark unnecessary Dos drivers and programs from startup file autoexec.bat if you do not need them in Win9x.
  4. Startup4.jpg     Some device drivers and programs needed to be loaded through config.sys file in earlier version of Windows and can be removed from there.
  5. Startup5.jpg     Win.ini file loads system configurations during system startup. Some start-up programs also load through this file, and can be managed form there.
  6. Startup6.jpg     Most device drivers and important services and programs are loaded at Windows startup through System.ini file.
  7. Startup7.jpg     Some Windows Start-up programs loads through /Windows/Start Menu/Programs/Startup folder and can be managed from there by simply adding and removing link/shortcut/executable file of program.
  8. Startup8.jpg     Microsoft System Configuration Editor lets you manually edit some startup files that are loaded through files like Autoexec.bat, Win.ini etc.
  9. Startup9.jpg     The Microsoft System Configuration Utility also lets you remove unwanted start-up programs.
  10. Startup10.jpg   Startup Organizer is a powerful Windows utility that helps you organize Windows Start-up programs at easy.
  11. Startup11.jpg   Startup Organizer has user friendly interface that displays host of information about start-up programs.
  12. Startup12.jpg   Startup Organizer gives you category wise information i.e. from where the particular program loads so that its importance can be identified.
  13. Startup13.jpg   Startup Organizer lets you edit Windows configuration file within this application.
  14. Startup14.jpg   Startup Organizer automatically detect start-up program and guard your computer from them by blocking removing them automatically through its settings.
  15. Startup15.jpg   StartMan is a small yet effective and powerful tool for managing Windows Start-up programs.
  16. Startup16.jpg   StartMan can provide you information about start-up program in different category for easy identification.
  17. Startup17.jpg   StartEd is a simple tool to add or remove Windows Start-up program from system Start-up.
  18. Startup18.jpg   Simply removing checkmark from listed indicated program in StartEd window disables it from Windows start-up.
  19. Startup19.jpg   Startup Delayer can delay start-up programs so that they can load successively to help load Windows smoothly.
  20. Startup20.jpg   Some Start-up programs must be disabled from their main application’s preference settings since removing them by other means is ineffective because when main application runs and if it does not find its startup application there, it again make entry for the same.
  21. Startup21.jpg   Linux utility chkconfig help you manage Linux startup program and services at various run levels.

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