Managing Startup Programs in Windows Vista

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A number of programs are designed to automatically load each time that you start Windows, and then run in the background. Many of these startup programs are just “preloads” that help a program launch faster when you click on their icon. While this comes in handy for programs that you use often, several of them are not critical to your system and may rarely or never be used. Having too many starting up simultaneously can increase the amount of time that Vista takes to start up, and are totally unnecessary. What’s more, they continue to run in the background, eating into your available RAM.

Disabling these unneeded startup time killers from the boot up process will significantly reduce your startup time as well as improve system performance overall. Luckily, with Vista’s Windows Defender utility, you easily accomplish this without having to tweak your registry. There are two methods that you can use: the Software Explorer, a new feature that comes with Vista’s Windows Defender, or the System Configuration Utility. Read through the two sections below to learn how to manage your startup programs and speed up Vista.

Tip #3: Use Windows Defender to Disable Startup Programs

  1. Click on the Vista Orb to open the Start menu.
  2. Type “defender” into the start search box and then hit Enter. This will open the Windows Defender panel.
  3. Click on Tools in the top menu. Select Software Explorer from the drop down menu.
  4. Click on Startup Programs in the Category box. This will now display a listing of the start up programs that are currently running. It will also display important information on each application such as its file path and name.
  5. To disable a start up item, select it from the left-hand menu and then click on “Disable” on the bottom right-hand.
  6. Click Yes to confirm that you want you do want to prevent it from automatically launching on start up.
  7. Repeat these steps for each program that you want to prevent from running.


  • Disable is preferable to Remove unless you are absolutely sure that you do not want it to run at startup.
  • You can also disable the Vista side bar using this method.
  • You may need to re-boot your computer for the changes to take effect.

Tip #4: Use “msconfig” to Disable Startup Programs

You can use the system configuration utility to disable startup programs.

  1. Click on the Vista Orb to open the Start menu. Alternatively, press Window + R
  2. Type in msconfig and press Enter
  3. To disable a startup item, select it from the left-hand menu and then click on Disable on the bottom right-hand.
  4. Click Yes to confirm that you want you want to prevent it from running on start up.
  5. Repeat the steps for each program that you want to prevent from running.

Tip #5: Use AutoRuns to Disable Startup Programs

AutoRuns is a free utility from Microsoft that enables you not only to see a list of all the programs, services and drivers that load on start up, but also to disable or remove the ones that you do not need. With each item that you delete from the list, you free up system resources. You may even discover some spyware and other malware in the process. You can use Autorun’s built-in research tools to determine which programs are useful and which ones aren’t.

Tip #6: Close Un-needed Background Tasks From Your System Tray

The little icons in your system tray, located in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen each represent a task that loads up every time you boot up and runs in the background. Hover your mouse over each icon to display the program’s name. Click on the button that has the < arrow to show any hidden icons. Some of them belong here, such as the battery power icon and the network status icons. Many of those little “quick access” icons, however, take up quite a bit of room and increase boot time.

Some of these processes can easily be disabled simply by right-clicking on the icon, which will open a pop-up with the option to disable it so it will not start up again. However, some only give you the option to stop it from displaying, but continue to run anyway. For these, you will use one of the two methods detailed above.

This post is part of the series: 21 More Ways to Speed Up Vista

Here are some creative, careful, thoughtful, and useful tips for improving the performance of a Vista PC. From the quick and simple to the detailed, we show you how it’s done.

  1. Speed Up Vista: Disable Multiple “svchost.exe” Processes
  2. Speed Up Vista: Manage Startup Programs
  3. Speed Up Vista: Boost Start Up Time
  4. Speed Up Vista: Install Windows Updates
  5. Speed Up Vista: Adjust Your Power Settings
  6. Speed Up Vista: Remove Computer Viruses