One way to improve the performance of your Windows Vista machine is to streamline your startup applications. Using the concept of ‘Less is More’ definitely helps improving the time it takes to log in and the performance in general. Having fewer applications running at startup frees resources for the applications you actually want to run. In this guide I will start by showing you how to remove unnecessary bloatware, how to disable startup items which do not appear in the system tray and I’ll show you the locations where you can find information about programs running at startup.
It is very important not to overdo it when cleaning up the list of startup applications, as you might end-up having problems. Therefore, I’ll show you some tips regarding programs which you should and shouldn’t disable at startup. I will end this article by showing you how to remove programs from running at startup, how to delay the applications that launch at startup and how to hide system tray icons.
Remove unnecessary bloatware
If you bought a computer from a system vendor, most likely you will receive it with lots of unnecessary programs already installed. The majority of vendors, including the big ones such as Acer, Dell, Lenovo, HP, will install big software bundles, most of them consisting of demos and trials. Many users will never use many of those applications. Also, if you are the type of person who usually installs applications using the default settings you will also end-up having a lot of unnecessary programs running at startup. Therefore it is a good idea to remove them.
First, you need to know what all those applications do. Double click on the icons from the right side of your taskbar, one by one. By doing this, you will open each application. To find out the application name and version, search for the Help menu. There you will find an About entry which will show you the name, manufacturer and version of the application.
You can also try to right click an icon, and from the context menu select the About entry.
Once you have all the information, search for it on the internet, find out what the application does and whether you need to purchase it in order to use it. Decide if you will use the application or not:
- You will never use the application – In this scenario, go to Programs and Features and uninstall the application.
- You will use it from time to time – in this scenario, it is better to disable it from the list of startup items so that you will free resources for other programs. To learn how to do this, please go below on this page and read ‘How to remove programs from running at startup’.
- You will use it on a regular basis – in this case, there is no need to make any changes.
Remove startup items which do not appear in the system tray
Run the System Configuration Utility and go to the Startup tab. If you don’t know how to do it, please read this tutorial. Now check all the Startup items. There you will see a list with all the programs running when Windows starts. For each entry you will have information such as the name of the item, the manufacturer and the command.
Search the internet for the item name and manufacturer and find out what those programs do. If you need them, leave them enabled. If not, don’t hesitate to disable them. However, if you have doubts, leave them enabled or ask for a recommendation from somebody who is more knowledgeable than you are.
Where to find information about programs running at startup
If a search on the internet doesn’t help too much, then you should try the following web pages:
- the How-To Geek – if you look carefully you will find directly on the homepage a section called ‘What is that Process?’. There you will have several programs that might be running at startup on your computer.
- Startup Programs Database – here you will find a huge list with possible startup items and a description of what they do and if they are safe or not.
Programs which you should not disable
Programs you should always avoid disabling are: drivers, applications that manage certain hardware features and security suites. Without these, your computer will not be able to function correctly and securely.
Disabling drivers might cause system instability, therefore disabling them is not a good choice. There are also applications which control certain hardware features. For example, AMD Dual-Core Optimizer optimizes performance in games for AMD Dual-Core processors, while Dell Quickset manages power saving features on Dell laptops. Disabling such applications might be a bad idea as they can degrade the performance or user experience.
Regarding security suites, you should not allow running in parallel several applications which do the same thing. If you want to use two solutions offering similar protection, then enable at startup the application that offers real-time protection and install an additional on-demand scanner which you can choose to run from time to time just to get a second opinion.
Programs which are safe to disable from running at startup
There are many programs which can be safely disabled from running at startup. Some of them are:
- File archivers – these programs no longer consume a lot of resources. Therefore there is no need to run them at startup to improve launch times. The time difference is hardly noticeable.
- Software Updating Tools – many applications will set an automatic updater to run at startup. The benefit is that your software will be up to date. However, there is no sense in wasting resources for a month until another update is available. You could disable the startup entry and schedule a job that runs every two-weeks (for example) and checks for updates. If you need to know how to do this, read this guide from the How-To Geek on how to Schedule Java Update Check. You can use the same procedure for many updating tools. If you want to learn more about how to use Windows Vista’s task scheduler, read this tutorial.
- Chat Programs & Peer to Peer clients – ask yourself if you really need to be logged onto Skype, Yahoo Messenger or Google Talk each time you login to Windows. And do you download files from the internet all the time? If the answer is ‘No!’, then disable the startup entries of your chat & P2P programs.
- Monitoring tools – there are many tools installed with your photo camera or cell phone which run at system startup and check if you have connected your devices to the PC. However, many people connect their camera or cell phone very rarely. Therefore you can disable these programs from running at startup and start them manually only when you actually plug in your devices.
How to remove programs from running at startup
The best way is from the configuration menus of the application you want to stop running at startup. To do this, double click on its system tray icon or launch it using its shortcut. Then, search for the Preferences, Options, Settings or Configuration menus. For example, Preferences is generally found under the Edit menu, while Options under Tools. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Once you found the configuration menus of the application, search for options such as ‘Start [application name] on system/computer startup’, ‘Launch [application name] on Windows startup’. When found, uncheck those options and click OK or Apply.
Warning: be careful with configuration options such as ‘Always show tray icon’ or anything related to showing the tray icon. By unchecking these settings you won’t stop the application from running at startup. You will only hide its tray icon. The application will continue to run at each Windows startup.
How to delay the applications that launch at startup
Once you have cleaned the list of startup applications, you might want to try a Startup Delayer. This is a very cool free tool which allows you to delay the remaining applications running at startup.
Except drivers, hardware related applications and security suites, you won’t need most applications to start immediately. With Startup Delayer you can delay them up to 24 hours. To learn more about how to use it, check out their Help and Support page.
How to hide system tray icons
Once you are done with delaying certain programs running at startup, you might also want to hide the system tray icons which you will never use. You can do this directly from the application you want to hide. Find the configuration menus and uncheck options like ‘Always show tray icon’ or ‘Install icon in system tray’.
You also have the alternative of hiding icons directly from Windows Vista. To learn how to do this, check our article called How to configure the Taskbar and the Start Menu and read the ‘How to customize the Notification Area’ section.
Like I said at the very beginning, ‘Less is More’ but be careful not to overdo it. Find out what each program does, what’s the value it has for you and then decide if you’ll disable it or not from running at startup. Once you streamline your startup applications, you will definitely feel the performance boost. Coupling these recommendations with our 9 commandments for an enjoyable computing experience you will definitely feel less frustrated when using your Windows Vista machine.
If you know other tips and tricks that can help streamline your startup applications, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Anonymous comments are allowed too so you don’t even need to create an account with our site.
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