Have you ever had an infected Windows computer? How about a suspicion your machine is working against you? What is the first thing you do after making sure that your anti virus software is still running? Check your start up folder of course!
That is where many nasty startup programs plant their seeds to grow into a big strong nasty piece of malware. But nowadays there are lots of places to hide files that need to start up automatically. They can live not only in your start up folder but also in the registry, services, hidden explorer replacements, Ini files or bat files.
Autostart Explorer is my go-to application for tracking down troubles with certain startup programs. You can also use a program like this to find out why you are getting errors from some program you have never heard of during start up. AutoStart Explorer is portable and requires no installation which makes it even better for troubled systems analysis. The best part of all is that it does not change anything – you need to make changes manually – this is just a tool to see exactly what is happening with your system at startup.
After the 228KB download completed I extracted its four files to my memory stick. I created a new folder called AS. Then I ran the executable file out of the batch called AutostartExplorer.exe. Then I was greeted with this screen:
By clicking on any of the items on the left hand side, you will see all the startup programs that auto start using this method on the right top pane. Below that will be a description of where the item is coming from and how it works. This really helps you to understand Windows a little bit better. Consider it a brief glimpse into the underbelly that is Windows’ many start up hiding spaces.
You can also right-click on any item and show its real properties. This will fill you in on if the startup program is what it says it is and let you locate and run it manually (or delete it!) if need be. You will not shoot yourself in the foot with this program as it does not remove anything – it is strictly for analysis purposes.
I chose to grab the properties of DsClock and as you can see it shows you its normal system properties including its location, and created on date. So if you started having problems at September 22 at 4:18pm you’ll know that this is your cause.
You can use the buttons in the menu bar to expand or collapse all of the items in the list. For such a small program it really helps when repairing a system. This lives on all my memory sticks. I learned a lot from this application such as how applications start on network connections or how your Explorer.exe can be replaced by another process.
How do you diagnose startup issues? Do you use another free program? We would love to hear about it in the comments!