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Got a slow Windows computer? The problem often originates with user-installed, auto-starting programs. A handful of these you need. The majority you don’t want. Some love hogging system resources and phoning home with your data. Others do so with malicious intent. Killing startup apps requires just a few simple steps.
My own experiences with auto-starting apps emerged after owning a Dell XPS laptop for a year. The Dell didn’t start off with memory problems. It developed RAM anemia over time. In that short period, I found myself constantly running out of memory.
So what caused the problem? The slow deterioration in performance originated from memory hogs, like Steam and Samsung Magician. But because most methods won’t locate and remove all startup applications, the best option is to use as many options as possible.
Kinds of Startup Programs
You can detect and remove auto-starting programs using several different approaches, although none of them will catch all startup applications. The top methods:
- Optimization programs: CCleaner and Revo Uninstaller offer powerful optimization tools. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t get all auto-starters.
- Windows Startup Folder
- Windows Task Manager
- Configuration within the application: This method removes auto-starting apps by configuring startup capabilities within the application. This removes most auto-starters, but fails to remove certain apps.
- Windows Task Scheduler: This gets the sneakiest auto-starters, but still doesn’t get them all.
Here’s a quick guide on how to use each method:
Remove Startup Apps with CCleaner
We’ve written about using CCleaner for optimizing system performance. It’s also available on Android (which I highly recommend). CCleaner offers, by far, the best tool for removing startup bloatware from your computer. Unlike the other methods listed in this article, CCleaner covers all the bases (except registry optimization during uninstallation). It removes programs that were scheduled as tasks, those residing in the Windows Startup Folder, and those which start based on registry entries.
To begin, install CCleaner and run it. Click on Tools in the left pane and then choose Startup from the center pane.
You’ll then see a menu in the center pane with multiple tabs. Here you can eliminate five different categories of apps which automatically start: Windows, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Scheduled Tasks, and Context menu.
Apps that launch at boot are classified under the Windows category. Apps that launch with your browser are classified under Internet Explorer and Chrome. Apps launched using Windows Task Scheduler inhabit the Scheduled Tasks tab. Apps that you can execute by right-clicking are listed in the Context tab.
You can remove any of these items by right-clicking on them and selecting Disable. If you are absolutely certain that you don’t need the program launching, then you can choose to delete it. Although some programs will automatically re-enable their startup capabilities after running them. Malware notoriously does this.
CCleaner is amazing software, although Danny Stieben prefers IOBit Advanced System Care over CCleaner. I beg to differ. For removing auto-starters, CCleaner offers more options.
Remove Startup Apps with Revo Uninstaller
From the main interface, click on Tools from the tabbed options. Then select Autorun Manager. You can disable any startup item by unchecking the checked box next to its name.
Revo also possesses the ability to remove applications, along with their Windows registry entries. This oftentimes catches software elements that enter into memory, even after uninstalling the application.
Remove Startup Apps with the Windows Task Scheduler
The Task Scheduler has been used as a means to sneak a lot of different software into the Windows operating system, without their entry showing up in optimization scans. Users can access this by using Windows Search to locate Schedule tasks. The Task Scheduler can also be located from the Control Panel, under Administrative tools.
Once inside the Task Scheduler, from the left-pane, choose Task Scheduler Library. Then, from the center pane, pick the startup item that you want to disable. Finally, select Disable from the right-pane.
Remove Startup Apps with the Windows 8 Task Manager
In Windows 7, users can use msconfig.exe to remove auto-starters. In Windows 8 and above, users use the Windows Task Manager. To remove apps, just launch the Task Manager by hitting and holding CTRL + ALT + Delete (holding all button down at the same time). Then choose the Startup tab.
You’ll see a list of all the startup apps on your system. To disable any auto-starter, just right-click and select Disable from the context menu.
Remove Startup Apps from the Windows Startup Folder
This method is functionally identical to using the Windows Task Manager. You can simply navigate to this folder to remove the offending apps. Both CCleaner and Revo Uninstaller can do this as well, but in case you want to manually remove them, there’s two directories in which Windows 8 and above stores auto-starters:
C:\users\*your user name here*\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
For apps that start for all users, you’ll want to check the following folder:
Windows 7 and earlier builds allow users to access the startup folder through the command line. Simply typing shell:startup into the Run program (Windows key + R) launches the Startup folder.
Once you’re in the Startup Folder, you can delete items as if they were files. Deleting any item will remove it as an auto-launching program.
Configure Apps to Not Auto-Start at Boot
Most legitimate apps allow users to prevent them from automatically launching, although it’s not always straightforward. My favorite example is Samsung Magician, which is a Solid State Drive (what’s an SSD?) optimization tool for Samsung drives.
Samsung Magician uses the Schedule Tasks feature to automatically launch itself, without placing an easily detectable entry in the Windows registry. This allows it to skirt around many system optimization software, like Revo Uninstaller. However, Samsung made disabling it ridiculously easy (although not really straightforward).
Just right-click on the Samsung Magician icon in the Windows System tray (located in the lower-right of your screen), then select Remove from Startup.
What’s the Best Method for Killing Startup Programs?
The best method of removing auto-starting applications — and therefore optimizing your Windows machine’s performance — revolves around using a multi-spectrum approach: CCleaner offers the single best tool for removing startup programs and Revo Uninstaller can remove many of the residual registry entries, without damaging your operating system.
Neither program offers 100% efficacy, but in concert with one another, the efficacy increases several-fold. I also recommend performing a manual sweep of the Windows Startup folder for maximum benefit, using either of the two methods mentioned in this guide.
However, keep in mind that if your system suffers from serious performance issues, the problem might relate to malware. We recommend taking 10 malware killing steps, if removing startup items doesn’t help performance. Also consider reading our malware removal guide, which includes such necessary steps as performing the malware scan from within Windows Safe Mode (how to boot into Safe Mode?).
Have you had low memory issues and which programs were to blame? Share with us in the comments!