Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

My Startup Folder Is A Clown Car*

Clown_Car

image courtesy of istockphoto.com

You are familiar with clown cars. It’s that tiny little car that drives into the center ring at the circus, stops, opens its door, and an arm comes out, then a leg, and then a whole, seven and-a-half foot tall clown comes out…and you wonder what inhuman contortionist’s feat allowed that BIG clown to fit into that little car.
No sooner has that tall clown unfolded himself, then he reaches into the car and pulls out a fat clown. You think, no way!
Now a lady clown comes out of that car…and then a short clown…and then another fat clown emerges…and you’re thinking, there’s gotta be a tunnel under there…but you had just seen elephants parading all over that center ring…and another clown’s out and another clown and another clown. What you’re seeing just isn’t possible. You lose count of all the clowns that come out of that car. Yes…I just knew you’d remember. Clown car.

I have one machine that I use for pretty much everything — gaming, digital photography, building/maintaining my website, reading and sending email, instant messaging, video conferencing, doing my taxes, etc – and I have, literally, scores of programs installed on it. (I have other machines as well, but this one is my Swiss Army knife: it does it all.) This machine’s Startup folder has become like that clown car before it expels its load. Because of that fact it takes so long to get going at boot up that I never turn it off – I leave it running 24/7. That’s far from an ideal ’solution’, however.

The fact is, and this dates back to the days of DOS and TSR (terminate and stay resident) programs, just about every program and service you install wants to get itself loaded when Windows starts — so that it will be “immediately available” should you want it — and so it puts a shortcut to itself in the Startup folder. For some programs and services this is a very good thing; like your 3rd party firewall and antivirus program and updater. You definitely want those things running all the time, and just as soon as Windows boots.

But most of the others are unnecessary and merely slow down the boot process and waste valuable RAM memory space. Apple Quicktime, Adobe Acrobat (and Adobe Updater) and Real Player are notorious examples of programs that have no business inserting themselves into your Startup folder, but there are others: do you really need your webcam to start itself at boot? How about your instant messenger? Isn’t it sufficient to simply launch them when you’re ready to use them? Some of these simply launch themselves so that they can show you banner ads and make the owners money (like AIM and MSN Messenger), which is pretty darned-close to being adware…wouldn’t you say? (It is, in fact, the definition of adware.) Windows itself is often guilty of bogging itself down by loading programs (called “services”) that you probably don’t need.

Tip of the day: Speed up your boot process (and get rid of some of those icons down by the clock at the same time) by trimming shortcuts from your Startup folder and shutting down unnecessary services. Let’s start with the first one. In XP, right-click the Start button, and then click Properties. On the Start Menu tab, click Classic Start menu and then click Customize. Now click Remove. Open the Programs folder and open the Startup folder. Highlight the items in the Startup folder that you want to remove and click the Remove button. Close, and hit OK. That’s it. Restore your Start menu’s view if you prefer the “XP look”. (Remember, you are only removing shortcuts to the executable, and not removing the program itself: it is still there for when you want it.)

Now my advice on what to remove and what to leave alone: remove anything Adobe, remove anything that says “quick launch”, remove anything Apple, remove your webcam, and leave in place your Internet Security and anti-malware programs. It is up to you whether or not you want your instant messenger to be loaded at boot or not — I prefer it.

This next part, Services, is a little more advanced, and you should be real comfortable with Windows before you make too many adjustments — you will be doing more than just removing shortcuts here. Click Start >Programs >Administrative Tools (or, Start >All Programs >Accessories >Administrative Tools) and then Services. In the right-hand pane you will see a long list of services available to Windows, and columns labeled “Description”, Status, Start up type, and “Log on as”. The status shows you which ones are currently running, and as you will see, most of them are not (which is good).

Now since we’re in a province not meant for mere mortals, I’m going to suggest only a few “tweaks”, and strongly urge you not to do more.

Locate the service Messenger and check its status (This is not your instant messenger): it should be blank and the Start up type should read “disabled”. If not, double-click on it. On the window that opens, click the Stop button. Now use the drop-down menu to change the Start up type to Disabled. If you are not hosting your own website (and if you don’t know what that means, you aren’t) look for a service called IIS: use the above method to stop and disable this one also. If Telnet is running and you’re not a sysadmin, disable this one too.

If you are the only user of the machine, locate (and stop) the Fast User Switching service and set the Start up type to Manual. If it has been a long while since you’ve used Windows Help and Support Center, do the same to the service named Help and Support. And that, I believe, is enough for now.

Today’s free link(s): I have been talking recently about malware and I’ve mentioned the threats it poses. If you are concerned about, and have questions regarding, malware and ID theft, there’s a couple of great resources where you can get answers — Safer Computing.com and the US Government’s “one stop” National ID Theft Information Center.

For more on the Startup folder, see my new post, and also How To Manage Startup programs in Vista.

As part of his ongoing exploration of world of cloudware apps, Rick Robinette at What’s On My PC.. has found a nifty screen capture tool and prepared a nice demo video (that I found very informative). Check out ScreenToaster – An “Awesome and Free” web based screen recorder!

* One of my first articles. Orig pub: June 20, 2007

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 23, 2009 - Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Beautifully written article – Top 10 material!

    Great advice. I recently saw a machine that had 52 startup items.

    Personally I have 6 autoruns, Avast,KeyScrambler, WinPatrol, ThreatFire, Windows Action Center (Windows 7). These aren’t exactly the same as on my XP Pro machines, but even there, there are only 8 autoruns.

    Your readers will benefit by following your advice here.

    Like

    Comment by Bill Mullins | February 23, 2009 | Reply

    • With kind words like that, I might take a notion to keep at this blogging thing..!
      Thank you sir.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. TechPaul,

    This article I am archiving… I have run into so many people that have their startups so polluted that it severely hampered, not only the startup, but the overall performance of the PC. Really, it is no fault of the user. I blame it on the software vendors.It’s like free advertising that serves no real purpose. Again, great article!

    Rick

    Like

    Comment by whatsonmypc | February 23, 2009 | Reply

  3. Gentlemen,
    I see it almost everyday. I can’t tell you the number of machines I look at where the owner has set the Taskbar to be three rows high.. just so they can see all the icons down by the clock. (aka “running programs in the System Tray”.)

    This was one of the first two-dozen articles I ever wrote, and it’s as applicable today as ever.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | February 23, 2009 | Reply

  4. Hello:
    A great subject: A Clown Car!

    I’m in the process of setting up a new Mac, a little annoyed with all the icons/subjects that I am not going to use, although the Mac has less than some other systems.

    Thanks Paul for this info., a reminder of what I don’t want.

    All your info. has been most helpful.

    Gaia

    Like

    Comment by Gaia | February 24, 2009 | Reply

    • Thank you, Gaia. Enjoy learning your new Mac!

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 24, 2009 | Reply


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