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

Share this post :

February 23, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Boot Error– "Unexpected Interrupt In Protected Mode"

If you turn on your computer and Windows fails to load to your Desktop, but instead displays the following error message, Unexpected Interrupt In Protected Mode, there are a couple of things that might be happening. Here are some troubleshooting steps which you can try to get your machine up and running again.

First, try rebooting your machine. If that doesn’t “cure” it, keep reading.

Causes: causes for this particular error message may be hardware-related: a failed or failing motherboard, or failing (or over-heating) CPU, or it may be related to a corrupted BIOS. Since the hardware issues most likely will require replacement parts and/or a trip to the shop, lets first tackle the BIOS possibility.

What is a “BIOS”? Your computer’s BIOS is a very basic set of instructions that tells your machine where to look for a keyboard and mouse and an operating system. It runs when your machine is first powered on. To make changes in the BIOS, you’re going to interrupt the boot process before Windows loads, so you need to use a keyboard that is plugged into the PS/2 port on the back of the machine, and not a wireless one. 

1) Reboot your machine, and get ready to act quickly. Very early you will see a little bit of text that says, “hit F2* to enter setup.” (*Different manufacturers use different keys– F2 is the most common, but it may be the Esc key, Del, or F10. Refer to your computer builder’s website if you cannot determine which key to press.) Rapidly hit the suggested key several times, and enter “Setup” — this is your BIOS control panel.

2) Look to the bottom of the screen for Setup’s menu choices. Now look for the Function Key choice that will reset the BIOS to its default configuration. This is frequently the F5 key, but it may be F6.. In the screenshot above, look to the lower right: for this BIOS, it is F5 we want. “Setup Defaults”.

3) Save and Exit the Setup utility, and reboot. (In the sample BIOS, that’s the F10 key. But you may have to hit Esc, an then answer “Yes” to the Save? question. It varies.)

If resetting the BIOS to its defaults does not restore Windows functionality, I recommend you take your machine in to a qualified tech who can determine the hardware issues.
If it did restore it, you want to ask yourself what caused the BIOS corruption? Usually the answer is a recently installed program, or malware– be sure to run an antivirus scan.

Today’s free link: from Uniblue. Scan, backup, and Update your PC’s drivers. Folks– I have only just now used this new tool. I learned of it from Bill Mullins, who is as reliable a source as I have ever run across. To read his review, click here. This is a 30-day free trial, which normally would disqualify it from being posted here, but I am impressed enough to make this one-time exception.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

Share this post :

August 29, 2008 Posted by | advice, BIOS, computers, how to, PC, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment