How to Prevent Programs From Loading at Windows Startup

These Windows tweaks prevent programs from loading at startup

Preventing unnecessary programs from running at Windows startup is a great way to speed up your computer. After you determine which programs run when Windows boots, you can choose which ones to remove from launch at startup. All programs use system resources—operating memory—so any program that you prevent from running reduces memory use and may speed up your PC.

 

Where to Look for Windows Startup Programs

prevent program starts with windows
Prevent Program Starts with Windows.

There are five places you can prevent programs from automatically loading during a Windows startup. These are:

  • The Startup Folder under the Start Menu
  • In the program itself under Tools, Preferences or Options
  • The System Configuration Utility
  • The System Registry
  • The Task Scheduler

Check the Startup Folder and Delete Unwanted Shortcuts

delete items from startup folder
Delete Items From the Startup Folder.

The first and easiest place to check is the Startup folder under the Start Menu. This folder houses shortcuts for programs set to run when Windows starts up. To remove a program’s shortcut in this folder:

  1. Go to the Startup folder.
  2. Right-click on a program you think doesn't need to load on startup.
  3. Select Cut to put the shortcut on the clipboard temporarily.
  4. Right-click on the desktop and select Paste to put the shortcut on your desktop.
  5. Restart your computer after you have finished removing shortcuts from the Startup folder to make sure everything works the way you want.

If everything works properly after the restart, delete the shortcuts from your desktop or drop them in the Recycle Bin. If everything doesn't work after the restart, copy and paste the shortcut you need back into the Startup folder. Restart again to confirm everything is working the way you expect it to.

Note: Removing a shortcut does not delete the program from your computer.

Look in Programs and Remove Auto-Start Options

uncheck auto start option
Uncheck the Auto Start Option.

Sometimes, a program is set up in the program itself to load when Windows starts. To find these programs, look in the tool tray on the right of the taskbar. The icons you see are some of the programs currently running on the computer.

To prevent a program from starting when Windows boots up, open the program and look for an Options Menu. This menu is usually under the Tools menu at the top of the program window, but it may be under the Preferences menu. When you find the Options menu, look for a check box that says Run program when Windows Starts or something to that effect. Uncheck that box and close the program. The program should not run when Windows starts up again.

Use the System Configuration Utility

Use the System Configuration Utility
Use the System Configuration Utility.

Using the System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG), instead of the System Registry (in the next section), is safer and delivers the same results. You can unselect items in this utility without deleting them to keep them from running when Windows starts. If there is a problem, you can select them again in the future to fix it.

Open the System Configuration Utility:

  1. Click on the Start menu and then click on Run.
  2. Type msconfig into the text box and click OK to open the System Configuration Utility.
  3. Click the Startup tab to see the list of items that automatically load with Windows.
  4. Uncheck the box next to the program name you do not want to start with Windows.
  5. Close this program and restart your computer.

Note: If you're unsure what an item is or does, resize the Start Item, Command, and Location columns so you can see all information. You may look in the folder indicated in the location column to determine what the item is, or you can search the internet for more information. Usually, programs listed in the Windows or System folders should be allowed to load—leave those alone.

After you uncheck one item, restart your computer to confirm everything works correctly before you uncheck others. When Windows reboots, you may notice a message stating that Windows is starting in a selective or diagnostic mode. If this appears, click the check box to prevent the display of this message in the future.

Use the System Registry (REGEDIT)

Use the System Registry
Use the System Registry.

If you used the MSCONFIG program and unchecked a program you do not want to start with Windows in the previous section, you do not need to use the System Registry instructions in this section. They are optional and not recommended for most Windows users.

If you are an advanced Windows user and are feeling lucky, you can open the System Registry.

Warning: Proceed with caution. If you make an error in the System Registry, you may not be able to undo it.

To use the System Registry:

  1. Click on the Start Menu and then click on Run.
  2. Type regedit in the text box.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion Run folder.
  5. Right-click on the desired item to select it, press Delete, and confirm the action.
  6. Close the System Registry and reboot your computer.

Do not delete something if you don’t know what it is. You can uncheck items using the MSCONFIG program as described in the previous section without deleting them and re-select them if that causes a problem, so you don't have to go into the System Registry where you can't undelete.

Remove Unwanted Items From the Task Scheduler

Remove Items From Task Scheduler
Remove Items From Task Scheduler.

To prevent unwanted programs from automatically launching when Windows starts, you can remove tasks from the Windows task scheduler.

To navigate to the C:\windows\tasks folder:

  1. Click on the Start menu and then click My Computer.
  2. Under Hard Disk Drives, click Local Disk (C:).
  3. Double-click the Windows folder.
  4. Double-click the Tasks folder.

The folder contains a list of tasks that are scheduled to run automatically. Drag and drop the unwanted task shortcuts onto the desktop or a different folder. You can delete them later if you want. Tasks you remove from this folder will not run automatically in the future unless you set them up to do so again.