Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Using Systernal AutoRuns

HowTo: Using Microsoft's AutoRuns utility; similar to MSCONFIG.

Previously, I've written a detailed article: Cleaning Windows Startup Programs.

The article described a built-in Windows utility called "msconfig.exe" and it can help speed up a computer's boot times, making the machine all-around faster.

This article expands on that idea by using a more powerful Microsoft tool called "AutoRuns." If you are more technically-inclined, AutoRuns has other options and gives a deeper look into the operating system.


Preamble:


When your computer boots, it loads an amazing number of programs in the background. Some of them are required, some are not. Periodically, I like to weed through the mess, pulling out what is essentially junk from the startup decks. By doing this, the computer boots faster, has more memory and runs faster.

I'm always a bit surprised when I look into the startup decks. Innocuous updates, such as Adobe Reader, Flash, or a maintenance release on my photo editor, always seems to leave a pile of trash that deserves cleanup. This article describes how you can do this -- and if you make a mistake, it can easily be un-done.

Download and Install

"AutoRuns" is a Microsoft Systernal utility with more capabilities than the standard MSCONFIG but the program must be downloaded before it can be used. Follow these steps:

A. From technet.microsoft.com

Search for "AutoRuns" (recommended)
Or use this link: Windows Systernals bb973902

Download "AutoRuns for Windows v10.01" or newer

B. Once downloaded, double-click the .ZIP file.

Highlight all the files
Paste into a folder, such as C:\Program Files\Util\AutoRuns
(any folder of your choice)

C. To launch, use Windows Explorer, double-clicking "autoruns.exe"
No installation is required.
As you use the software, grant administrative rights, if prompted.

Initial Look

On the top Menu, confirm "Hide Microsoft and Windows Entries"
Along the top row, click the "[Logon]" tab

Click for larger view; click right-x to return

Glance down the list, with particular attention in these sections:
HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Many of the programs in this list can probably be disabled. When I first did this, I found 21 programs in my startup list; I disabled 14 and never missed them (again, see this article for details: Cleaning Windows Startup Programs).

Cleaning Up:

Unchecking the box removes the program from the Startup lists. Naturally, you need to be a little careful at what you disable.

In general, if it deals with the Video, Sound, Virus Scanning or Network, leave it in place. Other than that it is safe to fiddle and try things. Google is your friend. If you don't recognize a program, do a quick search. Often sites will say "this is a non-essential program, but you should leave it in place unless it is causing problems..." -- they are being wishy-washy -- this is your clue to uncheck the program.

The neat thing about these utilities is you can change your mind and re-check them if you run into problems. In the list you may find other programs that are already unchecked. This means they are still installed but are not running and they can be ignored.

You Can Certainly Remove These:

Acrobat Reader Updater
Acrobat Pre-Loader
Adobe ARM
Adobe Reader Speed Launcher
Corel Photo-Downloader
Corel File Shell Monitor
(Corel) Standby.exe
SunJavaUpdateSched
NVidia Media Center Library
Dell QuickSet
QTask (Quicken)
RealSche

Once unchecked, reboot the computer and make sure that all is well. If you disabled startup programs dealing with a vended program (such as Corel PaintShopPro PSP, or Acrobat), consider launching those programs to make sure all is well.

If you discover that something no longer works, re-load AutoRuns and re-check the offending service or utility. Reboot to put the utility back into service.

For example, a program "TrueImageMonitor.exe" was removed and I found my Acronis backup program had troubles scheduling a backup. After a brief experiment, I re-checked the box, rebooted and all was well.

Printers typically hide a lot of stuff in this area and it will take some sleuthing to determine what is needed and what is not (HP is notorious for putting a lot of crap in the startup decks). You will have to experiment to see what can be deleted. For example, on my inkjet printer, I was able to remove all of the programs. What I lost was the ability to check ink levels and to clean the printheads from software -- but all of these features are available on the printer's front control panel, so nothing was lost.

Be sure to read the previous article for other techniques on how to tell what is expendable and what is not. As you can imagine, you should exercise some care while doing this. However, many friends, clients and readers have reported tremendous improvements in their computer's boot times after following these steps.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gear Head Wireless Nano Mouse

Review: Gearhead Wireless Nano Mouse MP2900. Nice mouse, affordable. It comes in designer colors. No complaints until recently -- when the mouse died and it never recovered.

2010.10 update: The mouse, after about 6 months of use, mysteriously died and as near as I can tell, this is a hardware problem. Ultimately, I trashed the mouse. Judging by the number of hits to this article, it appears to be a common occurrence and I no longer recommend this product.

To fix the Magnifier bug, see this article: Keyliner Magnifier Bug

The remainder of this article is the original review and as you will see, I was originally pleased.


Mouse Drivers

If you are looking for mouse drivers, install Microsoft's Intellipoint drivers, described below. No other drivers are required and the vendor does not provide drivers. If the mouse 'died', installing/re-installing Microsoft's drivers will not fix the problem.


Original Review:

GearHead Optical Wireless Nano Mice are medium-sized mice, suitable for laptop or desktop computers. This is a straight-forward, simple 2-button mouse with no bells-and whistles.

It has a comfortable feel and appropriate heft. The buttons have a nice click, the rubber-sides are comfortable, as is the scroll-wheel. At $14.00 US, it is less expensive than similar Logitec and Microsoft mice. I like this mouse.

Reasons to buy this mouse:
  • The "Nano" transmitter is about 5mm deep and it can stay plugged in to your laptop.
  • At $14.00 US, it is affordable.
  • It only has two buttons; a very straight-forward, comfortable mouse.
  • Uses Microsoft Intellipoint drivers

Features:
  • 2.4ghz Wireless "Nano" Transmitter
  • Small transmitter, no need to remove, even on laptops
  • High resolution, 28" per second
  • Inexpensive: $14.00 US
  • 2-button mouse; no pesky side buttons
  • Clickable scroll wheel (3rd button)
  • Uses Microsoft's Intellipoint drivers
  • 2 Standard AAA batteries

The small USB transmitter is the main reason I bought this mouse. The transmitter is small enough to leave permanently connected to a laptop and it can be plugged into any port without interference. The range is also surprising -- you can use the mouse from across the room. It also works well on desktops which are tucked under a desk.

I expect the battery life to be on par with my other non-rechargeable wireless mice -- a single set of batteries will last for months, if not a year. The mouse has an on-off switch which should be used while transporting, but if it is sitting quietly on a desk, it will go to sleep. I've had this mouse for two months on a desk and I've not bothered to turn it off. When resting, the slightest movement will spring it back to life. The mouse does not have a battery-level indicator.

Installation and Drivers:

To install the hardware, insert the USB transmitter into any port.

The vendor does not provide drivers; standard Windows (and Macintosh) drivers work as-is. However, if you have not already done so, I recommend downloading and installing Microsoft's Intellipoint drivers (see the end of this article for a link). These drivers give better features, such as the "snap-to" option. You will need to make control-panel adjustments with the mouse, described next.

Mouse Driver Speeds

Because of the mouse's high resolution (I believe it is near 1400dpi), you will have to slow-down the cursor speed in the Mouse Control Panel. If you don't, the mouse will be erratic. This makes it difficult to switch between the mouse and a laptop's touchpad. Once the mouse-speed is slowed, the touchpad becomes intolerably slow.

Problems:

I've had no real problems with the mouse. However, not that I consider this a problem, if the mouse remains turned on, but the laptop turns off (and back on later), the mouse is not detected properly. I flip the mouses's power switch, or you can press the underside "connect" button, and it immediately re-establishes the connection; this is a reasonable expectation.

The center mouse (Scroll-wheel down-click) is stiffer than it should be. With that said, I've never used this feature, so it has not been a problem for me.

It comes with a limited life-time warranty -- you must provide a receipt and the original packaging - which is an odd requirement -- but at $14, I'm not sure the mouse would be worth the trouble. (This proved to be true: when the mouse died, it *was* too much trouble.)

The owner's manual is a sheet of paper that needs reviewed by a first-year English student and it includes references to AA batteries (it uses AAA). I'm probably being too critical; after all, this is only but a mouse.



Purchased at Office Depot. I've also seen it at this price on Amazon.com and Walmart. I believe this is the normal price.