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.


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:

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
NVidia Media Center Library
Dell QuickSet
QTask (Quicken)

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.