The Windows registry stores data used to control almost every part of your computer including the start up routine. Whenever your computer is booted, it initiates every program listed in the start up area. Many of these applications are never used, but they continue to run in the background. This not only extends your boot time, but it can slow down your system because each one uses valuable processing time and memory.
Some programs are placed in the Windows registry start up area when the manufacture creates the build for the system. Others are added as new programs are installed. Malware often tries to hide processes in the start up folder so that your efforts to correct the problem are thwarted on each restart. Before you know it, the CPU usage could hover close to a 100 percent utilization rate most of the time. Luckily, you can take complete control of the start up routine by managing the Windows registry.
Viewing the Windows Start Up Programs
If you’d like to see a list of programs that start every time you reboot your computer, follow these steps:
• Open the Windows Registry Editor by using the regedit.exe program. If you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, go to “Start” and enter “regedit.” For earlier versions of Windows, go to “Start,” click “Run,” and enter “regedit.” Once you hit the “Enter” key, the window will open.
• To display a list of start up programs, expand the following string of keys: HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software, Microsoft, Windows, CurrentVersion, and Run.
Once you’ve opened this list of keys, the values will display in the panel on the right side of the Windows Registry Editor. Most of the labels will be recognizable as programs you work with on a daily basis, but some may not look familiar. Just because you don’t know the purpose of a listed program doesn’t mean it’s not important; some programs that run behind the scenes are necessary for specific system components to operate correctly.
Adding a Program to the Windows Start Up Area
If you’d like to add a new program to the start up routine, you can easily do so in the same window used to view the program list by following these steps:
• Click the “Edit” pull-down menu at the top of the Windows Registry Editor screen.
• Click “New” followed by “String Value.”
• A new entry appears in the right panel of the screen.
• Enter a descriptive name to identify the program. This can be as simple as the program name.
• With the name highlighted, click “Edit” again followed by “Modify.”
• In the “Edit Screen” pop-up, type in the complete path of the executable. For example, notepad is usually “c:\windows\notepad.exe.”
Deleting a Program from the Windows Start Up Area
If the program is listed in this area of the registry, deleting it is easy. This simple step prevents the executable from launching as the computer reboots. Highlight the value and press the delete key. Another method involves highlighting the value, clicking “Edit,” and clicking “Delete.”
What if the Program Isn’t Listed
There are a few other places to check if you need to remove a program from the start up routine, but you don’t see it listed under the “Run” section of the registry. In most cases, you’ll find it in one of these places:
• The Start Up Folder – Look under C:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp
• The WIN.INI file – This should be in the Windows folder, but a file search can turn it up if you don’t see it. Look in the “Load” or “Run” sections of the file.
This list of alternative Windows registry keys could also contain start up programs:
• Under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion, check RunOnce, RunServices, RunServicesOnce, and Winlogon\Userinit.
• Under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion, check Run, RunOnce, RunServices, RunServicesOnce, and Windows.
Although removing unnecessary programs from the Windows registry start up routine can help your computer run faster, it might not be enough to satisfy your need for speed. If your computer still seems sluggish, the registry could be cluttered with blank spaces, duplicate information, malware entries, or orphaned keys. The easiest way to correct these issues is to use a registry cleaner. Instead of going through the registry key by key trying to understand what each one does, this handy little program can do the work for you. With a clean, functional registry, your computer will stop freezing, crashing, and reporting those aggravating error messages.