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Windows Startup Cleanup Worth Doing

Over time, Windows PCs can accumulate interesting amounts of clutter and detritus. Especially on machines, like mine, where I install and sometimes use a wide variety of programs, this applies to the items that Windows invokes upon starting up the OS and getting things going. While you can use the Startup tab in Task Manager to do a decent job of policing startup items and elements, nothing beats Sysinternals Autoruns program when it comes to getting serious about startup cleanup.

Just this morning, I stumbled across a nice PC World story from Lincoln Spector entitled “3 ways to speed up Windows 10 without buying new hardware.” His first tip reads “1. Remove unnecessary autostarters” and briefly explains how to manage such items with Task Manager. That got me to thinking about Autoruns, after which I took a look into that program to see just how many items my production PC’s installation had accumulated there. By the time I got to 300 (there’s no easy way to count what’s in Autoruns except by scrolling through its listing AFAIK), I go tired and gave up, but if the ratio of space consumed to total items is any indicator, it probably runs around 1200 or so. Turning to the Logon tab (instead of Everything) produced a much more manageable count of 38.

Startup Cleanup Comes Easy with Autoruns

In looking at entries in Autoruns, you can right-click to look the item you’ve selected online, and occasionally get some insight as to what’s worth keeping and what’s worth disabling/deselecting. What I did for my startup cleanup was to delete elements for applications I use only seldom, if at all, to bring down the overall count. In my case that included:

  • numerous entries related to Acronis TrueImage (which I run once a week as a secondary backup facility)
  • Skype (which I never use on this PC as it has no readily available microphone unless I plug in a headset)
  • some but not all Apple and iTunes stuff (updater, iCloud, etc.) that I use seldom, if ever
  • a variety of updaters (Java, Nvidia, SnagIt, and so forth — I use Secunia/Flexera PSI to keep up with updates one or more times weekly)
  • various browser plug-ins primarily for Web-based meetings (GoToMeeting, On24, and so forth)
  • various downloaders (BITS, Akamai, and more)
  • other related or similar items

By the time I was done clicking through the interface (which took the better part of half an hour), I’d unchecked over 50 items in all. This is a reasonably substantial startup cleanup, as such things go.

This isn’t something that needs doing every week or every month, but if you’re in the habit of installing new programs on a work or personal machine on a more-or-less regular basis, it’s probably worth doing every 3 to 6 months or so. Grab a copy of Autoruns, and have at it!

Notice on the screencap that I’ve unchecked 13 of the 24 items showing, or just over half of that total. With some careful inspection (and occasional use of the “Search Online…” right-click menu item) you should be able to trim away quite nicely at the Windows runtime environments you subject to this analysis and action. This can be useful in tweaking and tuning reference Windows images as well, prior to their deployment.