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How to disable or enable auto-start programs and drivers in Windows 10

In doing computer repair I often get asked "Why does my computer take so long to start up?". Quite often it turns out that there are items that are set to auto-start that don't need to or just don't exist anymore. Here's how to disable programs, drivers and services that auto-start in Windows 10.

How to disable or enable auto-start programs and drivers in Windows 10

Now this one doesn't cost any money and can dramatically improve the time it takes for your computer and programs to start up. Also by minimizing the amount programs that launch at start up, you can also free up memory that would be otherwise used by them.

Now there are three (3) programs I use to enable or disable programs, drivers or services that start up in Windows 10. The built-in programs (Task Manager and System Configuration) are pretty safe to use, but still can degrade performance if not used properly. The third program (Autoruns / Autoruns32) can be dangerous because not only can it enable or disable entries, it can also delete them.

Note: It is always recommended that you make changes one at a time and restart between them. That way you can find out if you really need that program or service you just disabled. Yes, it's time consuming, but sometimes you just have to do it.

Task Manager (Auto-start programs)

The Startup tab inside of Windows 10 Task Manager
The Startup tab inside of Windows 10 Task Manager

This is the easiest and safest way to enable or disable programs that auto-start with Windows 10. None of the programs listed here are going to prevent your computer from starting if disabled. In fact, you will not find any program listed here that Windows requires to operate.

Now for those of you that are not familiar with Task Manager, it's a built-in program that does allot of different things. It monitors running programs, system performance and active processes. And it also manages programs that auto-start with Windows 10.

How to start Task Manager in Windows 10

  1. Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar.
  2. On the context menu that appears, left-click on Task Manager.

or

  1. Press CTRL + ALT + DEL all at the same time.
  2. From the security screen that appears, left-click on Task Manager.

The first time you run Task Manager, it only displays running apps. You have to left-click on the More details arrow to display all of the tabs. Once you have the tabs displayed, left-click on Startup.

From here all you have to do is highlight the program name and select the Enable / Disable button located in the bottom right-hand corner.

System Configuration (Auto-start services)

The Services tab inside of Windows 10 System Configuration
The Services tab inside of Windows 10 System Configuration

This program is used mainly for diagnostics, so there are no splashy graphics here. With System Configuration you can change the services that auto-start with Windows 10. Be careful making changes here, as they can have a major impact on system performance.

How to start System Configuration in Windows 10

  1. Left-click on the Start Menu and scroll down the list of applications to Windows Administrative Tools.
  2. Left-click on Windows Administrative Tools to expand the contents.
  3. Scroll down and left-click on System Configuration.

or

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + R to bring up the Run dialog box.
  2. Type in MSCONFIG and left-click on OK.

From the default dialog box select the Service tab. There you will find all of the services that auto-start with Windows 10. Remember that some of the Microsoft services listed cannot be disabled, so it's always best practice to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box at the bottom of the services section.

Once you have made your changes left-click on the Apply button then left-click on the OK button. You will be prompted to either Restart or Exit without restart. Left-click on Restart and you're ready to go. Remember to make changes one at a time and restart in between changes.

Autoruns / Autoruns64 (Auto-start programs, drivers and services)

The Everything tab inside of Microsoft Autoruns
The Everything tab inside of Microsoft Autoruns

Autoruns.exe (32-bit) and Autoruns64.exe (64-bit) are part of Microsoft's Sysinternals Suite of troubleshooting utilities and are not included inside of Windows 10. But they are free, require no installation and can be downloaded separately or with the complete suite (see links below).

This is the most complex program of them all. And the most dangerous! Why you ask? Besides being able to disable programs / drivers / services that auto-start, you can also delete their load points altogether. So be careful!

Once you have downloaded and unzip the files to a permanent location, open Windows Explorer and navigate to that folder. Now right-click on either Autoruns.exe or Autoruns64.exe (depending on your version of Windows 10) and select Run as administrator from the context menu that appears.

When you start Autoruns it automatically scans your computer for auto-start programs, drivers and services. Autoruns has multiple tabs for the different Windows auto-start locations (logon, services, drivers, etc.) including one called Everything. And if you select the User pull-down menu on the toolbar on top of the program, you can also select the different user profiles.

If you want to disable / enable a program or driver, just left-click on the check box on the left-hand side of the entry. You can also delete an entry, but I recommend that you back it up first, just in case. If you find you don't need the backup, you can just delete the file later.

To back up an entry in Autoruns you right-click on it and a context menu will appear. Left-click on Jump to entry ... and the Registry Editor opens to the location in the registry of that entry. Right-click on the selected entry in the Registry Editor and a context menu appears. Left-click on Export and select a location and file name for your backup file.

Autoruns
Sysinternals Suite

Navigating Windows 10

Seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds true for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here's my favorite tips for navigating Windows 10.

Navigating Windows 10

Since I do computer repair for a living, I've had to find ways to navigate around the different versions of Windows. With Windows 10, Microsoft keep some of the cooler features while adding some new ones. And they even brought back one feature from previous versions. Let's take a look at my favorite ways to get around inside of Windows 10.

Power User menu

This little pop-up menu is the fast way to find some of the core features inside of Windows 10. It first appeared in Windows 8 to supplement the loss of the Start Menu. It never got the publicity it deserved and only real geeks knew it existed. My customers are still amazed the first time I use it in front of them.

Lucky for us Microsoft decided to keep the Power Users menu in Windows 10. It is still the fastest way to get to features like the Control Panel, Programs and Features and Computer Management. Here's how to display the Power User menu in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Power User menu

There are two (2) ways of displaying the Power User menu in Windows 10: Mouse or Keyboard.

Using your mouse to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu

Using your keyboard to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X

If you use the keyboard to bring up the Power User menu, you'll find that the programs / features listed have a single letter in their name underlined. These are also keyboard shortcuts to that particular program / feature. Here's a link to the complete list of the Power User menu keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10.

Power User menu keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Here's is another really useful feature that nobody really knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me all the time "What does that key with the Windows logo do?". Well, its primary use is to bring up the Start Menu, but it does more. Allot more.

The Windows logo key was introduced over twenty (20) years alongside of Windows 95 and the new Start Menu. There were only a handful of Windows logo key shortcuts at that time and you had to purchase a Windows 95 compatible keyboard to use them. Now you can't find a Windows compatible keyboard without it.

There are now close to forty (40) Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 10. Once you try them out you'll wonder how you lived without for so long. Here's a link to the complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Shortcut keys in Windows 10

This is one of those 'old school' features that I love to use. Did you know that you can open almost any shortcut with just your keyboard? By simply editing a shortcut, you open it with a combination of three (3) keys.

Now if you have used Windows for a while, you know what a shortcut is. And if not, no biggie. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

Allot of people don't know that they can edit a shortcut and change the way it works, including adding a keyboard shortcut to it. The keyboard shortcut for your shortcut needs to be a combination of three (3) keys and the first two (2) keys have to be CTRL and ALT. The third key is your choice, but I try to use either the first letter of the program / file or a letter close to CTRL and ALT keys.

The shortcut key field inside of the properties a shortcut
The shortcut key field inside of the properties of a shortcut

How to add a keyboard shortcut to an existing shortcut

  1. Right-click on the shortcut you want to modify and from the context menu that appears select Properties.
  2. When the properties dialog box appears, make sure the Shortcut tab is selected.
  3. Go down to the Shortcut key field and left-click inside of the field (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want assigned to the shortcut at the same time (Windows will automatically add the ALT).
  5. Left-click on Apply and you are done.

Start Menu

And last but not least is the Start Menu. After a brief disappearance in Windows 8, Microsoft decided to bring it back. It's now got a slightly different look and feel, but it still does what it is supposed to do: Navigate.

How to create ISO files from your software disks

So over the years you've been purchasing software on CD's / DVD's and now have quite the collection. So what do you do with all of the media you are no longer using? How about creating ISO files from them? Here's how to create ISO files from your software CD's / DVD's.

After working with computers for over twenty years, I've managed to amass quite the collection of software disks. One of my biggest problems is that I don't like to just throw away software disks. You never know when you might need them again.

Now in my book there are two kinds of disks; Keepers and Tossers. Software that you paid for is definitely a Keeper, software that comes in the mail / paper is usual a Tosser.

I'm old enough to remember the AOL disks that used to come in the newspaper (1 gazillion free hours!). The AOL disks were always quite colorful and made a great wall collage or mobile.

Now I realize that properly stored CD's / DVD's can last quite a long time. I personally have some CD's that are around 20 years old and I can still read them with my Windows 10 computer. So why would you want to change?

Well, first off disks can get damaged. If you scratch the bottom of a disk, you can use a special tool to buff it out. But if scratch the top of a disk you actually damage the layer that stores data. Geek Tip: To destroy the data on a CD / DVD before throwing it away, just scratch off all of the top layer of the disk with a sharp object, like a nail.

Second, not all devices have nowadays have CD / DVD drives (tablets, netbooks and ultra-thin laptops). This can make installing older software on a newer computer a bit of a problem. So what is the solution? ISO (International Organization for Standardization) files.

ISO (.iso) files are basically an archive file format for optical disks, like CD's and DVD's. They contain an exact sector-by-sector, non-compressed copy of a disk. All you need is a computer with a CD / DVD drive, your original disk(s), a program that creates ISO files and plenty of free space on your hard drive.

Here's a list of a couple free programs that create ISO files.

Once you have created your ISO files, you can do some cool things with them. Archiving your ISO files is the first thing you probably want to think about. External drives (flash, portable or desktop) are a great for storing ISO files. I've actually taken several small ISO files and burned them on to DVD's for off-site storage.

Now what can you do with an ISO file? Sure, you can make a new CD / DVD using an ISO file. That feature is built into Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Or if you want to burn an ISO file to a USB drive you can use a program like Rufus. And if you're using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you can even mount (open as a virtual drive) an ISO file and install directly from it. Great for when you don't have a CD/ DVD drive.

How to burn an ISO file to disk inside of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to create a disk from.

    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Burn disc image.
  4. Insert a blank disk into the CD / DVD drive.
  5. Left-click on Burn.

How to mount an ISO file as a virtual drive inside of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to mount as a virtual drive.

    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Mount.
  4. Locate the new drive inside of File Explorer and use it like it was an actual CD / DVD drive.

How to use Libraries in Windows 10

Remember the old saying "A place for everything and everything in its place"? Same holds true for your files inside of Windows 10. And managing your files in Windows 10 can be a breeze when you use Libraries.

One of my favorite Windows file / folder organization features has to be Libraries. Libraries are really nothing more than a collection of shortcuts to the original file / folder locations. But the locations can be either on your local computer or on a network drive. Once you add a location to a library, it's just one-click away inside of File Explorer.

Now let's not confuse user file folders with Libraries. User file folders are actual folders; Libraries are collections of short-cuts to user file folders. In fact, your user files are already included in the Libraries by default. User file folders have to be located on your computer, but Libraries can be short-cuts to both local and network file folders.

How to enable the Library view in Windows 10

It's kind ironic that one of the coolest features that I can think of inside of Windows 10 is hidden by default. But you can un-hide Libraries in just seconds. Here's how:

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the View tab on the top of the Ribbon.
    How to enable the Library view in Windows 10
  3. Left-click on Navigation pane button and left-click on Show libraries.

How to modify Library properties in Windows 10

We are all familiar with files and folders, but when Windows 7 came out; we got another way to manage them, Libraries. Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a Library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a Library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a Library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your files, just shortcuts to them. Libraries monitor folders that contain your files, and let you access and arrange the files in different ways. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and on an external drive you can access all of your music files at once using the Music Library.

Windows 10 has four (4) default libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos) and includes links to your user files by default. Remember that you can add up to fifty (50) folders to a Library. And if you like, you can also create your own Libraries. Here are some other ways you can modify an existing Library.

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders, or Library locations.
  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.
  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each Library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a certain file type changes the available options for arranging your files.

How to add a folder to a Library in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the Library you'd like to change.
  3. On the Ribbon on top, left-click the Manage library button.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, click on Add, navigate to and highlight the folder you want to add to the Library and left-click on Include folder.
  5. Left-click OK.

How to change a Library's default save location in Windows 10

A Library's default save location determines where an item will be stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and left-click Properties.
  3. Select the Library location that you want as default, left-click on Set save location and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to change the type of files a Library is optimized for in Windows 10

Each Library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a certain file type changes the options that are available for arranging the files in that Library.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change, and then left-click Properties.
  3. In the Optimize this library for list, select a file type, and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to create a new Library in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on Libraries.
  3. Left-click on the Home tab, left-click on New item and then choose Library.
  4. Enter a name for the new Library, and then press Enter.

How to remove a folder from a Library in Windows 10

If you don’t need a folder in a Library anymore, you can remove it. When you remove a folder from a library, the folder and everything in it is still kept in its original location. Remember that when you delete a folder from a Library, the folder and everything in it is deleted in its original location.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the Library where you want to remove a folder.
  3. On the Ribbon on top, left-click the Manage library button.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, left-click on the folder you want to remove, left-click Remove, and then left-click OK.

How to add a network folder that is not indexed to a Library in Windows 10

There will be times when you cannot get a shared network folder added into a Library due to indexing issues. The way I found to get around this problem is by creating a symbolic link.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on This PC and create a folder on your drive for your network folders, for example c:\share.
  3. Create another folder within that folder, for example c:\share\music.
  4. Select the subfolder you just created, left-click the Home tab, left-click Easy access, choose Include in library, and then select the library to which you want to add the folder or create a new Library.
  5. Delete the folder.
  6. Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges (click here for complete instructions)
  7. Enter mklink /d, and then enter the path of the folder you just deleted and the path of the network folder. For example, mklink /d c:\share\music \\server\music. If either of the folder names has spaces, encase the path(s) inside of quotes. For example, mklink /d "c:\shared files\music" "\\server\shared music". This creates what is called a symbolic link.

Here's how to create a symbolic link in Windows 8. It's the exact same procedure for Windows 10.

How to change the default location of user files in Windows 10

User files (documents, music, photos, etc.) can take up allot of space on your computer. But if you have a second drive inside your computer you can easily move your user folders to it. Here's how to change the default location of user files in Windows 10.

Quite a few computers nowadays are coming with two drives, a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Since SSD's are generally smaller in size and faster than HDD's, they normally are used just for the operating system and program files. User files should always be moved to the HDD to conserve space on the SSD.

Now there are six (6) user file folders that can be relocated: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos. Before you change locations of the user files / folders you will need to create new folders to move them to.
Recently created new user folders inside of Windows 10
I usually create a folder called User Files in the root of the D: drive and then create the individual folders for each user; example D:\User Files\username\Desktop, D:\User Files\username\Documents, etc.

How to change the default location of user files in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, left-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer, right-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer from the Power Users menu or by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. In the left-hand column, expand This PC so that the following folders are shown: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos.
    The context menu for user folders inside of Windows 10
  3. Right-click on the folder you want to move and from the context menu that appears, left-click on Properties.
  4. On the dialog box that appears, left-click on the Location tab.
    The properties dialog box for a user folder inside of Windows 10
  5. Left-click on the Move button.
    Select the new location of a user folder inside of Windows 10
  6. Navigate to the new location for the folder. Once you have selected the folder you want to use, left-click on the Select Folder button.
  7. Left-click on the Apply button in the lower right-hand corner.
  8. In the confirmation dialog box that appears, left-click on Yes.
  9. Left-click on the OK button in the lower left-hand corner.

How to restore the default location of user files in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, left-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer, right-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer from the Power Users menu or by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. In the left-hand column, expand This PC so that the following folders are shown: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos.
  3. Right-click on the folder you want to move and from the context menu that appears, left-click on Properties.
  4. On the dialog box that appears, left-click on the Location tab.
  5. Left-click on the Restore Default button.
  6. Left-click on the Apply button in the lower right-hand corner.
  7. In the Create Folder dialog box that appears, left-click on Yes.
  8. In the confirmation dialog box that appears, left-click on Yes.
  9. Left-click on the OK button in the lower left-hand corner.

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