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

Updated July 11, 2020

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 set to auto-start that don't need to or 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. By minimizing the number of applications that launch at startup, you can also free up memory.

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 / Autoruns64) can be dangerous because not only can it enable or disable entries, it can also delete them.

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

Using Task Manager is the most comfortable 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. You will not find any program listed here that Windows 10 requires to operate.

Now for those of you that are not familiar with Task Manager, it's a built-in program that does a lot 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 view 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 about making changes here, as they can have a significant 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 to select the Hide all Microsoft services checkbox 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 get a dialog box prompting you 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 do not come with Windows 10. But they are free, require no installation, and can be downloaded separately or with the complete suite (see links below).

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

Once you downloaded the files and extracted them to a permanent location, open that folder with File Explorer. Locate either Autoruns.exe or Autoruns64.exe (depending on your version of Windows 10). Right-click on the release of Autoruns for your version of Windows 10 and select Run as administrator from the context menu.

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, left-click on the checkbox 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 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

Updated June 4, 2020

It seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here are 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 Windows' different versions. With Windows 10, Microsoft keeps 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 a 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 Apps and Features, Network Connections, 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 handy feature that nobody knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me, "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-five (25) years ago alongside 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

Here 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 how 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 the area (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want to be assigned to the shortcut simultaneously (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 clean up an old joystick or game controller

Do you have an old PC joystick or game controller you haven't used in a long time? Did the buttons or the gamepad start to stick? Here's how to clean up old PC joysticks and game controllers.

If you're like me, you hate to get rid of anything that still works. So when I wrote the DosBox and Internet Archive articles, I started to think about the old game controllers I have. There is nothing wrong with them, just a little dirt and grime.

And how much fun would it be to play the original DOS version of Doom with an original Gravis Gamepad Pro from the mid-'90s? Gravis made a couple of variations of the gamepad with a couple of different connectors (USB and joystick port). I had both types but only have the USB version now.

After a little research, I found I could use a Gravis Gamepad Pro, as long as it had a USB connection. Microsoft still includes support for the Gravis Gamepad Pro inside of Windows 10.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers
The Gravis Gamepad Pro icon inside of Windows 10 Devices and Printers

And to top it off, DosBox does support USB game controllers, so I am almost ready to start playing games with my gamepad. But first, I need to clean it up, as some of the buttons have gotten sticky.

Now when you start talking about disassembling and reassembling any piece of electronics, always remember to never work on anything that is plugged in (energized). Always disconnect the device from any connection and de-energize it before working on it. Never work on a device that is connected and energized!

The following procedures are the same for almost any computer device, except for Hard Disk Drives (HDD). HDD's have to be disassembled/reassembled in an environment free of contaminants, like a cleanroom.

Now before I start tearing down my gamepad, I will need some necessary tools. First and foremost is a digital camera or smartphone w/ camera and a notepad. Remember the old saying 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? The same holds here. With no service manual or online instructions, I'll be tearing down the gamepad blind. The photos and notes will be my guide for reassembly.

The teardown will be simple, and I'll only need a Philips head screwdriver (Ph.1), a couple of brushes, some cleaning solution, paper towels, and some compressed air. Tweezers or needle-nose pliers may also come in handy but are not required.

The first thing I'll do is take photos of the top, bottom, and sides of the gamepad. That way, I have a record of how the wholly assembled gamepad should look. Next, I'll start removing the screws on the bottom and checking to see if all of them are the same size. If any are different, I'll note it and place them separate from the rest.

Screw hole locations on bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro
Screw hole locations on the bottom of Gravis Gamepad Pro

Once I have all of the screws out of the bottom, I can carefully separate the top and bottom of the gamepad chassis. I can see there are two (2) screws that hold the main circuit board in place. After I remove the two (2) screws, I carefully remove the main circuit board from the chassis. Remember to take photos of everything you do!

Main circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro
Central circuit board screw locations inside of the Gravis Gamepad Pro

Now I can access all of the buttons and the rubber castle switch tops. I first inspect the heads of castle switches for any damage. They have no physical damage and appear to be pretty clean. Since they are almost twenty (20) years, I've decided they don't need cleaning.

The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled
The Gravis Gamepad Pro completely disassembled

Now on to the buttons. As I remove them, I can see some gunk built-up around the sides of the buttons and the adjacent holes in the chassis. Quick cleaning of the button and frame will take care of this and should fix the sticky button problem.

A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro
A gunked up button from a Gravis Gamepad Pro

When it comes to drying all of the parts off, I usually use paper towels to get the majority of moisture off and then use some compressed air to get any moisture out from the cracks and crevices.

Once all of the parts are clean and dry, refer to your photos and notes to reassemble. Remember not to overtighten any screw or nut; you can always make a second pass around and snug up any screws and nuts that need it.

Download old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive

Have you ever wanted to play an old video game from your past? Maybe play Pitfall on the Atari 2600 or Super Donkey Kong on a Colecovision? You can all that and more at the Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive logo

The Internet Archive (IA) is an online digital library with free ebooks/text, videos, audio recordings, software, and images. But they are best known for their history of websites for over 20 years.

Websites

The IA has an impressive archive of websites going back over twenty (20) years. Search the Way Back Machine for Microsoft.com or Facebook.com, and you can find their very first websites. I found one of the early versions of my first website from 1998.

But since these pages are cached versions of the originals, some elements might be missing. Photos, videos, and Flash / Java elements have a tendency not to get cached. But it's still fun to see what the Internet looked like a couple of decades ago.

eBooks and Text

With over ten million titles in their library, you would be hard-pressed not to find something that interests you. Keep in mind that some of these titles are old, but you can still see all sorts of cool publications. Hey, where else are you going to find a copy of Family Computing from December 1983?

The cover of Family Computing from December 1983
The cover of Family Computing from December 1983

The IA even has the ebooks/texts broken down into collections. I found a copy of The Principle of Relativity from 1920 in the MIT Library. There are all sorts of hidden gems here. All you have to do is search through them. And with over 10 million titles, that may take some time.

Videos

This is my second favorite collection, and I have spent hours going through them. There are films, movies, and videos ranging from old-time movies to classic cartoons. When was the last time you saw an old Popeye or Woody Woodpecker cartoon?

And if you're a computer geek like me, you'll love the Computer & Technology collection. From old episodes of the Computer Chronicles and Net Cafe to made for TV movies like the Pirates of Silicon Valley from 1999. With over 2 million titles, you know I'll be spending more of my free time going through them.

Audio

The collections here range from old-time radio programs like Dragnet from the '50s to Grateful Dead concerts from the '70s. The quality of the audio will vary from file to file, but that is to be expected. Some of these recordings are quite old.

Also mixed into this collection, you'll find audiobooks and poetry readings. I even found some recordings from the Spin Doctors and the Gin Blossoms. With around 3 million audio files, there should be something for everyone.

Software

Now I guess that I don't have to tell you that this is my favorite collection of all. The software here ranges from video game consoles from the '70's - '90's to old DOS and Windows games/programs. Most of the DOS games and video game consoles are emulated, so that you can play these games right from inside your browser.

The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall
The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall

Does anybody remember Tucows? Tucows was the place in the '90s to go for shareware/freeware software. Well, they donated all of their software titles a decade or so ago to the IA, and they are all here available for download.

The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong
The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong

Now you can download most of the Windows software, but be aware that some are 16-bit and will not run on 64-bit operating systems. If you want to run some of the old Windows software, you will need to set up a virtual machine like VirtualBox running that particular operating system.

Images

This collection is a mixed bag. You have images from the USGS (United States Geological Survey), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and album cover art all in one place.

But the best image collection, I think, is the one from NASA. Some of the images are quite incredible. If you get a chance, check out the Moon - False Color Mosaic image.

Now before you go checking the IA out, I want to let you know that they are a non-profit organization (501C), and all donations are tax-deductible. So if you find it useful and fun as I do, please donate.

To get the most out of the IA, it is recommended that you register for a virtual library card. For more information on the Internet Archive, follow the link below.

Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine

How to create ISO files from your software disks

Updated January 20, 2021

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 CDs / DVDs.

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'm not particularly eager to 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 a Keeper; software that comes in the mail/paper is usually a Tosser.

I'm old enough to remember the AOL disks 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 CDs/DVDs can last quite a long time. I have some CDs 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. You can use a unique tool to buff it out if you scratch the bottom of a disc. But if scratch the top of a disc, you can damage the layer that stores data. Geek Tip: To destroy the data on a CD / DVD before throwing it away, scratch off all of the top layers 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). Not having an optical disc drive 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 an archive file format for optical disks, like CDs and DVDs. They contain an exact sector-by-sector, non-compressed copy of a disc. All you need is a computer with a CD/DVD drive, your original disc(s), a program that creates ISO files, and plenty of free space on your hard drive.

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

AnyBurn

Casper ISO Creator - CMM Solutions

The Official ImgBurn Website

CDBurnerXP: Free CD and DVD burning software

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 consider. External drives (flash, portable, or desktop) are great for storing ISO files. I've taken several small ISO files and burned them on to DVDs 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. This feature is built-in to Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. You can use a program like Rufus if you want to burn an ISO file to a USB drive. 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 as an actual CD/DVD drive.

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