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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

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