How to disable startup programs in Windows 8.1

There is one truth in the world that is absolutely unavoidable.

Ready for it?

Your computer will freeze.  It will happen.  It doesn’t matter how fast, new or fancy your machine is – if it has a CPU, memory to store data and gives you the ability to install software on it – then it will freeze.

And when it freezes it will ineluctably result in your blood boiling with more pressure than a Presto pressure cooker.  That’s why in this guide I’m going to show you one thing that not only will allay your rage but also make your computer behave again.

Let’s take a look at all those programs sitting in your start-up list.

In the antediluvian era of Windows XP and Windows 7, most people would view their startup programs in by conjuring up msconfig.

In Windows you can simply hit the Windows logo key on your keyboard and type:

msconfig

and then you can start killing off all the superfluous software sitting in your Startup tab.

msconfig in Windows 8.1

Ever since the XP epoch, you could deselect Load startup items under the General tab.  This was often the panacea for addressing slow startup syndrome.

By methodically using “divide-and-conqour” thinking you would begin by disabling all items.  Then you would reboot and test for speed improvements.

If your PC felt zippier after the change, you would enable only half the items in the startup list, reboot again and then retest the speed.

So now, if it slowed down again, you knew:

  1. Where to sharpen your troubleshooting efforts
  2. One of those selected items was culpable

In Windows 8.1 the idea is the same but a little less confusing.  The main problem I had with msconfig is that it lets you do too much.  It’s not only a tool for deselecting startup items but for also changing the way the computer boots up, disabling services and even tinkering with the registry under the Tools tab.  It’s very easy to irreparably brick your computer if you didn’t know what you were doing.

For that reason I like what Microsoft did in Windows 8.1.

Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc and click the Startup tab. 

0The Startup Tab in the Task Manager

Peruse the list for anything that looks suspicious and then click the Disable button in the bottom right corner of the window.

Unfortunately, you can’t select multiple startup items like you can in msconfig but there are still a few advantages here.

First, notice that Last BIOS time value in the upper right corner of the screen?  If you see this it simply indicates the time delta between the BIOS and Windows login screen.

Second, since you can’t select multiple startup items, sometimes it’s sensible to sort the list by Startup impact.  That way you can see which programs affect the Last BIOS time the most.  Disabling these may have the most substantive effect on boot time.

But let’s say you’ve disabled as many items as you can but there are still a few programs that you have no idea about.   For example, if you sort by the Publisher column you might find a few missing this critical information.  This is what I meant by “looks suspicious”.

Here’s how to figure out what’s going on.

Check out the properties

First, I right click your enigmatic program and choose Properties.

Startup item properties in Windows 8.1

This opens the standard Windows dialog box which shows:

  • The File Type
  • Description
  • Location on disk
  • Size
  • Creation date.

Windows 8.1 file properties

But what happens if you find something that has neither a Publisher nor an option to open Properties?

Search online

For example, in the screenshot below you can see I’ve got something called Firemin that has a dearth of data.

In this case, clicking Search online is the most judicious thing to do.  Well, it’s really the only thing I can do right now lol.

Using the Startup Tab under the Task Manager

Should you block it?

If you still can’t figure out if you can safely block your nebulous program, try typing the file name in the search box of shouldiblockit.com.

shouldiblockit.com homepage

Another good one to use is the Bleeping Computer Startup database; however, it doesn’t have as many entries as shouldiblockit.com.

Getting clean with CCleaner

Finally, if you still need more information you should download the free and estimable CCleaner from Piriform.

This application has a bunch of stuff which we won’t discuss today such as:

  • Secure drive erase
  • System restore
  • Duplicate finder
  • Disk analyzer
  • Registry cleaner.

Today we just need to look at the Startup items.  So after installing CCleaner, click the Tools option in the left pane and choose Startup from the right pane.

Now find the startup file that you want to investigate.  The nice thing about CCleaner is that it lets you open the associated registry key directly from the application.

Opening the registry from CCleaner

Just make sure you run the CCleaner application as an Administrator or else you’ll get a zany error when you try that registry trick.

Running CCleaner as an Administrator

The Bottom Line

When your computer feels more lethargic than your lazy uncle it’s time to figure out why.  And often jumping into your Startup Items is the fastest way to do that.

In summary, pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc lets you leap into the Startup tab.  From there you can disable programs, view aditional properties or search online.  If you still need information there are great resources such as shouldiblockit.com and CCleaner which will help you advance in your file sluthing efforts.

So what’s up with you?  Have you recently discovered some unsavory applications running in your startup programs?  Did removing it cure the problem?  Tell me your fiasco in the comments below!

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Posted in Windows, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with: , ,