Autoruns

How to Use Autoruns

Autoruns is a great tool for any system administrator or for anyone who likes to dig down into their computer and control exactly which programs, drivers, and DLL's load when Windows first starts up.

Autoruns is an application that's freely available from the SystemInternals site that allows you to see everything that starts up in Windows - the startup programs, startup services, Internet Explorer add-ons, scheduled tasks, all the drivers that are loaded and even the print monitors. It also shows the full list of Registry and file system locations available for auto-start configurations.

When you first run Autoruns you see a list of everything that starts up as your PC comes to life including all the Microsoft software and all the third party software that's running. Literally everything!

AutoRuns Main Window

With so many entries it can be confusing, so explore some of the other tabs to get a restricted view of all these start up entries. For example the Login Tab shows a list similar to the one in MSCONFIG.

If you just want to see the third party drivers and processes click Options from the top of the applications window and select Hide Microsoft Entries. If more than one user account is set up under Windows there will also be a User menu that lets you view entries for different user accounts.

Hide Entries

To prevent a program from starting up all you need to do is un-check the box next to it. To delete an auto-start configuration entry use the Delete menu item or toolbar button or just right click the file and select Delete (warning - once deleted it's gone for good, so make sure the file is not required by Windows before you hit delete).

You can also right-click on any entry and choose 'Jump to', which will open the Windows Registry pointing to that particular key. If you do not feel comfortable editing the Windows Registry then you should leave it alone as deleting the wrong thing can lead to all sorts of problems, even a non starting PC!

If you are not completely sure about a certain entry, you can right-click on it and choose 'Search Online'. Your browser will now open up with a lot of search results.

To view the Properties of a start up file right click it and select 'Properties'.

If you have downloaded Process Explorer (another great tool from SystemInternals) and it is running, right clicking on an item and choosing 'Process Explorer' will let you analyse and monitor running processes in much greater detail.

Using Autoruns to Speed Up Performance

In the Autoruns top menu under 'File' there's a useful 'Compare' option which can help you track all the items being added to your computer.

For a proper comparison you'll have to save the current Autoruns file, preferably when you first get your computer and it's running perfectly with nothing else installed (prior to doing this, use another PC, and save the AutoRuns program to a CD or flash drive so you don't have to go online with an unprotected computer).

Now you can use the 'Compare' option after you install software, or a few months later when you notice your computer is getting a bit slower. Just run Autoruns and click 'Compare', and then select your saved file (saving the file with a dated filename is very useful as its easier to identify the correct file)

AutoRuns Compare

Now Autoruns will update the list with bright green stripes anywhere there is a new entry in the list. Autoruns doesn't show the items that no longer exist in the current configuration, but it does list all the new items that might be making your computer run more slowly.

So you can try un-ticking one or more of the new entries and see if your PC's performance improves. Go down the green highlighted entries one by one, un-check each box, and keep checking the results. If you detect no difference re-enable the program and try un-checking the next one. Sooner or later you will find one or more programs that are causing the slow down.

For more information on using Autoruns use the on-line site. There is also an active Forum all about AutoRuns.

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