How to identify what startup programs are safe to disable

Updated: 05/23/2017 by Computer Hope

When viewing startup programs in the Registry, msconfig, Task Manager, or other location, it can be difficult to know which programs should or should not be loading. This page contains steps on how to identify startup programs and help determine if you want them to load.

Tip: As a general rule, it is safe to remove any startup program. Typically, most programs automatically start because they are monitoring the computer (e.g. antivirus) or give a hardware device additional features (e.g. printer software). After a program has been removed or disabled, if it needs anything that used to load at startup, it will not load until the program is executed.

To identify a startup program, determine the file name and do a search on the file name. If you already know the file name of the startup program, do a search now.



If you have not yet identified the file name, follow the steps below for determining the file name using the msconfig, Registry, or Task Manager in new versions of Windows.

System Configuration (msconfig)

Note: Microsoft Windows 8 and newer has moved startup programs from the System Configuration to the Windows Task Manager.

Open the Startup tab in the Windows System Configuration, which can be opened by running msconfig from the run or search line. Once in the Startup tab, you can find the file name of the program under the Command column. In many cases, you need to expand the column size by hovering the mouse over the column divider and click and drag the column until it is big enough to see the file name.

Windows System Configurat8ion (msconfig) startup

As seen in the above example, after expanding the Command column, you can see the command below.

C:\Program Files\Realtek\Audio\HDA\RAVCpl64.exe -s

In this example, "RAVCpl64.exe" is the file name and what you would use to search and identify what the purpose of the program is on the computer.

Tip: The startup program is almost always going to be an executable file, which means it ends with .exe file extension. Also, many programs in the System Configuration have command switches such as "-s" or "/c", these switches should not be included in your search.

Windows Registry

Note: Keep in mind that making an improper change in the Registry can cause problems with your computer.

Open the Windows Registry by running the regedit command from a run or search line. Once in the Registry, browse to the path shown below.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Once in the Run folder, you should see one or more programs that are running each time Windows starts, as shown in the picture below.

Registry

As seen in the above example, after expanding the Data column, you can see the full file path value for the IntelliPoint program.

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center\ipoint.exe

In this example, "ipoint.exe" is the file name and what you would use to search and identify what the purpose of the program is on the computer.

Tip: The programs listed in the Run folder are almost always going to be an executable file, which means it ends with .exe file extension.

Windows Task Manager

With the introduction of Microsoft Windows 8, it is now possible to view startup programs, their impact on the computer's boot time, as well as enable and disable the startup programs.

Open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del on the keyboard and choosing Task Manager. Once in the Task Manager, open the Startup tab, find the startup program, right-click on the name, and select Properties.

Task Manager startup programs

As seen in the above example, after right-clicking on WhatPulse and selecting Properties, the file name "whatpulse.exe" is shown. Searching for this file name would identify what the purpose of this program is on the computer.

Additional information

  • See our startup program definition for further information and related links.