How to remove TSRs and startup programs

Updated: 12/09/2018 by Computer Hope

Illustration: A CPU running many TSRs.This document contains steps on removing TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) programs temporarily from memory, and how to prevent them from automatically loading each time your computer boots.

How to temporarily remove a TSR from memory

The information below contains steps on how to temporarily remove from memory TSRs and currently running programs. Keep in mind that after rebooting the computer many of these will reload. If you want to permanently keep these programs from loading, skip down to the next section.

Removing a TSR in Windows 8 and 10

Press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Del, then click the Task Manager option. Or press and hold Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open the Task Manager directly. Click on the Processes tab, select the program you want to end, and click the End Task button.

Removing a TSR in Windows 2000 to Windows 7

Press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Del, then click the Task Manager option. Or if you're running Windows XP, it should immediately open the Windows Task Manager window. Within Task Manager, click the Applications tab, select the program that you want to end, and click the End Task button.

Windows XP Task Manager

As can be seen in the above picture, the Applications window only displays programs that are currently open and visible to the user. Other TSRs and Windows Processes are shown in the Processes tab. Clicking on the Processes tab displays each of the processes running and the system resources they're using, as shown below.

Windows Task Manager Processes

We recommend you only End Process for programs you know. If you are unsure what a process is, searching for the name of the file will return the results of each process.

Note: You cannot End Task any of the systems processes.

Removing a TSR in Windows 95, 98, and ME

Press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Del. Once these three keys have all been properly pressed together, you should receive a Close Program window.

Windows 9x Close program window

Highlight any of the listed items except Explorer and Systray and press the End Task button. Repeat this process until you only have Explorer and Systray.

Additional Information:

  • There is no way to highlight more than one of these icons.
  • Some of the listed programs may not be removed the first attempt, just continue to the next available, if any.
  • When End Tasking some of these, you may receive This Program is Not responding click End Task again.
  • Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del twice in a row will reboot the computer.
  • Each of the items you are removing will come back the next time you reboot the computer unless they are removed.

Removing a TSR in Windows 3.x:

To remove any currently running programs in the background, minimize all open Windows including Program Manager.

Once each of the windows have been minimized, any currently running application running should be shown as a small icon. Open and close each of these icons except the Program Manager.

Permanently disable TSRs from loading automatically

Because many TSRs load up automatically when your computer starts, you may find it a burden to manually unload each of these programs each time you reboot the computer. Below are the steps on how to remove these programs from starting up automatically.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows 8 and 10

  1. Press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Del, then click the Task Manager option. Or press and hold Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open the Task Manager directly.
  2. Click on the Startup tab.
  3. Select the program you want to stop from loading automatically and click the Disable button.

If you cannot locate the program that is automatically loading by following the previous instructions, you can find it in the system registry or via the use of a software utility.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7

  1. Click Start, Programs, and then Startup.
  2. Right-click and delete the file you do not want to start automatically.

If you were unable to locate the program that is automatically loading, try locating it in the system registry, or in the msconfig utility.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows 2000

  1. Click Start, Programs, Startup.
  2. Right-click and delete the file you do not want to start automatically.

If you were unable to locate the program that is automatically loading, try locating this program in the system registry or in msconfig.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows ME

  1. Click Start, Programs, Startup.
  2. Right-click and delete the file you do not want to start automatically.

If you were unable to locate the program that is auto loading by following the instructions above, try the following steps. Locate the program in the autoexec.bat, win.ini, system registry or Windows 98SE. Windows ME can disable programs through the System Configuration or in msconfig.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows 95

  1. Click Start, Settings, Taskbar & Start Menu Programs.
  2. Click the Start Menu Programs tab.
  3. Click the Advanced button.
  4. Open the Programs folder.
  5. Open the Startup folder and remove the program you do not want to start automatically.

If you were unable to locate the program automatically, try to locate it in the autoexec.bat or win.ini. Windows 95 and NT users should also look in the system registry.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows NT 4.0

  1. Click Start, Settings, Taskbar & Start Menu Programs.
  2. Click the Start Menu Programs tab.
  3. Click the Advanced button.
  4. Open the Programs folder.
  5. Open the Startup folder and remove the program you do not want to start automatically.

If you were unable to locate the program that is automatically loading, try locating it in the system registry.

Permanently disable TSRs in Microsoft Windows 3.x

  1. Open File Manager.
  2. Locate and open the Startup folder.
  3. Delete the program you do not want to startup from the startup folder.

If you were unable to locate the program that is automatically loading, try locating it in the autoexec.bat, win.ini.

Permanently disable TSRs in Autoexec.bat

Note: This section only applies to Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and Windows 98 users. If you are uncertain what version of Windows you are running, see our Microsoft Windows versions page.

After following the above instructions for the operating system you are running, if the program or TSR is still loading each time you boot your computer, it may be loading in your autoexec.bat. For information about autoexec.bat, including how to modify it, see our Autoexec.bat and Config.sys guide.

Permanently disable TSRs in Win.ini

Note: This section only applies to Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and Windows 98.

If the program continues to load and you have checked the startup folder and the autoexec.bat for this program or file, it is also possible for this program to load in the win.ini file. To check this file, follow the steps below.

  1. Windows 3.x, users click the File menu and click Exit to get to an MS-DOS prompt.
  2. Windows 9x, users click Start and Shutdown and restart the computer in MS-DOS prompt.
  3. Once at the MS-DOS prompt, run these two commands:
cd \windows
edit win.ini
  1. In the win.ini file you should have several lines of text, locate the line that reads:
LOAD=
RUN=
  1. Verify that these lines are just LOAD= or RUN= with no text after the equals sign. If text is following either of these statements, this may be the program loading each time your computer boots.
  2. To temporarily disable these lines, you can place a semicolon in front of these lines, as shown in the example below.
;RUN=
  1. To save this file, open the File menu (Alt+F), choose Exit, and Save changes.

Permanently disable TSRs in system registry

Note: This section only applies to Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista users. If you are uncertain what version of Windows you are running, see our Microsoft Windows versions page.

Windows 98 users should disable startup programs through the System Configuration before doing the system registry.

If the program continues to load after rebooting your computer and you have verified that the program does not exist in your startup, autoexec.bat or win.ini, the last place is the system registry. Before attempting to edit or change the system registry, we recommend that you review our registry overview, to better understand the potential risks of modifying your registry.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the system registry, open the registry key below to see if the program or TSR is loading in the system registry.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVERSION\RUN]

If you locate the program that is loading, delete this program from the above key. Important: Do not delete any other files from any other keys.

Permanently disable TSRs in system configuration

Note: This section only applies to Windows 98 and Windows ME users. If you are uncertain what version of Windows you are running, see our guide to determining your Windows version.

To disable startup programs through the System Configuration, follow the instructions below.

  1. Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then System Information.
  2. In the System Information window, click the Tools drop-down menu and select the System Configuration utility.
  3. Select the Startup tab and uncheck the programs you do not want to load automatically.

System Configuration utility and msconfig

Note: The information below only applies to Windows XP and Vista users. If you are uncertain what version of Windows you are running, see our Microsoft Windows versions page.

To disable programs from automatically loading, follow the instructions below.

  1. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run box. Then, type msconfig and press Enter.
  2. In the System Configuration Utility window, click the Startup Tab. Uncheck each of the startup tasks you no longer want to load. If you are uncertain what startup programs are causing your issues, try unchecking all of the items, then slowly start checking each of the items until you determine the source of your issue. Restart the computer after checking each item, allowing the program you checked to startup when Windows starts up, and determine if that program is the source of the issue.

Which TSRs can I safely disable?

Unfortunately, there isn's a specific list of TSRs that you could safely disable on your computer. While there are some TSRs that are definitely not needed, that list can depend on the version of Windows and the software installed on your computer.

The best recommendation is, if you are not sure about a TSR you see on your computer, perform an Internet search for the TSR. Performing a search for the file name of the TSR, which typically has a .exe file extension, will yield the best results. Review the top search results for information on the TSR and if it can be safely disabled.

However, before researching the TSRs you see on your computer, we highly recommend that you run an antivirus scan to remove any viruses and malware. Some viruses and malware utilize TSRs to infect a computer. Removing those viruses and malware will almost always remove associated TSRs from your computer. Once your computer is cleaned, you can then check for TSRs and research which ones to disable.

Additional information