How to Disable Start-Up Programs in Windows - dummies

How to Disable Start-Up Programs in Windows

By Dan Gookin

To determine whether a program is causing a problem, you have to be a PC troubleshooting sleuth. Problems with device drivers or processes that load initially are often flagged by start-up error messages. Some error messages describe the name of a program that’s not working.


After you determine which program is causing anguish, you can try to fix it. In this example, the keyword is Sonic Focus, which is a trademark and therefore obviously some type of hardware or software program. Another keyword is Audio, found in the window title. An audio problem exists — most likely, software related. A quick search of the Internet should yield new Sonic Focus drivers or online support.

If Windows doesn’t offer up a message, you’ll have to guess. It’s not a bad thing to guess; when the computer doesn’t cough up any solid information for you, guessing is the next logical choice. But to be successful, you have to guess methodically.

You guess by systematically disabling various start-up processes or programs, one at a time. Disable, restart, check for the problem. Eventually, you experience a time when the computer starts without the problem. When it happens, you’ve found the troublemaking start-up program and can continue to look for support or find an updated version of the file.

Yes, it’s tedious to disable the many, many start-up programs in your computer, restart, check, and then re-enable. That’s the way to do it, though.

You can use MSCONFIG to disable certain start-up items, such as items causing problems or for troubleshooting. Those items are found on the Startup tab. To bring up the MSCONFIG window, heed these steps:

  1. Press Win+R to bring forth the Run dialog box.

  2. Type MSCONFIG and press Enter.

  3. In Windows Vista, click the Continue button or type the administrator’s password to proceed.

  4. In the System Configuration Utility window, click the Startup tab.

    The Startup tab lists all the programs that Windows starts stealthily.

  5. Disable a start-up item by removing its check mark.

    Unless you know which item is causing the problem, remove one check mark at a time as a method of isolating the problem.

  6. Click the General tab.

    Note that the start-up selection has changed on the Startup tab. The Startup Selection has changed to Selective Startup, and the option for Load Startup Items is shaded. These are your clues that the start-up process is no longer the same. It’s not bad news; you can reverse your choices easily.

  7. Close the MSCONFIG window.

  8. Click the Restart button to test your changes.

  9. Wait while the computer restarts.

    After your computer starts up again, you may see a warning. More important, note whether you still have start-up problems or issues with the thing you’re troubleshooting. If not, you found the culprit; you’re done.


    When problems still prevail, continue:

  10. Start the MSCONFIG utility again.

    Refer to steps 1 through 3.

  11. Click the Startup tab.

  12. Replace the check mark by the item you previously disabled (in Step 5).

  13. Set a check mark by the next item you’re testing.

  14. Repeat Steps 7 through 10 to test that next item.

    The idea is to work through all start-up programs until you find the one that’s causing you trouble.

After the start-up item is disabled, the computer should start without any problems. Then you can search out the program’s developer for an update. Use the program’s Startup Item name and other information as displayed on the MSCONFIG window’s Startup tab to help search for a solution on the Internet.

By disabling a start-up item, you’re placing the PC into selective start-up or diagnostic mode. You may see warnings reminding you about it when you start the computer.

Keeping your computer software up-to-date is one key way to ensure that certain problems are avoided. Developers address common problems, and newer versions of programs with those fixes are made available on a regular basis.