Seize control of Windows' secret launchpad

Some programs mysteriously launch whenever your Windows system boots, even though they don't appear in the StartUp folder or in win.ini or system.ini. What's going on?

Windows 95 and 98 have various ways of starting applications automatically when you start your system -- through entries in an .ini file or icons in the StartUp folder, for example.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Applications can ensure that they start automatically by inserting command lines at any of a number of locations in that recondite repository of system settings known as the Windows Registry. Fortunately, Windows slips you a few tools for modifying the Registry to suit your needs.

If you have Windows 98, you're in luck: That operating system's new System Configuration Utility makes it a snap to prevent applications from launching when you start Windows. Simply choose Start-Run, type msconfig, and click OK. When the System Configuration Utility appears, click the Startup tab to see a list of all applications that are launched either from the Registry or from your StartUp folder. Uncheck the box next to each application you want to prevent from starting in the future.

While you're there, you can also click the Win.ini tab, double-click [windows] (or click the plus sign) to expand it, and uncheck the boxes for the load= and run= lines to disable applications started from there. When you're done, click OK. The System Configuration Utility will want to restart your computer; click Yes if you want to try out the new setup immediately. The items that you unchecked won't start again. To restore their autolaunching status, open the System Configuration Utility again and put checks in the appropriate boxes on the Startup or Win.ini tabs.

In Windows 95, the easiest way to prevent applications from launching when Windows starts is to use the System Policy Editor. (If you haven't already installed the System Policy Editor, search for the Poledit folder on your Windows CD-ROM, or download it from Microsoft at The accompanying text file explains how to install it.)To start the System Policy Editor, choose Start-Run, type poledit, and click OK. Next, choose File-Open Registry, double-click the Local Computer icon, and click the plus sign next to System. If the Run box is checked, select Run and click the Show button in the Settings for Run area. In the Show Contents dialogue box, select an application that you want to prevent from running at start-up, and click Remove. Repeat this step for each application you want to remove, and then click OK. If the Run Services box is checked, select Run Services, click Show, and use the same procedure described above to remove items you don't want Windows to launch automatically at start-up. Click OK twice and then choose File-Save.

If you subsequently decide to restore items that you've removed, you're in for some typing. Select either Run or Run Services, click Show, click Add, and type the name of your program once in the first box and again in the command line (the value) of the second box. Then click OK three times and choose File-Save. (You shouldn't mess around with the Run Once option; it can automatically launch applications, too, but it's intended for one-time use -- for example, to restart installation-related software after restarting your computer.)Bonus tip: It's also possible to launch applications automatically using the Add button in the Show Contents dialogue box in such a way that less-informed members of your office or family won't know how to disable the autolaunch. This trick works in both Windows 98 and Windows 95. The only difference involves the appearance of the Local Computer Properties dialogue box in Windows 98: Click the plus sign next to Windows 98 System and then the plus sign next to Programs to Run to select the Run or Run Services option. Then click the Show button and the Add button, as described above.

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