How to: take control of Vista Startup

When troubleshooting any version of Windows learning what applications and processes are loading on startup is a critical step. To this end the old and faithful MSCONFIG application is a great help and it’s definitely present in Windows Vista too. Just go Start Run MSCONFIG and you’re there.

Old and faithful MSCONFIG

However times change and while MSCONFIG is a very useful little utility there are better options available. Enter Autoruns. Developed by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell of Winternals (now Sysinternals and owned by Microsoft) Autoruns is a fantastic freeware app which does a full scan of your system and presents you with a total rundown of everything that happens on system startup and system logon.

The GUI is very easy to navigate and gives you full functionality. To disable an entry simply untick its checkbox. To remove it completely simply right-click and choose delete. You can also verify each entry or do an online lookup which does a Google search on the process executable. If you’ve got Sysinternals Process Explorer installed Autoruns will integrate with it so that you can right-click on any entry and jump straight into Process Explorer.

Autoruns has everything you need

You also can choose to hide Microsoft entries so that only third-party applications are visible – very useful for tracking down rogue processes.

Autoruns is very lightweight (only 530Kb) and doesn’t need to be installed – it’s just a standalone executable and will work on all versions of Windows both 32- and 64-bit. There is also a command-line driven version of the app available (called Autorunsc) and the Autoruns homepage has a list of available commands. There are also links to an article written by Mark Russinovich detailing how to use Autoruns as well as to the Sysinternals forums.

Applications like Autoruns combine the best features of usability effectiveness and portability. It’s my new best friend.