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MSCONFIG
(Microsoft Configuration Utility)

Secrets to your computer startup

Bruce is recently retired from the Army and is a regular volunteer at the “Doctor is In” each Friday at the Learning Center.  He is A+, Network+, i-Net, certified as well as a Microsoft Certified Professional in Windows XP, and provides on-site computer services to individuals and businesses.


Do you ever wonder what takes your computer so long to start up? In most cases the reason for that is that computer manufacturers and software developers think you need or even want all those programs and accompanying little icons to startup every time that you turn your computer on.  By the time Microsoft, Compaq or whoever your computer manufacturer is, and a few software companies are done with your computer you probably have 10 or more different programs running into each other every time your computer starts. Most of the programs that startup when your computer starts up are being shoved in there vying for room for no reason at all, but you can prevent that.  I used to work as a computer technician at a national computer chain store where they charged a pretty penny for this little operation but you can do it at home armed with a little knowledge.

First of all, MSCONFIG stands for Microsoft Configuration Utility.  If you click on Start, run, then type MSCONFIG you will see 6 tabs.  On the far right you will see Startup.

Click on the startup tab and there you see what loads up when your computer starts.  Many applications put items in your startup group that are absolutely unnecessary such as Real Player streaming audio, calendar birthday reminder, bill payer reminder to name a few.  Even if you have 512 megabytes of RAM or more I don’t recommend that you load any unnecessary applications on startup, hopefully you will know about aunt Jenny’s birthday before your computer tells you.  Its like the guy who is unpacking the family car at the beach, he dropped the family off near the water so they are there ready to have fun but dad has to go park the car ½ a mile a way then walk through the hot sand loaded down with the sun tan lotion, towels and ice chest. Do you really think he needs to carry any more?  Even without the beach balls and rafts he’s lucky if he doesn’t fall and spill the sun tan lotion all over the towels – yes that would be a mess.

 MSCONFIG Startup tab options

After you turn your computer on it has to wake everything up (BIOS, network card, ports, etc.) load all its drivers, the bare essential applications, and the fonts. The only startup items you absolutely need are:

  • ScanRegistry
  • TaskMonitor
  • SystemTray
  • LoadPowerProfile
  • Your antivirus software

There is an extensive and regularly updated list of startup files and what they do here. As of February 27, 2003, this guy had 2,277 files listed. I applaud his enthusiasm, but he really should get out more often. The general rule of thumb is — if in doubt leave it alone. After you uncheck the boxes of unneeded items and click Apply, OK, you will be asked if you want to restart or exit without restarting. You can do either, but you will not reap the benefits of unloading the items until after you restart. After you restart your computer Microsoft will give you a message that says you have run the MSCONFIG utility and wants to know if you are satisfied with the results.  If you do not want to see this message again, check the box. You should notice an immediate improvement in performance and stability, all for free and you did it yourself the all natural way without adding more programs such as Ram Booster or an “optimizer” program which only leads to more memory use and possible software conflicts.

MSCONFIG is not available for Windows 95, NT, or 2000. However there is a free "Startup Control Panel" at Mlin.net that will work just as well for Windows 95 and if you are using Windows NT or 2000, you can download the official, Windows XP version of MSCONFIG on the Tech Guide Web site.


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