How to Manage Windows 10 Startup Programs


sacrifice to computer godsThe programs that load automatically when your computer starts are one of the most common causes of frustration for users – if a user is complaining about a slow computer this is the first place to look. It is common knowledge among techie types that each program which starts as your computer loads the operating system uses valuable resources that could be better used elsewhere and slows the entire startup process – sometimes to a crawl. I say common knowledge but I may be overstating the fact as it seems the author of every single computer program ever written – aren’t software authors techie types? – wants all, or part, of their program to automatically start with Windows and run in the background at all times. Why, oh why?

Use Windows 10 Task Manager to Manage Startup Items

In days of yore it seems you needed to be a soothsayer and sacrifice a goat in order to corral this mess, but Windows 10 has – for the most part – taken great strides to simplify the management of startup programs in Windows. As always you can never have enough backups and before making system changes, such as this, you should create one if you don’t have a recent one handy.

Open the Task Manager using ctrl+shift+esc or type Task into the search bar and you will see the window below.

task manager minimized

The Task Manager will show a simplified view of the programs that you are presently running, but the true “magic” of Task Manager is hidden. Simply click the More Details link at the bottom of the window to expose the true goodness hiding within.

task-manager-maximized

While this tab has little to do with startup programs running in the background on your computer take a few moments and look around. The Processes tab is useful to determine all sorts of cool stuff about program and process resource usage. Once you’ve spent a few moments exploring the processes tab click on the Startup tab and we’ll get to business.

windows task manager startup

Here is where the magic happens! Your list will appear differently than the above image based on the programs you have installed. The Startup tab is broken down into 4 columns;


  • Name – the program’s name.
  • Publisher – the company associated with the program.
  • Status – whether the program starts with Windows (Enabled) or not (Disabled).
  • Startup Impact – the impact the program has on overall startup time.

Directly above Startup Impact you’ll notice Last BIOS Time. This is the number you are trying to lower by disabling programs which run automatically when Windows starts. Ideally you would want this number to be zero, but in reality that is a lofty goal as some programs truly need to run at startup.

A bit of detective work and common sense will go a long way on the Startup tab, but the obvious candidates to disable are toolbars, iTunes related programs, printer drivers, and other programs not necessary for the day to day operation of the computer. The best advice I can offer is the leave video/audio driver utilities, such as the Nvidia and Realtek entries above, and any program related to system storage, such as the Samsung entry, alone. If you’re unsure of a programs purpose, or need, proceed slowly by disabling only one program at a time. Disable a program, reboot, use the computer normally. If everything is normal move on to the next program. If something doesn’t work then re-enable that program.

To disable a startup program highlight the line containing the program by clicking with your mouse. Once the line is highlighted the Disable/Enable button in the bottom left will become active. Simply click the button to disable or enable the program and the Status column will change. NOTE: If you have selected a program and the button is grayed out this means you do not have permission to change options for this program and is most likely because you do not have Administrator permissions.

disable startup item task manager

Congratulations! I see many a fast startups in your future.

Working with Startup Programs in the Registry

Now we’re getting into technical territory, so if you’re unfamiliar with the registry you should read our The Windows Registry Explained article to get a better understanding of the terminology and structure of the registry. As always be careful editing the registry and have a current backup to fall back on if things don’t go as planned. This method is a do or die operation and there is no going back other than restoring a backup, reinstalling a program, or manually recreating the registry entry if you delete the wrong one. On the plus side this is a great way to find malware and toolbars that seem impossible to remove.


To open the registry editor press the Windows key+R to open the Run dialog box. Type regedit.exe into the box and click OK to open the editor. You will have to approve the UAC warning by clicking OK.

open regedit with run dialog

The registry editor window will open.

Windows 10 registry editor

Common locations to find Startup entries in 32bit and 64bit versions of Windows 10 are:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\Run

In addition to the above locations users of 64bit versions of Windows 10 should also look in the following:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

While the above may seem like super secret spy code it is similar to how one would navigate a hard drive in explorer. The first phrase is the base location and each slash “\” represents a folder within the previous location.
windows registry navigation

I’ll navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Run as an example. Below you’ll see the keys present in the Run folder. Each key represents one startup item and you should note that the keys below closely match the startup items listed in the Task Manager Startup tab from above.

registry run folder

To remove an entry highlight the line in the right pane and click the Delete key on your keyboard or right click the entry and choose Delete from the options. Careful as there is NO undo command.

Conclusion

Use this information for good young Jedi and always have a current backup before making system changes. In most instances the Startup tab of the Task Manager should be the preferred method to manage startup programs, however, the registry is an invaluable tool when needed. Users of 32bit Windows 10 versions should check all 4 registry locations, while users of 64bit Windows 10 versions will need to check all 6. If you are removing entries from the registry only remove entries is you are absolutely sure it will not adversely affect your computers operation.

About the Author

David Hartsock

Executive Editor/Owner/Admin of Daves Computer Tips and all-around good guy - Dave's interest in computers began in the early 1980's during the Apple II era. In the early 1990's the PC began to replace proprietary and mainframe devices in Dave's industry so he began to learn and experiment with the PC. Through DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and now Windows 10. Dave became the "go to" guy for friends, family, and coworkers with computer problems. Daves Computer Tips was born in 2006 in an effort to share these experiences with others in an easy to understand, plain English, form.

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