First, run your anti-virus and anti-spyware scanners to clean any malicious programs from your system. If you don’t have either, learn how to get them free here.
Then download and install the free Microsoft Autoruns utility. When run, it will give you a comprehensive listing of all programs running on your system. Select the Logon tab to just list programs that start when Windows start. Uncheck an offending program to prevent it from starting when your machine turns on.
A more user-friendly utility similar to Autoruns (though not as excellent) is the What’s Running application. When you select a process, What’s Running will attempt to retrieve information about that process from its parent website. Go to the Startup tab for a list of programs that run when Windows start up.
Windows XP, 2000, and NT come with services (these programs are not listed by Autoruns or What’s Running) which may be configured to automatically start when Windows launch. To view the list of services, run services.msc from the start/run menu. Alternatively, under Windows NT, go to start->settings->control panel->Services menu. Under Windows 2000, go to Administrative Tools->Services menu.
Windows 98 and XP come with a built-in program called System Configuration Utility to list startup programs. Though it does not provide a comprehensive listing, the System Configuration Utility should do in a pinch (when you don’t have Autoruns or What’s Running). Just run msconfig from the start/run menu. Go to the Startup tab.
For non-XP systems (Windows 95, Me, NT, and 2000), here are some places where startup programs may be registered (only recommended for experts):
- Under the C:\ root directory, look for the autoexec.bat file.
- In the C:\Windows or C:\winnt directory, find win.ini and system.ini files. Look for sections [boot] or [system] and keywords load= or run=.
- In the registry. Go to menu start/run and launch regedit.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion.
- Look for sections Run, RunOnce, RunService, etc.
- Under the menu Start->Programs->Startup folder.
For process information on common startup programs, check out these sites: