When Windows starts up, it’s not just the operating system that loads itself into memory: a variety of other apps, tools, and services also start up, configured to start up automatically with Windows. And depending on what you have installed, many of them can start up without your knowledge or permission.
Sometimes this can be very useful, especially if you don’t have to worry about forgetting to start something important. For example, you want to make sure that your antivirus software is always running and that your media server or backup software is always available. On the other hand, as you add more and more applications to your computer, many of them can be set to start automatically with Windows, which means Windows takes longer to get up and running and more programs are constantly running in the background , taking up precious system resources.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that Windows gives you plenty of control over which applications launch with the operating system itself, so you can streamline the list to make sure only the most useful tools are included.
Check what’s running
First of all, it helps to know what you’re dealing with: restart Windows and, after logging in, give your computer a few minutes to load everything up. Then you can see what’s running.
The most obvious places to see which apps are loaded are on the taskbar and notification area (bottom right by the clock). Look for the small arrow pointing upwards; clicking that will show all the loaded apps whose icons didn’t fit in that right space.
For a more detailed look at what’s running on your system, right-click on an empty area of the taskbar and choose Task management. On the processes tab, you will see your most important applications (all applications that are currently running) at the top, with background processes below them. These background processes perform tasks such as finding hardware accessories or managing file synchronization and do not necessarily have a user interface.
If you scroll further down the list, you will find Windows processes that manage the operation of the operating system. Processes include things like the Desktop Window Manager and some labeled Service Host (which load the libraries Windows needs to run), among others. Usually you don’t need to interfere with these processes (with the possible exception of the Registry, which you can dive into occasionally for specific fixes).
Conveniently, to the right of each program and process, the Task Manager displays the current demands it is making on the CPU, RAM, disk, and network connection. This can help you decide which apps you want to start up with Windows and which you prefer to launch manually. Even if a program is useful, you may decide that you don’t want it to run automatically because of the sheer amount of system resources. it needs.
Don’t worry if you don’t recognize everything in the list of background processes; not all of them will come with a software program (such as Dropbox or Photoshop) associated with their name. A quick web search for the process name should be enough to tell you what it is and what its job is on your system. And here you need to be a little more careful because of the tight integration of background processes with Windows. Make sure you know what a process does and what it’s about before you stop it.
Switch to the Performance tab on the left to see the requirements currently placed on your Windows PC and the App history tab to see CPU time, network usage, and notifications for all your shows from the last month.
We’re halfway there – now that you know what you’re dealing with, you can start making some changes. The first place to start is with the applications themselves, and the approach you should take varies from app to app.
With some apps, all you need to do is right-click the program icon in the system tray and you’ll find the option to whether or not the app starts up with Windows.
Other apps require you to dig deeper into the settings to find the option you need. For example, if you want to change how the Spotify music app opens when you start up:
- In the Spotify app, click on your profile icon (top right) and then Institutions.
- Scroll down to Boot and window behavior and search Open Spotify automatically after you log in to the computer. Click the drop-down menu next to it.
- To elect Yes (Spotify starts with Windows), No (Spotify won’t start with Windows), or Minimized (Spotify starts with Windows, but out of sight).
Note that quite a few programs offer this “start minimized” option – NordVPN is another one we’ve seen. It’s a good middle ground option if you want a program always available (and it’s not too demanding on your system resources), but you don’t want to see it until you need it.
Use the task manager to switch startups
If you cannot find the relevant option in the program itself, or if you want to change more than one program at a time, go to the Task management again.
- Open the Startup apps diamond.
- Right-click on a program you don’t want to start with Windows and choose To expand.
- To restore an app, right click on it and choose Switch.
By the way, as long as you’re on the Startup Apps page, you might want to check the column header Startup effect, which tells you how much of your computer resources the app is using. If your computer is slowing down or experiencing similar issues, closing high-impact apps may help.
This does not affect the state of the program in terms of the Start menu or desktop shortcuts or anything else; it is still available to start normally. (Of course, completely uninstalling a program is also an option for those applications you don’t use at all, as it frees up disk space and makes the system less cluttered.)
When it comes to background processes, you should notice that they shut down when their parent application is disabled. If you’re still seeing mysterious processes that don’t seem to be associated with any program (in other words, the name doesn’t refer to any known apps), you can search for them online. You can also right-click on it in the list of startup apps and choose Characteristics to see information such as where they are (which should then tell you what app they were installed with).