A slow computer, painful to work with and agonizing to deal with when trying to get that late night project completed, or when trying to get in a little World of Warcraft. Typically, most people immediately turn to registry cleaner programs, defragment software and run their anti-malware or anti-spyware programs; but how many immediately look to the system start-up configuration first?
Slow Computer: What is the Start-Up Configuration?
For those unfamiliar with the term, the start-up configuration is the processes that the computer goes through when it first starts-up or when it reboots. It is, to be exact, all of the software and programs that the computer turns on before the user is able to do anything. On a windows system, the user is able to customize this configuration using the Microsoft System Configuration Utility (MSConfig as it is commonly known).
Slow Computer: Why Care About MSConfig?
MSConfig, as mentioned already, allows any user to modify the programs that run during the startup; modifying the startup list removing programs which do not need to run every time the computer is started (or rebooted) results in a computer that runs faster.
MSConfig also does more than that. It also allows the user to edit certain configuration files and in general, simplifies the control of the Windows environment. Knowing how to use the MSConfig utility empowers the user with greater control over how their computer functions and decreases reliability on ‘paid for’ technical support services that, for the most part, are not at all difficult to learn.
Slow Computer: Accessing MSConfig Utility
Start by clicking on the ‘start’ button (absolute lower left of the screen), select ‘Run’ and type in “msconfig” into the text box of the window that appears (enter text without the “”). The last step is to click on the “OK” button.
Windows 95 and Windows 2000 users will need to download this utility while all other Windows operating systems include it. The window that now appears is the System Configuration Utility. Notice that there are several tabs within this window; these are all items that the user has some degree of control over. For the purpose of this article however, the tab of greatest interest is the “Startup” tab.
Slow Computer: The Startup Tab in MSConfig
On the Startup tab, the user is typically presented with three columns of information; Startup Item, Command and Location. The Startup Item is the name of the file that is activated on startup. The Command is most often the physical address of where the file can be found within the computer. The Location is a little trickier to explain.
The Location refers to HKEY which in the most basic sense, refers to a command within the registry which is used to execute the startup of programs; The Location therefore identifies where a specific command, in relation to the program, resides. Having said that, most users need only focus on the Startup Item and Command columns as those provide the most understandable information to the average person.
Slow Computer: Adding or Removing Startup Items
As previously mentioned, one of the purposes of the MSConfig utility is to provide the user with control over which programs run during the startup of the computer. The fewer startup items there are, the quicker the computer functions. Referring back to the Startup tab, notice there are check boxes beside each item.
Clicking on the check box will either add or remove a check mark from the box; no check mark present means that the item will not be run during startup. If unsure about what a particular startup item is, simply Google search it (eg. ‘what is msmsgs?’).
Removing a check mark from any of the check boxes will not delete the item from the Startup tab, it will simply exclude that particular program from the startup process. This is good to know for those who are novices, they are not deleting items on this tab.
Slow Computer: Why Remove Items From Startup
Realistically, some programs make sense to have running at all times; the anti-virus software for instance. But does anyone really need Adobe Acrobat Reader running right when they first turn on the computer? What about MSN or Yahoo Messenger? While some items should run at all times, many items simply are not needed until they are actually used.
Depending on how many programs are installed on the computer, disabling the ones that are not needed immediately at startup can free up a considerable amount of computer resources resulting in a noticeable speed difference.
One does not need to be a ‘computer geek’ in order to make these types of small modifications to their computer, which could result in enhanced performance. Some people who are at first uncomfortable thinking they might break their machine quickly realize it is actually quite a simple task.
If one takes the time to ensure other areas of their computer is running at optimal levels (cleaning the registry, defragging the hard drive and so on), then modifying the startup only improves upon what they are already doing. The best part about modifying the startup is that there is no need to purchase any software, thus one can get a faster computer without spending any money.