Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

MSConfig shows many of the items that are run automatically when you start your machine. What you need and what you don't depends on many factors.

When I run "MSCONFIG" to show everything that is loaded or run automatically on startup, I get a really long list of things I don't understand. What's what? How can I fond out which ones are safe to turn off?

Here's the list of what it shows right now. Maybe you can tell me?

It was a long list. I couldn't take the time to track down each item on the list.

The problem, of course, is that everyone's startup list is different. Depending on your computer, the hardware installed, the software installed, the programs you run, the features you have enabled ... each of those, and more, can cause an entry in the startup list.

It can get really confusing, really fast.

In the case of the original question where the person had a long list of startup items, I checked on a few of the ones I didn't immediately recognize, but they didn't turn out to be anything bad.

What do I mean by "checked on"? It's pretty simple, really: Google. There are a couple of sites out there rank quite highly when you look for the executable file name you find in your start up list. For example if you look up "nwiz.exe" - a random entry in my own startup list - the top results are sites that will tell you fairly clearly what it is. (Many will also offer to sell you a product, but you certainly don't need to buy anything to simply find out what a particular executable does.)

"...it'll take a little but of sleuthing on your part if you want to clean up your startup list."

Nine times out of ten, the answer simply tells you that the program belongs to something you know of or expect, and you can leave it alone, or use the program's configuration to turn off the startup item. The "nwiz.exe" on my machine is a support program for my video card that enables additional features. I could turn it off, if I wanted to, and I would simply lose those features.

If you're seeing errors on startup relating to a program or directory not being found, the MSCONFIG startup list is one place to look. If any of the startup entries reference programs that you no longer have, you can most likely safely uncheck them so that Windows doesn't try to run the program that doesn't exist any more.

But the bottom line is that it'll take a little but of sleuthing on your part if you want to clean up your startup list. As I said, Google each item, determine if what you find out about it applies to your system, and take appropriate action based on what you find.

Three additional, but important points:

Stay Safe: the #1 cause of startup-related problems is malware. I'd start with this article: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?, and make sure you're safe and set up to regularly scan for viruses and spyware. Whenever there's a problem these days, this is #1 on my list of things to do.

Backup: It's unlikely that you damage your system or make it unbootable just by playing around with MSCONFIG, but do you really want to take that chance? As always when making changes to your system configuration, especially if you're not 100% sure of what you're doing, backup your data. You should be doing this regularly anyway, but particularly now.

MSCONFIG is just the beginning: In reality, MSCONFIG's startup list only includes certain classes of startup tasks - those that are most commonly affected by your installed software and configuration. Autoruns, a free tool by SysInternals.com is both a little geekier, and much more complete. If you're diagnosing a suspected problem, the items listed in autoruns are also worth investigating.

Article C2633 - April 23, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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18 Comments
Curtis
April 24, 2006 12:06 AM

Anoher excellent tool is HijackThis!.

Leo
April 24, 2006 10:13 AM

The "problem" with HijackThis (which I agree is an excellent tool) is that it's perhaps the geekiest of all. It really takes someone familiar with it to interpre the results. That being said, there is a support forum for exactly that. This link will take you the site providing HijackThis: http://ask-leo.com/d-hijackthis

Terry
April 26, 2006 12:35 PM

Hi, I just discovered your site and it's helped me already. I tried a quick search on your archive but didn't find an answer.

I'm cleaning out programs and came across wildtangent web driver. Wildtanget may have come with this new (11/05) Dell XPmedia edition.
Specific question: Can I delete Wildtangent safely?

This program has web accessibility according to my Norton Firewall. A Google search suggests it's unnecessary or suspicious. As I tried to remove (using add/remove), the message warned it's a media player that runs Wildtangent and Dell games. I don't do games but hate to eliminate all possibilities for someone else in the future.

A general question: Are these various media players redundant? Won't programs such as Real or the Windows component do the same job?

Thank you

Terry
April 26, 2006 12:42 PM

Sorry I think I goofed by posting a question here? Duh!!

Carl G.
April 28, 2006 6:33 PM

I have everything "unchecked" in the msconfig list. Everything works fine on my machine. Anything that is NEEDED by the machine (in my situation "nvidea" stuff), are automatically "checked" (re-started) when the machine starts up again anyway - so I leave them alone. The msconfig stuff is just "luxury" processes anyway - nothing critical.

Thomas
April 28, 2006 7:18 PM

Try Pcpitstop.com

Lyman Layton
April 28, 2006 8:02 PM

Hi, I have removed all but "systray" or something simular on all my computers without any problems, so far. I don't know how much faster it makes my computer, but it has not hurt any of them yet.

ALEX
August 27, 2006 12:03 PM

vendor "WILD TANGET" = (Data Miner)?????

Emil S Kapcar
February 18, 2007 12:26 PM

Win Patrol is a step up from msconfig and it is free. The program identifies and monitors the association of every entry and offers suggestions regarding the selected item. Also, for a small fee, by contribution, you can upgrade to a more robust version. Have been a happy user for years.

Luis Miguel
May 25, 2008 3:42 AM

Don't forget:

Antivirus and protection tools also runs on startup.
If you disable them you may be opening several doors to virus, adware and spyware

Ryan Paul
June 18, 2008 5:56 PM

I'd just like to find out the description of a program in the start-up list in "msconfig" so i know if it's safe to disable it. i'm using vista home premium if it helps. Dell inspiron 1720. Thank you very much.

sean
February 5, 2009 7:01 PM

that was the worst answer ever - how about reccommeding a website that tells ou each .exe, what it is, what it does and define what the user can do with it such as... http://www.startup.networktechs.com/search.php ... instead of some long meaningless answer that really didn't answer anything!

Sheeze
December 30, 2009 5:29 AM

The "Start-Up List" (http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php) is an informative site that is very helpful in determining which programs can be unchecked in the MSconfig start-ups applications. Just write down a list of the items that you are unsure of ... enter the questioned item in the search bar at this site and read the results.

Goalder Johnston
March 16, 2010 1:55 PM

Why do i get the error message "cannot find msconfig" when i try to run msconfig

Ivy
July 15, 2010 8:28 AM

Like Sean said, this is a terrible response - wordy and the question wasn't even answered. Sure, you can Google every item in msconfig, but what if you don't know if it's absolutely necessary to keep? Not every description you Google gives you this information.

Thanks to Sheeze for posting the link to the "start-up list." You can search on each file in msconfig and it will tell you what is does and if it's necessary. And I'll bet all of your files are there - as of today, they have 21559 items listed.

Yeppers
September 14, 2010 9:46 AM

Leo, near the end of this article, you mention three important points, with one of them being Backup. Letís assume my data files are already backed up to an external drive. Before making any changes to the MSCONFIG startup list, is it sufficient at this point to just create a restore point? Thanks...

Technically I suppose, but I really dislike System Restore as restore points often disappear when they're needed, and it doesn't backup everything people thing it does.
Leo
17-Sep-2010

Becky Jenkins
September 18, 2010 2:47 PM

All you have to do is go to this website and it lists everything alphabetically and you click on the name of the file and it tells you whether you can or can't: http://www.tasklist.org/tasklist_u.html

Lynne S-Jones
December 5, 2010 9:34 AM

Brilliant - I'll do some trawling to discover what must remained checked. My Dell Inspiron takes 8' to be usable!

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