Controlling Which Programs Start Automatically with MSCONFIG

For those who would rather stay out of the Registry, a much simpler solution exists in the form on the Microsoft System Configuration Utility (Msconfig). This easy-to-use utility included with most Windows versions provides you with a graphical interface allowing you to control a variety of system startup options, including which programs and services are configured to load automatically. The main area of interest in the program is the Startup tab, which provides a list of all startup items, allowing you to easily enable or disable individual entries. For an overview of using the Msconfig utility to control startup settings, see the steps below.

Unfortunately, Msconfig is not available for all Microsoft operating systems, notably Windows 2000. If you’re running Windows 2000, your best bet is to either use one of the alternative startup managers listed in the next section, or to use the version included with Windows XP, which is small enough to copy over to a floppy disk. Note that the Windows XP version will display a series of error messages when loaded on a 2000 system – just click through them and you’ll eventually be able to configure your startup items without issue.

Step 1: From the Run command, open Msconfig. This opens the application to the General tab, as shown above. Click the Create Backup button to backup your current settings.

Step 2: Click on the Startup tab. Scroll through the list of items configured to start automatically, selectively unchecking items that you no longer wish to have started when Windows loads.

Step 3: Click OK to close Msconfig. Click Yes when prompted to reboot your PC with the new settings. Once complete, verify that the unnecessary applications are no longer loaded by viewing the System Tray (or the Task Manager Processes tab on Windows 2000/XP)

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.