Top free troubleshooting tools for Windows
These seven handy tools help you diagnose and cure a wide range of Windows ills, and they're all free for the downloading
One of the great banes of any Windows user's life is software that insists on shoehorning things into the system to launch at startup, whether or not you actually need or want any of it. Scanner and printer drivers are among the worst offenders in this regard. They often insist on installing a bunch of system-tray-resident utilities of dubious usefulness.
Autoruns -- by Mark Russinovich, of Process Explorer fame -- not only roots out these annoyances, but it comes in handy for so many other things that it's simply indispensible. Autoruns probes your system and dumps out lists of programs and system components that start automatically, without user intervention -- from apps in your Startup folder to scheduled tasks, from services to device drivers, from Sidebar gadgets to codecs. By default it dumps out data pertinent to the current user context, but the program's User menu lets you switch contexts. (You'll need to run the program as Administrator, though.)
Autoruns organizes its views into the system by tabs (Logon, Services, Explorer, Internet Explorer, Drivers), making it easy to drill down to the entries you're most concerned about. You can disable any app or service without actually deleting it, simply by unchecking a box, or you can remove it entirely with a selection from the right-click menu. That same menu also has options for jumping to the service's entry in the Registry, verifying its code signature, and looking it up on Google.
Select Options | Hide Microsoft and Windows Entries, and when you next run Autoruns or click Refresh, you'll see only third-party applications -- a handy way to focus only on programs added to Windows after the fact and, thus, might be a problem. If Process Explorer is currently running, you can right-click on an item and bring up its Properties pane in Process Explorer, assuming said item is actually running.
Autoruns also comes in a command-line version, which can be used with scripts or other automation. Finally, check out a video for some neat Autoruns usage tips, from Mark Russinovich himself.
Autoruns reveals every app and service that's running on your computer, and lets you disable or delete the ones you don't want.