How to Prevent Programs From Loading at Windows Startup

These Windows tweaks prevent programs from loading at startup

Preventing unnecessary programs from running at Windows startup is a great way to speed up your computer. After you determine which programs run when Windows boots, you can choose which ones to remove from launch at startup. All programs use system resources—operating memory—so any program that you prevent from running reduces memory use and may speed up your PC.

 Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10.

Where to Look for Windows Startup Programs

There are several places you can prevent programs from automatically loading during a Windows startup. These are:

  • The Task Manager.
  • In the program itself under Tools, Preferences or Options.
  • The System Registry.
  • The Task Scheduler.

Check Task Manager for Quick Results

The quickest method for viewing and disabling programs is through the Task Manager. Here, you can not only Enable/Disable applications but get some basic information about each app via the right-click context menu. To disable apps with Task Manager, do the following:

  1. Right-click in an empty space on the Taskbar (or press Ctrl + Alt + Del.) and select Task Manager.

    Selecting the Task Manager from the Taskbar.
  2. Once Task Manager opens, select Startup.

    The Task Manager in Windows 10.
  3. The list in this view are the programs that can be disabled from starting up. Select an application, then select Disable at the bottom right corner of the screen.

    Selecting CCleaner in Task Manager.
  4. You should see that the Status has now changed to Disabled.

    CCleaner is disabled in Task Manager.

If you're unsure what an item is or does, use the right-click context menu to see additional options. You may look in the folder indicated in the location column to determine what the item is, or you can search the internet for more information. Usually, programs listed in the Windows or System folders should be allowed to load—leave those alone.

After you disable one item, restart your computer to confirm everything works correctly before you disable others.

Look in Programs and Remove Auto-Start Options

CCleaner settings panel.

Sometimes, a program is set up within itself to load when Windows starts. To find these applications, look in the System Tray on the right of the taskbar. The icons you see are some of the programs currently running on the computer.

To prevent a program from starting when Windows boots up, open the program and look for an Options Menu. This menu may also be under the Tools menu at the top of the program window, but it may be under the Preferences menu. When you find the Options menu, look for a check box that says Run program when Windows Starts or something to that effect. Uncheck that box and close the program. The program should not run when Windows starts up again.

Use the System Configuration Utility

Using the System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG), is an alternate way of getting to the Task Manager. In earlier versions of Windows you could disable apps from starting up here, but Windows 10 utilizes Task Manager to handle this more effectively. Once you have Task Manager open, follow the instructions above.

Open the System Configuration Utility:

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialog.

    The Run dialog box in Windows 10.
  2. Enter msconfig into the text box and select OK to open the System Configuration Utility.

    Running msconfig in the Run dialog box.
  3. Select Startup.

    Msconfig dialog box.
  4. Select Open Task Manager.

    The Startup tab in Msconfig.

Use the System Registry (REGEDIT)

If you used the Task Manager and disabled a program you do not want to start with Windows in the previous section, you do not need to use the System Registry instructions in this section. They are optional and not recommended for most Windows users.

If you are an advanced Windows user and feel comfortable using it, you can open the System Registry.

Proceed with caution. If you make an error in the System Registry, you may not be able to undo it.

To use the System Registry:

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialog.

    The Run dialog box in Windows 10.
  2. Enter regedit in the text box and select OK. (You may have to confirm running the app.)

    Entering regedit in the Run dialog box.
  3. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion Run folder.

    Browsing in Regedit.
  4. Right-click on the desired item and select Delete.

    Deleting a key within Regedit.
  5. Select Yes when the Confirm Value Delete dialog appears.

    Confirmation of reg key deletion.
  6. Close the System Registry and reboot your computer.

Do not delete something if you don’t know what it is. You can disable items using the Task Manager as described in the previous section without deleting them and re-enable them if that causes a problem, so you don't have to go into the System Registry where you can't undelete.

Remove Unwanted Items From the Task Scheduler

To prevent unwanted programs from automatically launching when Windows starts, you can remove tasks from the Windows task scheduler.

To navigate to the Task Scheduler:

  1. Select Search in the Taskbar and begin entering task scheduler. Select the Task Scheduler app when it appears.

    Searching for Task Scheduler in Windows 10.
  2. A list of programs should appear in the right panel. From here right-click a task and select Disable.

    Task Scheduler application.
  3. Close the Task Scheduler and reboot to test results.

The folder contains a list of tasks that are scheduled to run automatically. Drag and drop the unwanted task shortcuts onto the desktop or a different folder. You can delete them later if you want. Tasks you remove from this folder will not run automatically in the future unless you set them up to do so again.

It's best not to Delete the task in case you need it later. Disabling the task allows you to re-enable if your system has issues.