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In Windows, how can I prevent a program from starting automatically?

Often, a program starts automatically in Windows because of a shortcut in the Startup folder in the Start menu. The program may also run automatically from a registry entry. Following are three sets of directions you can follow to remove programs from automatic startup. After you have gone through each set of steps, reboot your computer to see if the problem is fixed. If necessary, you can then continue to the next set of instructions.

On this page:


Removing a shortcut

Note: In all Windows operating systems, the shortcut will remain in the Recycle Bin until you empty it.

To remove a shortcut from the Startup folder:

Windows 8.x

  1. Press Win-r . In the "Open:" field, type: %AppData%\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

    Press Enter.

  2. Right-click the program you don't want to open at startup and click Delete.

Windows 7 and Vista

  1. From the Start menu, click All Programs, and then click Startup.

  2. Right-click the program you don't want to open at startup and click Delete.

Windows XP

Important: As of April 8, 2014, Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP with security updates. To ensure the highest security standards, the UITS Support Center no longer registers Windows XP devices to the IU network. UITS strongly recommends that you look into the options for replacing or upgrading your Windows XP computers for full compatibility with IU systems. See About end of life for Windows XP.

  1. Right-click the Start button, and then select Open.

  2. Double-click Programs.

  3. When the Programs folder opens, double-click Startup.

  4. Select the shortcut you wish to remove. Drag it to the Recycle Bin, or delete it by pressing the Del key.

Correcting a shortcut path

If a shortcut you want in the Startup folder is pointing to the wrong program, correct it as follows:

  1. In the Startup folder, right-click the appropriate icon and select Properties.

  2. Click the Shortcut tab. In the "Target:" field, verify that the path statement points to the filename of the correct program. If it does not, enter the accurate path to the program.

Disabling items not in the Startup folder

Some startup items have no shortcut in the Startup folder. You can disable these with either the Task Manager in Windows 8.x, or the System Configuration Utility (msconfig.exe) in Windows 7, Vista, and XP. Otherwise, they are only accessible through the registry. If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with registry editing, use these utilities.

Task Manager (Windows 8.x)

  1. Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to open the Task Manager.

  2. If necessary, click More details to see all of the tabs; select the Startup tab.

  3. Select the item not to launch at startup, and click Disable.

System Configuration Utility (Windows 7, Vista, and XP)

Important: As of April 8, 2014, Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP with security updates. To ensure the highest security standards, the UITS Support Center no longer registers Windows XP devices to the IU network. UITS strongly recommends that you look into the options for replacing or upgrading your Windows XP computers for full compatibility with IU systems. See About end of life for Windows XP.

  1. Press Win-r . In the "Open:" field, type msconfig and press Enter.

  2. Click the Startup tab.

  3. Uncheck the items you do not want to launch on startup.

    Note: It may take some time to identify which items to check and which to uncheck. Some items will be easy to identify (e.g., Microsoft Office), some may be slightly confusing (e.g., realsched), and some will be cryptic (e.g., 000StTHK or QFSSCHD110). If you cannot determine what an entry is (and therefore whether you should uncheck it or not), you may want to use a search engine to research the individual entry. Keep in mind there are some entries that you should avoid unchecking (e.g., virus scanners).

  4. When you have finished making your selections, click OK.

  5. In the box that appears, click Restart to restart your computer.

Removing a registry entry

Warning: This document contains instructions for editing the registry. If you make any error while editing the registry, you can potentially cause Windows to fail or be unable to boot, requiring you to reinstall Windows. Edit the registry at your own risk. Always back up the registry before making any changes. If you do not feel comfortable editing the registry, do not attempt these instructions. Instead, seek the help of a computing support provider.

To remove a startup entry from the registry:

  1. Press Win-r . In the "Open:" field, type regedit and press Enter.

  2. To save a backup copy of the registry, from the File menu, select Export... .

    1. Make sure to note the file's destination; by default, it will be saved on the desktop.
    2. Give the file an obvious name, such as registry or regback , so that you'll remember this file is your registry backup.
    3. In the "Export Range" field, make sure All is selected, and then click Save. This will make a backup of a working registry.

  3. To expand HKEY LOCAL MACHINE, click the + (plus sign) to the left.

  4. Expand the SOFTWARE tree. Then expand Microsoft, then Windows, and then CurrentVersion.

  5. Highlight the Run folder. On the right side of the screen, you will see programs that are set to run on startup that might not be included in the Startup folder. Some of these may be important programs, such as antivirus programs or firewalls. There also may be undesirable or unnecessary programs, such as spyware and advertisement software. You'll need to ascertain what is needed and what is not.

  6. Highlight any program(s) you want to prevent from starting automatically, and then press the Del key. Remember that deleting programs here does not remove them from your computer; it only stops them from running automatically.

  7. Changes to the registry are implemented immediately, so you do not need to save your changes. At this point, you may simply close the Registry Editor.
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Last modified on March 24, 2014.

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