How To Use MSConfig To Control Startup Programs In Windows

POSTED BY Heather Johnson, UPDATED ON April 6th, 2023
How to Use MSConfig to Control Startup Programs in Windows

Msconfig stands for Microsoft System Configuration Utility (MSCU) and is built into Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. It is mainly used for troubleshooting computer problems but can also be used to disable programs from starting up when you first boot.


Why Would You Want to Stop Programs Starting Up?

That’s a very good question and the answer is simple. To speed up boot times and to free up some resources. When the computer boots it goes through a process of starting all services and applications that are selected in msconfig (along with a few other things). As you can imagine this takes time and some programs take longer to get going than others. By disabling some of the programs you don’t need at startup you can take back some of those system resources and save the boot time of your computer.

Another reason is the new computer. A new computer can come bundled with a lot of bloatware (programs installed by the manufacturer that you tend to see but never use). Usually, new computers come with 10-15 programs starting up out of which many are absolutely not needed. This includes things like toolbars, widgets, trial programs, and a lot of other nonsense that they are trying to sell you.

Finally, there are those programs that once installed feel they have to start up every time you start up your computer. These tend to be things like messengers, Adobe Reader, iTunes, and other programs that if you wanted them to run you would simply click the icon on the desktop you don’t need them running constantly.

So let’s take a look at how to disable some of these pesky programs using msconfig with this short tutorial.


How to Disable Items

First of all press, your Start/Windows button in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. In the search box at the bottom of the bar type ‘msconfig’ and then press enter. In Windows XP you need to select the Run option and then type ‘msconfig’.

You should now have a box open that contains a number of options and a number of tabs along the top.

This is the System configuration utility. It is not recommended you change settings in any of these tabs unless you are sure of what you are doing. We are going to only look at one tab and that is the Startup tab the 4th tab along. Click Startup.


You will now see a list of all the items that are starting up when your computer starts up along with who the item belongs to and its location.

On our computer, there are not many items as it is only a test machine but you may have a lot of items. We have 11 on ours.

To disable an item from starting up simply untick the box next to the item. For example on our test machine, we have unticked:

  • A Hewlett Packard item – It’s a printer we no longer use
  • A Google update item – Not needed
  • Adobe Reader – If we want to use this we will use the desktop Icon
  • Easybits recovery – A program we use very rarely. It does not need to be started when we start our PC
  • PDF complete – Another program we use rarely

We have unticked 5 of the 11 items on our list. To complete press Apply and then press OK.

Select restart and let your computer reboot. You may get another window once the computer has rebooted just close that window.

That is how you can disable startup items using msconfig.

Although not a lot of harm can come from using the startup tab and disabling items (you can always go back in and tick them again) it is best to be sure that you know what you are disabling.

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