Stalled at Startup

12:00 am Articles, Ask the Geek

Sometimes you just want to buy toilet paper.  Yet, by the time you’ve found the kids, the kids have found their shoes, the dog has found something to chew on the couch, you’ve discovered the car is out of gas, the guy on the radio tells you that traffic is blocked between you and the store, and your youngest took off her shoes thirty seconds after she was in the car…the simple task of acquiring toilet paper seems painful.

And yet, you still need the toilet paper.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just hop in the car at a moment’s notice, drive a few short blocks to the store, toss a package of toilet paper on the conveyer belt and smile at how smooth the transaction went?

In that same vein, wouldn’t it be spiffy if restarting your computer didn’t seem to take forever and a day?

There are several reasons your PC may take forever to start up and be ready for use.  Obviously memory (RAM) is a consideration, but that’s not all.

You probably didn’t buy a slow computer.  Yet, as the months and years have ticked by, your computer might seem to be painfully slow.  If your computer behaved like that when you first bought it, would you have tolerated that?  Wouldn’t you have taken it back to the place you got it and demanded they fix it?

If you’re running Windows, next time you reboot, take a look at all the small icons that appear down on the Taskbar beside where the clock is positioned.  (If you see a small left-pointing arrow, click it.  There are more icons hiding.)  A standard, lean computer should only have a few icons grouped by the clock after a reboot, such as the volume control, a network connectivity icon and (hopefully) an anti-malware program.  If you run special software that monitors a printer or scanner for an event, you might see that, too.

What you might also see are multiple instant messaging clients (AIM, Yahoo, Windows Live Messenger, MySpaceIM, etc.), media services (MusicMatch Jukebox, Quicktime, iTunes), updaters for several programs and a slew of other items.

Guess what?  You had to sit and wait for all those programs to load after you rebooted, whether or not you’ll ever use them.  You pay the “tax,” in the form of your time and your PC’s memory, for those programs to load every time you restart Windows.  What a waste!

Yes, you can toss more memory into your PC and it might actually run a bit faster.  It might boot a bit faster too, but you’re still paying that tax.

All too often, programs you install assume they’re your new best friend, and that you’ll want to use them all day, all the time.  It’s time to get tough.  It’s time to tell those programs that, while you might enjoy using them from time to time, they can’t dominate your computer’s resources.

One obvious solution:  Uninstall programs you aren’t using.  If MusicMatch Jukebox starts with Windows and you don’t ever use it (or don’t even know what it is), uninstall it!

Another oft-overlooked solution is to right-click the icons by the clock and look for ways to prevent them from starting automatically.  Many programs that haunt the Taskbar can be told not start with Windows.  You might have to dig through a few menus to find it, but it’s worth it.

Unfortunately, not every program is that friendly.  Some are hidden from view.  That’s where third-party applications like CCleaner can come in handy.  CCleaner, besides being a great tool to keep temporary (junk) files in check, can also be used to disable items that start up automatically.

Some items shouldn’t be tampered with.  Your anti-virus software should always be allowed to start immediately with Windows, and many anti-virus products start more than one service.  Don’t disable any of them.

Simple rule of thumb:  If you don’t know what it is, Google it.


  • I wrote about CCleaner’s file system cleaning features in a previous article.  You’ll find it here.

(This article was originally published in the Amarillo Independent newspaper.)

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