There are many reasons to keep an eye on the programs that start with your computer. From keeping tabs so you aren’t wasting resources to making sure that there isn’t anything running in the background that shouldn’t be there (security). It’s pretty easy to do a random check from time to time and we’ll walk you through it.
Explaining a little further
You don’t want too much clutter running in the background as this is going to take away from general system performance for everything else. Unless you have a flagship build (a high-end system), this can have a heavy effect on your experience. Therefore checking for anything that isn’t necessary and disabling it can make a difference if you plan to use your system for gaming or heavy multitasking.
Then there is the concern of security. If you download any form of malware that likes to quietly install things to run in the background, you can at many times find out by looking at what’s set to automatically start with Windows. If you see something fishy (or phishy–random pun), it might lead you to a discovery of something you didn’t know was there. Allowing you to take proper action.
How to do it!
The process is easy. Just keep in mind that you should tread carefully as you don’t want to click on the wrong thing or disable the wrong program. You are likely going to see a lot of programs listed, many of which are legitimate and are sometimes required for Windows or certain applications to function properly.
To get started, press the following buttons at the same time: Ctrl, Shift, and Esc. All of which are located on the left side of your keyboard. This will open your Task Manager. This screen allows you to see everything currently running in the background (and foreground) as well as things set to start with Windows, various system processes, and resources.
The initial tab lists the current tasks running. You can scroll through this list and look for anything suspicious. These items are actively running (as mentioned) in both foreground and background. If you see anything you don’t recognize, you can investigate further by right-clicking on the column titles and choosing “Publisher” from the list. This adds a new column showing the company behind each line item. Not everything will have something listed under Publisher, but at least you can rule out some of the obvious ones (like Microsoft, Google, and so on).
If looking for suspicious items, you may not know all of the keywords to look for but words like “miner”, “ransom”, or “worm” are a good start. For simply looking to reduce the use of background resources, look for the things you recognize and don’t need (ie, programs you hardly use). To end any of these tasks, simply right-click on one and choose “end task”. This only ends the current process though and won’t prevent it from starting again at the next reboot.
In order to see what starts with Windows, click on the “Startup” tab.
This is a list of everything that starts automatically. You can look for some of the same hints while browsing through the list for security purposes. As for reducing resource use, look for those programs you don’t need. Again, some items are required for Windows or applications to run properly. If it says “Microsoft” under Publisher, you may want to leave it. The same applies to certain apps like those from Adobe that sometimes have small processes that check to make sure software is genuine and not pirated, or have connections to cloud services.
Sometimes certain items could be obvious though. Like, if you don’t game much at all and see things like Steam or Blizzard listed under startup, you can disable those. They are typically cached information relating to game launchers. If you hardly use Skype but don’t want to install it, you can disable it from startup as well. A worthy option in the above screenshot would be Spotify.
If you right-click on an item and choose “disable”, it will stop it from running at startup in the future. If you can’t recognize something, you can sometimes Google the item “Name”. Just don’t get tricked into downloading software that you don’t recognize as many troubleshooting sites that specialize in this like to recommend sketchy programs from time to time.
If you are savvy enough, you can right-click on the column names and choose “Command line” to see the path of what is being triggered. Knowing where the file is located can sometimes help determine what it is. If you aren’t a techy/savvy person, you may get confused by this information though.
As mentioned, it is easy to end the wrong task or stop something from running at startup that shouldn’t be stopped. So tread carefully. At the same time, once you get comfortable with everything, you’ll see that this is an easy task to perform once in a while to keep your Windows install clean and free of clutter (or secure of sketchy items that shouldn’t be there).
If you find something running that you never use, you might as well uninstall it. There is no point in having something installed that you won’t use. For this, head over to Windows Settings, then to Apps, and right-click on the app you want to install in that list.
Windows 10/11 has a more user-friendly interface for managing startup items. Head to “Settings”, then “Apps”, and then “Startup”. However, the above instructions will work for most versions of Windows. Hence the reason we chose this path for everything.