MSCONFIG: speeding up Windows Vista startup

The System Configuration tool MSCONFIG has different options and settings to make changes to the Windows Vista startup procedure. This tool can be used to disable or enable programs and services which are loaded at the startup of Windows. Tweaking the startup procedure can significantly speed up the time to boot the PC and save system resources. To start the tool, use the command MSCONFIG in the field Start Search of the Start menu. If Windows has just been reinstalled, there won't be much programs or services to disable. However it is still interesting to have a look whether there are still some items to be optimized.

Tab Startup
The tab Startup shows all the programs which are loaded at the startup of Windows. There are many programs which place a link here during the setup procedure, to make sure that (a part of) the program is loaded at startup. For each item you have to find out whether this is a desired behavior. If a program is deactivated, it can still be reactivated afterwards. If there is a virus between the startup items, in most cases it will be active again after a reboot. In this case the virus must be stopped first by ending the process in the Task Manager (press the key combination CTRL-SHIFT-ESC) or by starting MSCONFIG in the safe mode (press F8 at the boot of Windows).

MSCONFIG: tab Startup

In the example above, the security tool Windows Defender has been disabled. Find out for each item what it is used for and whether it is necessary to run.


If a startup item is not necessary for the specific use of the computer, deleting from the startup list is also possible by deleting the registry value permanently from the registry (see the column Location of MSCONFIG). Start the registry editor, go to the following registry keys and delete the unwanted registry values:
HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run and RunOnce
HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run and RunOnce

Deleting registry values is permanent! Export the registry values to a REG-file first, to be able to recover the registry values (double clicking the file will import them into the registry).

Tab Services
The tab Services shows the services which are started automatically at Windows startup. Most services are necessary for Windows, it is better not to change them. By activating the option Hide all Microsoft services, these (mostly) essential Microsoft services are hidden (this makes it easier to identify unnecessary services). The different security tools (like anti virus and firewall software) are shown among the remaining services shown on this tab. It is better to keep those unchanged as well. Actually, MSCONFIG is not the appropriate tool to make changes to the startup items on the tab Services. Use the default editor for services (opened with the command SERVICES.MSC) instead. Visit the page Windows Vista-services for detailed information which services are safe to disable.

MSCONFIG: tab Services


Because MSCONFIG is not that informative, it is sometimes better to use the tool AutoRuns (download: This tool gives more information about the automatically started programs (like the location where to find them in the Windows Explorer). The tool Process Explorer (download: is also very useful to identify startup problems because this tool makes it possible to investigate the running processes. See the page about the Sysinternals system tools for more information.


Visit to find out if it is not obvious what an installed program is used for (is it a trojan or not).

Tips for solving startup problems

Systematically solving startup problems
The cause of a startup problem like a blue screen (Blue Screen of Death; BSOD) is sometimes simply found by using the tool MSCONFIG. First make notes which items on the tabs Startup and Services are disabled and enabled before making changes to these items! The next step is to disable all items on the tab Startup and all non-Microsoft services on the tab Services. Restart the computer and check whether all disabled items are still disabled (if not, it is an indication of a virus). If not all items are disabled, start MSCONFIG while Windows is in safe mode (press F8 while booting Windows). Tactically reactivate items (start with the tab Services) and reboot the computer. Continue these steps, until the item which causes the problems, is found. The page about disabling/removing unwanted software offers additional information concerning this subject.

Removing an old installation from the boot menu
If Windows Vista is reinstalled without deleting the old installation (by partitioning and formatting), in most cases the boot menu shows two entries (the old operating system is still visible in the boot menu). To remove the older version from the boot menu (and the hard drive), first make sure the new version is the default operating system to start the computer. The next step is to remove the older version from the boot menu and to delete the installation folder using the Windows Explorer. These changes can be made with the command BCDEDIT, but it is easier to use the tool EasyBCD (download:

Damaged boot sector
If Windows does not boot anymore, it is possibly caused by a damaged boot sector. To repair the boot sector, insert the Windows installation DVD and restart the computer. Run the setup, select the language settings and select Repair your computer, select the Vista entry, click Next and select Command prompt. The command BOOTREC /fixboot will fix the boot procedure. The command BOOTREC /fixmbr will fix the Master Boot Record (MBR). The command EXIT will end the recovery console.

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