I’ve been using Windows Vista for three days now. While I’m not sure it’s a must -have upgrade for most people, there are some interesting features in Vista that are very cool and useful (once you find them, that is). One such feature is the new Software Explorer, which is part of Windows Defender. Software Explorer allows you to see several categories of programs, including: Startup Programs, Currently Running Programs, Network Connected Programs, and Winsock Service Providers.
My favorite is Startup Programs, which allows you to see all programs that load at startup. For the first time ever, Vista allows you to see if the program starts up for all users or just the currently logged in user. The information provided about each program is more thorough than msconfig (which is still present in Vista). Best of all, you can disable or remove a startup program. To get to to Software Explorer, do the following:
- Search for or use the start menu to navigate to Windows Defender.
- Click on Tools in the Windows Defender menu bar.
- Click on Software Explorer.
- If you want to ensure that you can Enable/Disable/Remove any of the startup items listed, click the Show for All Users button at the bottom of the Window.
- Click continue to give the User Account Control permission to change the registry entries required to disable startup programs.
- Click on any program in the list and you’ll have the option to Disable/Remove the startup items.
If nothing else, Microsoft may finally realize how important controlling startup programs can be.
Update (December 28, 2010): Windows 7 does not have the Software Explorer. As a commenter mentioned, going to Start > Run and typing in msconfig, then clicking the Startup tab will allow you to remove startup items with the click of a button.
Personally, I use a program called WinPatrol, which is available in a free and paid edition. I have used the free edition for years and love all the options it provides for changing startup options. It is a bit more complex than the built in offerings, however, if you want lots of control and lots of information regarding what’s starting up, it’s definitely the way to go.
If msconfig and WinPatrol are so great, why did I make mention of the Software Explorer feature? Basically because I like to know as many ways of doing something (such as disabling startup programs) as possible on a computer. You never know when when one method or the other won’t work or be allowed, so it helps to know as many ways to do certain things as possible!