Controlling program startups

There are times when you would prefer that many utilities and programs that load on startup would not do so. Here's how.

In Windows you may find that there are times when you would prefer that many of your utilities and programs that load on startup would not do so. Especially when you just want to get in and out real quick. Here is how.

When you are booting up you can hold down the shift key to bypass loading programs that are in the startup folder. But if the programs are not in the startup folder, they will continue to load even while you hold the shift key. To allow you to bypass all startup utilities requires a little registry hacking. Open Regedit and navigate to

HKEY_LOCAL_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun and
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun

In these registry keys are software that is started on boot-up. Locate the entries for programs that you want to control the startup of, and copy their registry values. Then create a shortcut in your startup folder with the copied value as the target. Be aware that the copied values will likely include spaces and long file names. So you should enclose the path in quotes, but leave any values that get passed to the application outside the quotes. For example, the latest version of AOL Instant Messenger plants itself in the registry. On my system I created a shortcut with the following path in the start menu ("C:Program FilesAIM95aim.exe" -cnetwait.odl). Take note of the placement of the quotes. They were not there in the registry value but are necessary when creating a shortcut.

Once you have created all your shortcuts you can delete the registry entries, BUT MAKE SURE YOU CREATE A BACKUP OF THE RUN KEY FIRST! That way it is easy to restore if you goofed. Also, don't use the shortcut method if you are not sure what the entry refers to. There are some things in there that just should not be bypassed at startup!

Once you have made these changes when you reboot, holding down the shift key will bypass all these startups.

Note: In Windows NT or 2000 it is wise to create the shortcut in the All Users startup folder if the registry run entry was in the LOCAL_MACHINE hive so that it is available to all users of the workstation, unless you are absolutely sure that you don't want every one having it.

And as always, for your own sake, make a backup of your registry before doing any editing as changes are applied immediately and are not undoable!

This was first published in December 2001

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