How To Stop Annoying Apps From Loading When Windows Boots

Photo: Lelia Milaya, Reshot

When's the last time you sat down and thought about how many apps automatically launch whenever you fire up Windows 10 on your desktop or laptop? You probably can't remember, because it's not really a thing most people do. But you should, because you don't need a bunch of unnecessary apps eating up your system's resources for no reason. If you have an underpowered PC, you're only making your situation worse. And, at minimum, having a bunch of background apps is going to make Windows 10 take longer to load.

How to view (and change) which apps start with your PC

Pull up Windows 10's Task Manager by clicking on the Start button, typing in "task," and selecting the Task Manager option. Easy. From there, click on the Startup tab, and you'll see a nice, long list of every little application that loads up when your system loads:

Screenshot: David Murphy

Tempting as it might be to just start disabling items en masse, you're going to want to be strategic about that which you stop. It's not an exact science, but here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • If the app looks like a miniature app that helps you launch a larger app you don't use all the time (e.g. iTunes Helper or Spotify), it's probably safe to disable it.

  • If the app needs to always be running for you to gain the most benefit from it (Dropbox, Razer Synapse, etc.), then you should probably let it launch at startup.

  • If the app makes your life slightly more convenient by loading in the background (Steam, Battle.net, etc.), treat these on a case-by-case basis. Do you really need background downloads for game updates, for example, or are you fine having an app download these updates only when you launch it?

  • If you're unsure — because an app has a really weird name or you just can't tell what it is or what it's doing — use your favourite search engine to get more information about what it is, what it does, and whether it's necessary. Windows 10 makes this even easier, as you can right-click on any app in Task Manager and select "Search online" to do just that.

  • For a little assistance, you can also install an app like Should I Remove It, which uses "the wisdom of the crowd (and of course our technical experts)" to help you figure out what might be safe to ditch and what you might want to keep.

My Startup List

To get you started, here's a quick breakdown of some of the various apps I've enabled and disabled on my PC (and why).

Enabled

  • Battle.net — Only because I don't like having to wait for game updates before I can play. I could have this not load on startup and miss almost nothing.

  • bzbui.exe — This sounds funky, but it's actually just Backblaze, my always-on backup tool. If it didn't run at startup, I'd really be stuck.

  • EarTrumpet — I use this instead of Windows 10's built-in volume controls, so it has to run when Windows starts, too

  • Dropbox — Same deal as Backblaze; if it doesn't run, it's not synchronizing files to and from the cloud, so might as well have it load up whenever my computer starts.

  • Steam — Same deal as Battle.net

  • Twitch — I have this run at startup so I can catch any updates to my World of Warcraft addons. I only do this to remind myself to update my addons, as otherwise, it doesn't take very long to do if you were to just launch the app whenever on your PC

  • Slack — So I can chat with Team Lifehacker always and forever

Disabled

  • Anything and everything Adobe-related — I don't really need any help launching Acrobat, PhotoShop, or any related updates.

  • Anything and everything iTunes-related — Same deal — it's never a problem to just load iTunes when I need it, so why have some weird "helper" app running in the background?

  • Spotify — Similar to iTunes, I can just launch this when I need it.

  • Macrium Reflect — I love the app, but I infrequently need to access this disk imaging tool, so there's no need to have it load when Windows starts up.


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