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Msconfig - Microsoft's Secret Weapon to Increase Your Computer's Speed

It happens to the best of us - we buy a new computer, and it works great. It's fast, responds well, and does what you want it to. Just like a new car, you love driving, and can't imagine that one day it would ever feel like drudge work.

But that day will unfortunately happen. You can't expect your car to always work perfectly without regular tune-ups. Well, it's the same thing with your computer. It will begin grinding down, responding slower, and start-up boot times will take longer and longer. Why is this?

Most people know that "taking out the garbage" is one way to clean up their computer. Emptying the electronic trash bin, performing regular hard drive defrags and uninstalling little-used programs will help speed up your computer. However, one thing few people think about is the area that affects your computer's speed the most - the memory.

What often happens is that you will install a new piece of software - be it a video suite like Quicktime or an online reader like Adobe Acrobat - and these programs will, by default, load into your system right when you turn your computer on. Why do they do this? Well, the software makers say it's to load up their program faster. The reality is that it's a marketing tactic to make their program remain visible on your computer. They remain in your memory, consuming your computer's resources even when you don't use them. In my experience, the load time is not much greater if you do not have them in your memory in the first place.

What if you install a dozen other programs that "conveniently" load into your system as well? How about custom toolbars and control panels? All these programs loading into memory will eventually mean a snail will beat your computer in a race!

One way to disallow them from automatically loading is to go to each program's settings and uncheck an option that will say something along the lines of "Load at startup" or "Speed launcher" or some other fancy name. Another way is to go to your Start menu > Programs > Startup and delete anything that is showing in the menu. This won't delete the program, only the command to load at startup. However, this can be tedious and frustrating, as each program may have different settings, and some may not even give you an option! Luckily, there is one centralized way to do this - Msconfig.

Using Msconfig

Msconfig is one of the better utilities put out my Microsoft. Introduced with Windows ME and above, it gives you a central location to manage a variety of your computer's options. Before we take the tour, a warning - changing these settings can damage your computer, which is why Microsoft doesn't actively publicize this. Don't worry though, our only concern is to control what non-essential programs load into your computer.

The easiest way to access Msconfig is to click Start, then Run. Type msconfig into the box as shown:

Run dialog box

Click Enter, and you will be presented with the Msconfig screen. The tab we are concerned with is Startup. Ignore the others, as they are used for more advanced configuration settings.

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