Best Free Startup Manager

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Introduction

Startup Managers (sometimes called “Setup” or “Configuration” tools) allow you to control, configure and review the programs and services that start with Windows.

It is possible to do this within Windows (msconfig, registry, policies, etc.), but these programs are easier to use and provide extra information and facilities. Vista offers excellent startup management from the "Manage Startup Programs" applet in the control panel.

There are a lot of options (paid and free) but we prefer the free stuff. Here are the best options, properly analyzed.

 

Rated Products

Autoruns  

Most comprehensive amongst all startup managers


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Comprehensive display of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, logon entries, explorer add-ons, etc., zoom in on third-party auto-starting images added to the system.
N/A
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Starter  

View and manage all the programs that run automatically whenever the system loads


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
The user interface is pretty simple and has a lot of options that are self-explanatory.
N/A
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WinPatrol  

Alert you to new startup programs or any changes that may occur without your knowledge


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
The power of multiple programs without the bloat of a security suite.
Real-time monitoring is limited to commercial version.
Read full review...

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Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

I'd like to see a major function fully described for each app, please: the ability to find and stop any program running, at any time.

For example if you find something running in Process Explorer that you don't want, and that you know is not system-critical, and that has obfuscated user-control options - like Internet Explorer or its add-ons such as elowutil.exe for example (yes, I know there is another way to turn it off), then does the Startup manager have the ability to locate and stop that process permanently? And can it override any protections that process has to keep itself running?

Many thanks :)

[And OK if this function is implicit in these apps, then fair enough, but if so can it be stated please :) ]

 

I am still using CodeStuff Starter without problems, but the fact that it has not been updated since 2009 should be listed as a "con." I definitely want to check out the Glarysoft product suggested below.

You should look at Glarysoft's Quick Startup. It quite easy and simple to use and has a nice GUI also.

Just letting you know that the old codestuff - starter homepage is permanently down. I think it's been moved to the below address.

http://codestuff.obninsk.ru/products_starter.html

I suppose the softpedia link for codestuff-starter still works though?

Thanks a lot. The information has been updated :).

Mike Lin's Startup does the trick for me.
http://www.mlin.net/StartupMonitor.shtml

Extremely small (1MB private bytes and 80K working set according to Process Explorer, 60KB download), instant reaction time, properly written interface (no unnecessary menus or glitchy/fancy displays... just an interface the way it should be made). The site suggests Mike hasn't looked at it since the days of XP, but I vouch that it works gloriously on Win7.

Great article and helpful as always. I've been using Starter for a couple of years now, it's been an excellent replacement for StartupCPL which I used all the time in XP. One of its useful features is the ability to add a startup item from running processes rather than having to navigate to the relevant directory.

I agree that Autoruns is rather heavy for everyday use but it's still a great app when you need to check out entries that Starter doesn't cover. Also System Explorer has a very useful module for autoruns.

Anyway I just logged in to mention that the Codestuff website sadly appears to be no more so the link on this page no longer works. Starter can still be found on the usual freeware sites but I haven't been able to find the actual developer anywhere which is a shame and the program's built-in updater no longer makes contact. Would love to hear any news of what's happened to Codestuff if anyone knows.

Fwiw I've also found that Startup Delayer now works fine (has been updated I think) in W7 both x86 and x64 if you don't mind playing around with it a little, i.e. it doesn't always find all the autoruns so they need to be added manually. Still a great program and helps to ameliorate W7's annoying habit of not loading all the systray icons properly, especially on aging machines.

The one thing i'm looking for is not discussed here. I'd like a startup manager that lets me decide the order in whitch programs start so as to make sure my security software is working before windows connects to the internet and before any other potentialy dangerous program has a chance to run.

I don't really like seeing my firewall's splash screen after my online game updater's tray icon, it makes me nervous.