Best Free Startup Manager

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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.


StarterThe best choice for the average user is Codestuff's Starter.

As its primary purpose, Starter allows you to view and manage all the programs that run automatically whenever your operating system loads. It enumerates all the hidden registry entries, startup folders' items and some of the initialization files, so that the user can choose to temporarily disable selected entries, edit them, create new, or delete them permanently.

Secondary purpose is to list all the running processes with possibility to view extended process' information (such as used DLLs, memory usage, thread count, priorities etc.), and to terminate selected process (even a Windows NT service, having enough access rights).

AutorunsMy personal favorite is Autoruns.

This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations amongst all the startup managers, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them. These programs include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys. You can configure Autoruns to show other locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and much more. Autoruns goes way beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows Me and XP.

Autoruns' Hide Signed Microsoft Entries option helps you to zoom in on third-party auto-starting images that have been added to your system and it has support for looking at the auto-starting images configured for other accounts configured on a system. Also included in the download package is a command-line equivalent that can output in CSV format, Autorunsc.

WinPatrolAnother good option is WinPatrol.

WinPatrol takes snapshot of your critical system resources and alerts you to any changes that may occur without your knowledge. WinPatrol was the pioneer in using a heuristic behavioral approach to detect attacks and violations of your computing environment. It continues to be one of the most powerful system monitors while staying a single small program.

As a robust SECURITY MONITOR , WinPatrol will alert you to hijackings, malware attacks and critical changes made to your computer without your permission. As a MULTI PURPOSE SUPPORT UTILITY WinPatrol replaces multiple system utilities with its enhanced functionality.

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

Quick Selection Guide

Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Comprehensive display of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, logon entries, explorer add-ons, ect., zoom in on third-party auto-starting images added to the system.
500 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows XP and higher
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
The user interface is pretty simple and has a lot of options that are self-explanatory.
664 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 9x, Me, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
The power of multiple programs without the bloat of a security suite.
Real-time monitoring is limited to commercial version.
1.1 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Feature limited freeware
Windows (All)


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


startup manager, startup control, startup delay, free startup program, freeware

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by metatech on 13. February 2014 - 0:10  (114437)

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

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

by Anupam on 13. February 2014 - 7:51  (114444)

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

by Faziri on 10. July 2013 - 20:39  (109110)

Mike Lin's Startup does the trick for me.

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.

by sicknero on 9. May 2013 - 9:36  (107592)

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.

by Paxmilitaris on 26. February 2013 - 3:16  (105757)

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.

by MidnightCowboy on 26. February 2013 - 4:58  (105759)

Try this one. MC - Site Manager.

by David FB (not verified) on 14. November 2012 - 23:01  (102331)

Autoruns is great for diagnosing issues but is overkill for tweaking startup.

Starter is great - thanks for the suggestion. It allows much faster net searching to make a choice.

Starter has a choice to search which is no longer maintaining their database. They refer you to:
Decent place for searching your Startup programs.

The Nirsoft one suggested in comments is a little too basic.

Used to use Startup Inspector but it's been dying off.

by delray on 16. October 2012 - 20:04  (100859)

I've used Codestuff's Starter for a year or so. It's clean and does a great job. It will, with a right click, let you check out a starting app on the web helping me understand what and why an app is starting. Often I find I don't need it to run period. There are several additions other than startup it gives. Great program with consistent updates.

by mediaman13 (not verified) on 1. July 2012 - 23:42  (95633)

Really confused that you list autoruns as having no portable version. It's a standalone without an installer. By definition, that's portable. Your portable apps editor, Ratzo, lists it as the pick in the best portable startup manager category.

Don't get me wrong, yours is a fine article. Gizmo probably should remind some of the editors that a standalone without installer is basically a portable. Yours isn't the only category where I've seen confusion on this issue. I think some of the editors don't realize that a developer won't say, "here's our portable version" if the program is a standalone. Because they figure it goes without saying.

No big deal, but please correct this the next time you do a rewrite.

by meetsangvikar on 2. July 2012 - 11:16  (95646)

Thank you for bringing that to notification. :) Just made the appropriate changes.

by Anupam on 2. July 2012 - 4:25  (95638)

Your point about Autoruns not having a portable version in the review, is correct.

However, about the point of standalone, we need to clarify the situation. By standalone here, we mean that the program can be downloaded on the computer, and then run from there. It can be a portable program, or installable.

We have introduced this term to distinguish from web apps, which cannot be installed. I hope it makes sense now :).

Also, this category has been taken over by a new editor now. So, please give him sometime to update the review.

by Sonkido on 12. May 2012 - 9:27  (93389)

I've been using Soluto up until now, and I was really happy with it, but since a week(ish) ago it started messing really bad with the startup so I had to sadly let it go. I'll try Autoruns now.

by meetsangvikar on 15. May 2012 - 14:54  (93495)

True.. soluto itself consumes a little more than necessary resources.. and the timer at each startup becomes nervy at times..

by lastsaves (not verified) on 25. November 2011 - 18:19  (83889)

Starter is now portable.

[Moderator's note : link to direct download of file removed. Not allowed.]

by Zeus36 (not verified) on 21. October 2011 - 18:04  (81876)

I have Winpatrol on all of my computers. It's amazing how many times the little Scotty dog barks and alerts to something wanting to add itself to the startup.

by stefan555 on 18. May 2011 - 21:30  (72317)

What is the reason to mention Nir Sofer's StartUpRun here?
Nir Sofer tells on the page of StartUpRun that the program is obsolete. It has not been updated in 7 years. Nir Sofer recommends to use WhatInStartup for Win2000 and higher.
Am I missing something?

by BoltonianRose (not verified) on 7. January 2012 - 13:21  (86758)

NirSoft's StartupRun was replaces by WhatInStartup, the page for StartupRun tells you to use WhatInStartup plus a link to it, direct page here (not a direct link to download):

Please review it :)

Thank you for a great website.

by bibzgi on 3. October 2010 - 21:05  (58986)

This article by housecurrupt is excellent and so are the reader comments.

I've recently been using WinPatrol but I will check out the other ones in time.

My messenger program called Skype had been crashing on startup...I tried everything under the sky to fix that to no avail...finally, I deleted it as a startup program and now my Skype works when I give my 'puter at least five minutes to load up its various start programs.

Please note that I also had to uncheck the "Start Skype automatically in Windows" option within the Skype program.

I check my software programs for options within them to start or not start automatically when Windows loads up.

Unfortunately, I've seen some programs that don't have such an option and will preset itself to automatically start when Windows loads up. Any suggestions or advice?

by jree (not verified) on 20. January 2011 - 5:11  (64882)

I think you made the right choice picking 'safer' Starter over Autoruns. If all you want to do is control programs at startup, Autoruns is an overkill. According to this post, changing wrong entry could potentially lock yourself out of Windows.

by housecorrupt on 3. October 2010 - 23:06  (58996)

Hi bibzgi and thanks for the appreciation.

In those cases you have to control those programs through your startup program. Because of that fact and much more, it's always very useful to have a startup program...


by VV3iRD0 on 23. September 2010 - 23:17  (58331)

U still didn't review Startup Delayer...

by MidnightCowboy on 24. September 2010 - 8:18  (58347)

No support listed on their site for Vista x64 or Windows 7 which might be one reason.

by VV3iRD0 on 25. September 2010 - 20:08  (58430)

Such programs are usually still reviewed and the lack of x64 support is mentioned. (BTW it works on my Windows 7 x64 so...)

by housecorrupt on 28. September 2010 - 2:37  (58551)

I will test it in the next few days... ;)

by GlennWagner (not verified) on 7. September 2010 - 5:16  (57383)

There still doesn't seem to be a solution that allows you to control what will startup at startup. All the solutions seem to be enable/disable items then reboot. I want to load different subsets depending on what I am loging on for. E.g working with music load everything related to music and nothing that will be scanning the disk and interuppting the music. I would like to see an app that enables you to save various subset selections and "startup profiles" and then select which to use during the logon process. This to me seems far more logical than controlling startup after startup by rebooting.

by housecorrupt on 7. September 2010 - 9:15  (57400)

It's a good point... But I work with different kinds of software (one of them music production) and I don't have any item that needs to load at startup, but it's a good point of view.

We are open to suggestions ;)


by Anonymous on 4. June 2010 - 9:28  (51025)

I ran across a new startup manager, Soluto, that is very good. Tells you how much time it takes to startup each item and tells you if it can be delayed/eliminated, or if you should leave it alone. Made very significant bootup time reductions on my Win7 x64 system, from >5 min to <1 min. Just installed it today, but it looks like a great tool.

by MidnightCowboy on 4. June 2010 - 11:46  (51038)

Very new and still in Beta so not recommended for this type of program. That said, their objective has great potential if they are able to make the system work. Fix yourself for free or pay to have it done automatically is not a bad choice so long as the final doesn't impose more restrictions than this and their current privacy policy doesn't change.

Definitely one to watch as it develops.

by wesman on 4. September 2010 - 18:59  (57277)

Soluto is nice, but when it runs, it adds a good amount of time to the total startup.

by hra72 on 23. September 2011 - 15:15  (80200)

I agree too.
And about one year ago Soluto had some conflict with some other application or hardware driver... I can't remember exactly anymore - but I had to uninstall it (if not reinstall the whole Windows :)) And as I see on it's website, it is again "Beta" in the name... just in case :) ?

I am sorry, that my favorite CCleaner has no delay function.
That's why I am testing WinPatrol in last few days - it has even 3 ways of startup:
1. maximized,
2. normal window and
3. minimized in tray.

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