Windows XP is very similar to Windows 98/95/Me with respect to programs running in the background. All your favorite applications can install "helpers" that run all the time and take up memory, take up CPU cycles, and add instability to the system. But, Windows XP has a bunch more of its own bugs that run in the background.
For the extra programs installed by your various applications (Lotus Smartsuite, Quicken, MS Office, RealPlayer, etc.), you stop them in similar ways to those in the earlier Windows versions.
You can move the unwanted programs out of the "Startup" folder. My favorite trick is to create a new folder on the Start Menu that I call "Startup-NOT". Then, rather than deleting the icons from the Startup folder, I just drag and drop them into the Startup-NOT folder. That way, they’re readily available if I ever want to start them manually or want to put them back in the Startup folder.
You can open a MS-DOS window from the Start Menu. Run MSCONFIG.EXE. You can use the "Startup" tab in MSConfig to uncheck the items you don’t want to run.
Or, you can edit the Registry using Regedit.exe to delete the particular items from the Run or RunOnce key. These are found in Hkey_LocalMachine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Run and ..\RunOnce . If you choose this option, back up the Registry first! I would recommend using MSCONFIG.EXE if possible, instead of registry editing.
My favorite tool for identifying and controlling programs, that automatically start when Windows XP runs, is WinPatrol. WinPatrol is available for free. The WinPatrol Plus version, which is the same program with a license key, gives you some additional functionality and, most importantly, access to the WinPatrol online database of programs and services.
With the Plus version, the online reference tells you what the program is and recommends the action for you — whether you should leave the program alone, whether it is ok to remove it or let it run, or whether you should remove it. The one-time license fee for the Plus version is $24.95. The license generously applies to all your computers — you do not have to buy a license for each machine!
Good question. Some of these programs run as "Applications." Others run as "Processes." To see what’s running, press Control-Alt-Delete to open the TaskManager. Some of the programs shown as processes are started from the registry, while others are actually started by programs which are started by the registry or Startup folder.
For example, since I have Norton Systemsworks Professional which includes WinFax, I have a process that starts automatically called WFXSNT40.EXE. It’s started by the Registry. I could edit the Registry to remove it, or I can run MSCONFIG and uncheck it, so it doesn’t start – then I could go back and check it again if I need to send or receive a fax.