Computer Booting Too Slow?
Watch those Add-ons!

Description: This document describes a possible cause of a slow bootup and how to fix the problem. The system tray and its impact on the bootup process are described.
Audience: Intermediate to Advanced
Time to Complete: 15 to 30 minutes

     A word about third-party screensavers, desktop themes, wallpaper, etc.
The System Tray
    Identifying System Tray Items
    What to Do
III. Other Resources

I. Overview
A common PC problem is a sluggish bootup. You may notice that it takes a long time to run through the bootup process and the desktop doesn't appear for several minutes. If  the system appears to function well after bootup, viruses or spyware are not likely to be the problem. There may be a number of causes for system slowness on bootup, but a good place  to check is the Windows system tray.  The system tray is in the lower right-hand corner of the desktop and it contains icons for some of the programs that load on startup. If there are too many programs loading on startup, or if you don’t have the system resources to support the programs you are loading, your PC will be slow on bootup. This document will help you to examine the programs that run on startup and decide if you want to remove them.

A word about third-party screensavers, desktop themes, wallpaper, etc.

Third-party screensavers, wallpaper, or desktop themes can be a drain on system resources.  They slow bootup and also create a drag on system performance overall. These utilities are generally installed for entertainment value and are no more effective than Windows-provided utilities. These often appear in the system tray and can be removed by following the steps outlined in this document.

II. The System Tray
You will find the system tray in the lower right-hand corner of your desktop (right end of the task bar). The system tray has a “hide” feature, so if you have more than a few items in your system tray, you may need to click on the double arrow to the left of the icons (see image below). This should reveal all of the items in your tray. If you don’t see an arrow, you probably have only a few items.


By the way, if you want to remove the “hide” feature (so that all icons display), right-click on the system tray, select Properties, and uncheck Hide inactive icons.


Identifying System Tray Items
A few of the common icons and their associated programs are identified in the picture below:

Some of the programs listed in the system tray are essential to PC functioning. In the image above, Symantec Antivirus and Novell are examples of icons/programs that should NOT be removed from startup. However, other items may be unnecessary or frivolous.

How did all of the icons get there? Usually an application will ask you whether you want it to load during startup during the installation. Therefore, keep a close lookout for this question when installing any application. Don’t let it load during startup unless it’s critical (e.g., anti-virus software or a personal firewall). 

A tray full of icons is the most obvious sign of an overloaded system. The more programs that are loaded on startup, the slower the computer's bootup process is likely to be. Many applications, when installed, add themselves to the startup group. Below are some examples of  overloaded system trays:



The following kinds of programs are not essential to PC functioning, and may slow the boot process:

  • Instant messaging programs such as Yahoo, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, etc.
  • Mail programs such as Yahoo Mail
  • Weather utilities (e.g., Weatherbug), games, clocks, or other add-ons
  • Peer to peer or filesharing programs (such as Kazaa, Napster, Limewire, Morpheus, BitTorrent, Grokester)
  • Search toolbars
  • Realplayer or Realplayer Jukebox
  • Stock tickers
  • Screensavers, desktop themes, etc.

What to Do
First you need to identify what the programs are. You may recognize the icon if you use its associated program, but many icons will be unfamiliar. To find out more about a program in the system tray, move the cursor over the icon or right-click on the icon. Usually this information will help you identify the program.  The Web site “Answers That Work” ( maintains a list of common startup items and their uses. Once you know what each item is, you can decide what to do. Basically there are three options:

Option 1.             You use the program occasionally but do not need it loaded automatically on every startup.
Option 2.             You don’t need the item/program at all and can remove it from your computer entirely.
Option 3.             You need the item/program to load on startup (you use it, or its function, frequently).

IMPORTANT: Never remove a program unless you are certain what it does. You may want to contact the Help Desk or your computing consultant for help in identifying icons and deciding what to do.

OPTION 1: To remove it from the system startup, but leave it on your computer in case you need to us it, follow these steps. 

  1. Right- or left-click on the icon to see if it displays the program options.
  2. Usually a menu will display. Look through the menu for an option to remove the program from the startup menu.
    --A menu choice such as 'Remove from System Tray' will probably only remove the program until the next reboot. 
    --A menu choice such as 'Check here if you don't want this program to load with Windows' will remove the item permanently.
  3. If there is no option to remove the item permanently from the system tray, launch the application and look for that option. If you don’t find it, you will need to manually change your system configuration. To do this, contact the help desk or your computing consultant.

OPTION 2:  To remove the programs from your machine via the Add/Remove program menu, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Start menu.
  2. Choose the Control Panel.
  3. Choose Add or Remove Programs.

  1. Look for programs that are uneeded or undesirable, and remove them by clicking the Change/Remove button and following the instructions. Do not remove unfamiliar programs.

OPTION 3: If the system tray is not overloaded, or if you need all of the items in the system tray, contact the help desk or your computing consultant for further troubleshooting assistance.

III. Other Resources

PC World Guide to Removing Unwanted Startup Items:,aid,73163,00.asp
Let My Resource Go:,aid,18393,pg,2,00.asp