If your Surface is performing slower than it used to, especially at start up, it may be because you have a lot of startup programs that you don’t need, or even want, running in the background when you start your Surface and/or log into it.
Sadly, with Windows 8.1, it can be bit troublesome to figure out where all of your startup programs are being called from. This is because there are several locations in the registry and the (somewhat hidden) startup folder that you might need to search through to find them all.
Fortunately, there is a free program you can run on your SP3 (or SP/2) to find and control all of the startup programs locations.
In this post, we’ll be looking at Autoruns for Windows from Sysinternals and covering how to use it to help clean up your Surface’s startup programs, look up what unfamiliar processes/programs are, and even check to see if something is malware.
Of course, you can use it to check out your startup entries and not change anything if you’re just curious. Regardless, it’s a good tool to be aware of.
Startup Programs on Surface Pro 3: Install Autoruns for Windows
The version of Autoruns for Windows I’ll be using in this article is 13.01. I only mention this in case you find this article at some point in the future, after the application has been updated, you’ll know why it looks slightly different.
Also, I’ll only be working with the GUI (Graphic User Interface) version but you might be interested to know there is a command-line version if you need it.
Installing Autoruns is incredibly easy. Just do the following…
- Go to the Autoruns for Windows website – HERE
- Download the latest version of the program from the link at the bottom
- Extract the contents of the folder to your preferred location
You probably noticed that this isn’t really an install process. That’s because the program is designed to be self-contained. This is really nice because you can just copy the executable to a USB drive or network location and run it from there.
Startup Programs on Surface Pro 3: Running Autoruns for Windows
Now that it’s installed, you should start Autoruns as Administrator. This will avoid problems when using the program later.
You can do so by doing a tap and hold (or right-click). Next, select Run as Administrator from the context menu and the program will start (after giving you a “are you sure?” popup).
When you run the program, you’ll get a window like the one below (click on it for a slightly larger version)…
From here (the Everything tab) you can see the name, location, description, listed publisher, path, and timestamp for each entry.
If you want to narrow down the scope of what you’re looking at, you can choose one of the other tabs which will cause you to see only the items that fall into that category.
Startup Programs on Surface Pro 3: Find Bad Entries
To cleanup your startup programs and improve performance, the first thing you will want to look for are red or yellow entries. Autoruns tags suspicious entries in red and missing items in yellow as in the example below.
Unless you know why those entries are there, you can probably delete them safely (I’ll cover deleting entries in a bit).
Startup Programs on Surface Pro 3: “Optional” Entries
You can also delete entries that are for “optional” features that you don’t not need but are still running and slowing down your computer. A good example from the screenshot below is the Opera Launcher.
This program is not needed to actually run Windows (or even Opera) it is just always running in the background to provide some minor functionality. If you are tech-savvy and feel confident you don’t need it, you can remove optional entries from your Surface and get a bit of performance back.
But, be careful and proceed at your own risk because you may delete something you need.
Startup Programs on Surface Pro 3: Lookup Entries
If you run across something that you’re not sure about, you can get more information by doing a tap and hold (right-click) and selecting Search Online as in the screenshot below…
This will open a web browser and search for information on that process or program (much like Task manager does). In addition, you can select Check VirusTotal and a link will appear under the VirusTotal column as below…
This option submits the program or service to the VirusTotal website which runs several virus scans to make sure it’s not malicious. If you want to see a detailed report of the results, just click on the link.
Startup Programs on Surface Pro 3: Deleting Entries
Now that you have an idea how to find bad, missing, and optional startup programs, you can delete those entries by doing a tap and hold (or right-click) on the entry and selecting Delete from the context menu as in the screenshot below.
WARNING: You can screw up your Surface really quickly by deleting the wrong entries. This is especially true for things in the Task Scheduler, Services, and Drivers categories. So, make sure you really want to delete it before doing so.
If your startup programs need some cleanup, I hope this article helps you improve the performance of your Surface Pro tablet. Just remember to be careful when deleting entries. If you’re ever in doubt, leave it alone.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.