I have 10 favorite programs that always launch at boot time: an alarm reminder, an e-mail checker (freeware PopTray), Macro Express (a sophisticated keyboard macro program), a backup scheduler, TrayDay (which displays a small "today is"-style day number), and a few more. I'll grant you that boot time is extended while these programs load, and I'm willing to accept that longer boot to have my favorite utilities at hand.
I don't want some of my installed programs to boot up when I start the computer each time. What really gets me are annoyances such as QuickTime -- they just sit in the System Tray waiting to be used (but rarely are) and take time to initialize at boot-up time.
Fortunately, Absolute Startup 4.2 Home Edition ($19.95) puts you in absolute control of what happens when you boot your machine. If you need to stop an adware program from launching in the background, for example, a single click of your mouse traps it and turns it off (see illustration).
QuickTime offers no menu option to control its start-up behavior. Fortunately, with Absolute Startup, I was finally able to get rid of QuickTime's autostart (and its pesky icon taking up space in my System Tray).
Unlike many utilities that work with Windows, the options and descriptions given on Absolute Startup's main screen actually make sense. No obscure references to things I don't understand. QuickTime was clearly marked; I simply clicked on a button to toggle the option from "boot at startup" to "disable." I could have chosen "remove," but figured I'd wait to see if doing so would interfere with running QuickTime -- something I might want to do occasionally.
You're not limited to "run" and "not run" options. You have the option to start a program on certain days or at specified times or with a user-specified delay after startup. You can "stack" application execution (starting one after another starts), too.
It doesn't matter how programs have glommed onto Windows: Absolute Startup works wherever the programs are hiding: Registry, Windows' startup folders, or in the win.ini file. If you need more detailed information, you can trace the startup process and learn about any changes in it.
What you can't do is save groups of programs in user-defined configurations, then specify which group you want to use on the next startup.
The program also comes in a "standard" edition ($29.95) that can manage Windows services and includes a startup optimization wizard. A 21-day free trial is available at the company's Web site: http://www.fgroupsoft.com/Absolutestartup/.
-- James E. Powell