Reviewed by Terry Bibo
There seems to be a glut of programs such as this on the market now, with more appearing every month. Computer vulnerability is protected primarily by firewalls and anti-virus programs, but another weapon in the war against malicious software is the startup monitor and organiser. Many malicious programs can be surreptitiously added to the startup list and sometimes are disguised under the name of regular Windows system files. I expect to remove up to five from any uncleaned startup group I inspect. A basic but effective program is Mike Lin's Startup.cpl and its associate Startup Monitor that have been around longer than Windows XP. Flight Simulator enthusiasts have a specialised startup program, fsasv111.exe, that is tailored to their requirements but usable by anyone with sufficient computer awareness to set it up to meet their needs. But merely listing startup items and allowing their editing does not address the problem then faced by the user - what programs should be allowed to be loaded here and under what restrictions.
Complex programs like Absolute StartUp not only offer advice, but also try to make decision making on these factors both easy and reversible by keeping backups of changes. It is easy to make mistakes and these should not become a permanent detriment to operability. Every worthwhile startup organiser provides the command line, path to the executable program, and relevant registry entry of every startup item. The basic standard is the Windows system file, msconfig.exe that provides a sometimes-cryptic item name, a full command line with parameters, and the location of the registry entry. But it offers no advice or assistance on the validity or integrity of any entry. This must be provided by third party programs drawing on external databases. At the time of writing Absolute StartUp had a database in excess of 4000 entries for which it provided descriptions and a suggested level of requirement, broken down to:
· Definitely not required or harmful
· Not required at startup - can be disabled
· User's choice
· Normally leave to run at start-up
· Unknown program - the status of the program is not defined
This database is updated from the web at http://www.absolutestartup.com/startup/ in the same way we update our anti-virus programs.
Absolute StartUp presentation is very clean and initially allows access to all startup items from various folders, the registry and the Win.ini file, with the ability to add, edit, disable or delete any item. It also continuously monitors registry and startup folders' content to detect changes in startup items and informs you about them, giving you total control over startup configuration. In addition it provides a list of Windows services with a description of each one's startup state and whether it is running, and the System libraries (dynamic-link libraries or DLLs) that are loaded from disk into memory and searched during system startup. This is not an area that many of our users will want to enter, as it really requires a comprehensive understanding of the content. But for system administrators and competent amateurs it is an open door to sensible configuration. Absolute StartUp has a refined scheduling option that enables applications to be started on certain days, at a certain time, after another defined application or period of time, or with the establishing of an Internet connection. The selection of any one of these parameters is simplified by drop down lists and is the essence of clarity and simplicity.
The clarity of layout, abundance of features and precise help file make this a recommended program for interested computer novices, while the powerful extra options make it a valuable tool for the professional who also needs to control other users' startup configuration, and to backup all startup items to *.reg and *.bat files.
Absolute StartUp is distributed electronically over the Internet; the trial version is available at http://www.absolutestartup.com/ for evaluation. The price of a single copy is 29.95 US Dollars. Absolute Startup Home Edition comes without a database support and is priced at 19.95 US Dollars.