Programs that start automatically with Windows can be useful – it saves you from having to manually launch apps you want to use straight away such as a chat client, for example – but there can also be a darker side.
Install a large number of apps on your computer and the number of startup programs can reach a level that means performance starts to be compromised. There is also the possibility that viruses and malware can install themselves a startup item, so it’s important that you monitor which program are in your list of automatic runners.
You may well have taken a look through the Startup section of the Start menu and identified a few programs that run when you switch on your computer – if you spot anything you don’t want to launch automatically, you can easily delete the relevant shortcut. But there are plenty of other ways in which components can be loaded, including through the registry.
AutoRun Angel is a free tool that can be used to analyze the programs that are set to launch when you turn on your computer and highlights anything that is potentially suspicious. This works using cloud technology to compare your startup items with a whitelist of apps that are known to be safe. It’s important to remember that things that start automatically with Windows can not only use up system resources and slow down your system but they can also pose a security risk.
Head straight over to the NicaTech Software web site so you can download a free copy of the program. The software is available free of charge and is just 1MB in size so you’ll be able to download it in just a moment or two. Run through the installer and launch the app so you can start taking control of your startup programs.
As soon as the program is launched, it will start performing a scan of the apps, drivers and other components and you’ll be presented with a list of everything that has been found. Depending on the amount of software you have installed you may find that this takes a moment to complete, but it should not take too long.
You may well be surprised at just how lengthy this list is – there are few other tools that will display such a comprehensive list of startup items. If you’re wondering how there could possibly be so many things automatically starting with Windows that you were unaware of, consider the number of different ways in which things can be launched – there are numerous location in the registry alone that can be used as launch points.
In some respects AutoRun Angel is a little limited as it does not give you a way to jump to whatever area of your system is being used to control a particular startup item, but it does provide you with the information you need to manually remove anything you would prefer was not running.
By maximising the program window or scrolling to the right you can view the location from which individual items are being launched. This means that you can manually visit that section of the registry, or other area of your system, and delete the shortcut to the item you would prefer was not being launched automatically.
But the real purpose behind AutoRun Angel is to perform a security audit. While you may well recognise the bulk of items that are running at startup, this may well not be the case for all of them. AutoRun Angel can analyze your startup items and check them against a safe whitelist. This is a list that is cloud-bases so it can be constantly updated without the need to download definition updates as you have to with antivirus software.
If the prospect of working through the massive list of startup items generated by the app seems a little daunting – mine extended to well over 200 items – just click the Scan button. You immediately notice that the list of apps starts to reduce in size quite dramatically.
Should you discover that there are any items flagged up as being malware, you should consider taking steps to remove them. This is not an app that will help you with the actual removal process, so you’ll have to work this out for yourself, but it does provide you with the relevant pointers – although it’s worth double checking in case there are any false positives.
As more people start to use the program, its success rate should increase as ever increasing number of files are analysed and correctly categorized as being either safe or dangerous. Should you discover that you have any files that are flagged up as being ‘unknown, you can hit the ‘Send unknown for analysis’ button so they can be looked at. If all users take this step, the database of files will just continue to grow and become ever more accurate.
AutoRun Angel is not a perfect app – it threw up a false positive, for example – but it is still an intriguing piece of software. If you’re the type of person who likes to know exactly what is going on in the background, this will furnish you with more information in one place than almost any other app; the fact that there is the option of performing security checks should be seen as something of an added bonus.
It would have been nice if the app allowed for easier control over what happened at startup, such as allowing for direct disabling of startup items, but it’s understandable why this option was not included. The fact that the app reveals such deep-rooted, system level components means that providing an easy way to disable them could lead to trouble. Have a play with this tool and let us know what you think in the comments below.