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Windows 7: Startup programs not starting on boot

21 Aug 2012   #1

Win 7 64 Pro SP1
 
 
Startup programs not starting on boot

Win 7 Pro 64

I've seen some other threads on this, and I've been searching the 'Net for a couple of days. But I haven't found a solution, yet.

Starting a couple of weeks ago, (around Aug 3) I booted and noticed that a bunch of programs didn't start with Windows as they should. I'm pretty sure the only change that had happened since the prior boot was a Windows Update. Since I was in the middle of something for work, I decided to try a System Restore. That worked, so I put off researching the problem until I had more time. Then, a few days later, a new update came down that installed itself. In addition, it threw away the previous Restore Point. So, no going back, now. I limped along like that for a few days. Then, for no reason I can find, for two boots it worked perfectly. Then, another update, and it's back to not working. I fought with it for a few days when it started working for another few boots. Then, back to not working. So, it's intermittent, and the last 10 or 15 boots have been failures.

Running the programs manually works. No UAC warnings or anything like that.

In addition to none of the programs in my Startup folder starting, when I bring up the Task Manager immediately after a boot, only about 15 processes are running. Normally, there's more than a screen-full. So, I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of other things that are not getting fired off, too.

There are some things that are running. Under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Run I see some items that are running and some that are not. Actual Multiple Monitors, GFI Backup, and Input Director are running and visible in the System Tray. AutoVer, Steam, and WallpaperChanger are not running. I just searched Autoruns for every mention of Actual Multiple Monitors and do not see anyplace else that would fire it off (it's mentioned in a context menu handler.) After a quick skim, it appears that all of the services are starting.

This system has been running under Avast. I downloaded Malwarebytes and ran a full scan. It did not find anything. I ran HijackThis and pored over the log, and recognized or searched to find everything. Per a suggestion on the Tom's Hardware forum I ran the Kaspersky Rescue Disk, and nothing found. I ran sfc /scannow. No errors. The items do show up in msconfig, and they are checked. I downloaded Autoruns http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us [...] 63902.aspx and they show there, too. I looked in Event Viewer, and nothing jumps out at me, there. I do *not* see a slew of messages telling me about things that didn't run.

It occurred to me that Windows acts as though it thinks the Shift key is being held down. I had just added a new wireless keyboard and a new wireless mouse a couple of weeks before all this started. I thought maybe there might be interference. But, I tried a few different keyboards (including one wired) and two different mice, and none made a difference. I tried unplugging every USB device except for one keyboard and one mouse. I reconsidered the Shift key thing when I realized I'm *not* seeing stuck shift key behavior anywhere else in Windows.

Is there any way to get Windows to tell me if it thinks the Shift key is being held down? Or, some other way to get it to tell me which programs it wants to try to run and which it's bypassing?

I'm hoping I don't have to reinstall Windows. It would take a while to get everything installed and configured, again. And, the fact that it does occasionally work tells me that it *can* work.

Does anyone have suggestions on where to look next?

Thanks,

Drake Christensen


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

22 Aug 2012   #2
Microsoft MVP

 

It's best to run a Clean Boot anyway to keep the freeloaders at bay. Uncheck everything except your AV in msconfig>Startup and >Services after hiding all MS Services.

I'd also give it a good going over with Troubleshooting Steps for Windows 7
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Aug 2012   #3

Win 7 64 Pro SP1
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by gregrocker View Post
It's best to run a Clean Boot anyway to keep the freeloaders at bay. Uncheck everything except your AV in msconfig>Startup and >Services after hiding all MS Services.

I'd also give it a good going over with Troubleshooting Steps for Windows 7
Freeloaders? Is that the term here for Possibly Unwanted Programs? That doesn't apply in this case. This machine didn't have any shovelware installed originally, and all the programs I'm running at startup are the ones I've chosen to run. As I said, I have the machine configured pretty much the way I want it. It's a personal preference thing.

Just as a bit of added info, I'm running Memtest86+ v4.20. It had made it 86% through when I bumped the Esc key. Doh! I'm gonna go ahead and let it run again. But, chances are, if the problem were failing memory then it probably would have shown up already.

I plan on testing the hard drive, too. Is there a current favorite non-destructive hard drive test program?

I'll take a look at that troubleshooting guide. Who knows, maybe I've missed something simple and obvious. It's been known to happen.

While I'm doing that, I want people to feel free to continue with suggestions. Are there any diagnostic tools that illuminate the boot process that I haven't mentioned in my original post?

Drake
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


22 Aug 2012   #4
Microsoft MVP

 

Drake -

What programs need to start up with Windows and cannot wait to run until you want to use them?

The risk involved here is that almost all of them take advantage of Startup status to spy on you since the information is valuable for the company to use or sell.

I consider anything other than the AV and gadgets/stickies which must run at Startup to be a freeloader. In Windows 7 nothing else is needed to run at boot for any performance advantage, instead detracting from performance.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Aug 2012   #5

Win 7 64 Pro SP1
 
 

Um. Wow. I hardly know how to answer that. It sounds like you're calling me a fool for running anything besides an anti-virus program. Apparently I need to justify my choices.

I listed a few examples in my original post. I'm running GFI Backup. It takes several hours. I don't know why. Therefore, I'm currently trying out two Apple Time Machine-like programs called Autover and Genie Timeline. I'm trying to decide which I like for myself and which I think would want to recommend to my mom. I'm using a program called InputDirector which allows me to "move the mouse cursor" onto the other machine on my desk and control it from my main keyboard and mouse, but on the other monitor. I run Actual Multiple Monitors to make the taskbar behave on the multiple monitors on my main machine in a way that makes much more sense to me than the standard Windows behavior. And so on.

I'm also running Seti@Home. Just because I think it's geeky-cool.

You may need every single CPU cycle and byte of memory your computer has to get things done during your day. But I've got a quad-core CPU running at 3 GHz with 8 gig of RAM. I don't mind squandering a little for a few programs, some of which are convenient and some are completely frivolous.

I researched the programs before installing them. None have obtrusive nor annoying adware nor malware behavior. (During this exercise I went looking for a free program to install on another machine to burn an ISO. All of the former popular ones had great big warnings about obnoxious junk bundled with them.)

As I said, it's a personal preference thing. I could live without most of them, but I choose not to. Mostly, I like the choices I've made, though sometimes I do reevaluate (as in my backup example.) And, this setup has been running fine for two and half years.

But something has cropped up a few weeks ago. The fact that it's so specific, and that it intermittently works gives me hope that when I finally track it down it's going to be something fairly simple to fix. I just need to find the right diagnostic tools to tell me what Windows is up to.

So, back to my issue.

I skimmed the link to the troubleshooting page. I have done or was in the process of doing almost everything on that page. Including opening up the case and blowing out the dust regularly. One link on there does look promising. It pointed me at Process Monitor, and in the description it talks about monitoring the boot process. (Ack! Too many uses of the word "process.") So, that's what I'm going to look into next.

Again, I am actively soliciting any other ideas on tools or techniques to help me track this down.

Drake
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Aug 2012   #6
Microsoft MVP

 

Obviously you are misunderstanding the difference between installing and using a Program which is fine, and allowing the same program to needlessly write itself into msconfig>Startup and >Services to start with Windows 7 which is something else entirely.

I like TeamViewer, CCleaner, Puran, Office, Works, Partition Wizard Home, Acronis True Image, Quicktime and VLC players. None of those need to start up with WIndows. If I let even half of them do so it would impact performance noticeably.

I did miss one Startup which doesn't populate in the list but Sync's my User folders to the cloud and my other machines and devices, Skydrive. It is rarely noticeable even when I reinstall or reimage one of my machines and it is repopulating all of the folders for me.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Aug 2012   #7

Win 7 64 Pro SP1
 
 

Depends on what you mean by "impacts performance noticeably." The computer will take longer to finish booting. But once it's running, most of my programs sit idle for most of the time. That takes very few CPU cycles. It doesn't matter if they're installed as a service or not. In fact, the nature of the API for services makes them marginally more efficient. There are things that a process registered as a service is allowed to do that requires serious hoop jumping otherwise.

Also, the examples I gave were programs which do actually need to be running at startup in order for them to do the job that I installed them to do.

I will grant you that there is one that I mentioned in my original post, WallpaperChanger, which really should be set up to run on a schedule. I've never bothered because, again, it's unobtrusive, I've vetted it for malware, and I just haven't set aside the time to bother finding out if it has a run-once-then-quit option. As it stands now, Windows checking against its schedule is probably nearly identically as CPU intensive as WallpaperChanger doing the same thing for itself. It ain't broke, so it really hasn't been worth my time to "fix" it.

So, yes, I do understand the difference between installing a program vs installing a program that registers itself as a service or runs on startup.

So, once again, we're back to personal preference. You like knowing that your machine is running as lean as Windows will allow. I like tweaking my computing environment to fit how I want to interact with it and I'm willing to install 3rd party components to do that. Neither of us is "right." We each go with what makes us comfortable.

Which is all probably beside the point of this thread. I'll be surprised if we learn that it's the fact that one of these programs is a service that is impacting whether the Startup folder is being bypassed. I'm willing to put $1 down that it's going to be something completely different. I do mean that as a friendly wager. Wanna take me up on it?

I will be reporting back here when I finally figure out what it is. I don't want this to be another of those threads I've found that leaves this issue unresolved. Even if I end up punting and reinstalling.

Drake
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Aug 2012   #8
Microsoft MVP

 

Aha. OK Drake, what I was waiting to hear was demonstrated in the last post: that you fully understand the principle of not letting any program start with Windows unless it absolutely needs to. I had not heard that from you until then. Most users don't get this at all, so I was still trying to hammer it through. You are already ahead of most users on this, even though your startups were yanked in a strange manner.

If the problem doesn't reveal itself in the Troubleshooting Steps and you decide to reinstall, stick with these same principles to assure you'll get and maintain a perfect Clean Reinstall - Factory OEM Windows 7.

Most often strange anomalies like this result from excessive tweaking or optimizing.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Aug 2012   #9

Win 7 64 Pro SP1
 
 

Okay. Whew. Glad we got that cleared up.

I don't think that I'm guilty of excessive tweaking. Back in the DOS days, when some of the games I was playing struggled to hit 20 FPS, I had a multi-config.sys file with eight different boots. But today's hardware has reached the point where, even with all the stuff I have running in the background, the first-person shooters I play rarely dip below 60 FPS, even with most of the graphic goodies turned up.

I do find myself running regedit occasionally, but it's almost always for diagnostic purposes. I very rarely actually edit a value. And even then, it's to fix some specific issue. I'm not altering esoteric values looking for a half-percent improvement on a benchmark.

Just FYI, Memtest ran overnight and finished 10 passes, with no errors reported. I'm currently running the Hitachi Drive Fitness Test. It's almost halfway through, so it probably has a couple of hours to go.

Process Monitor will be tomorrow's task.

Drake
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Aug 2012   #10

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Drake I have this problem too. I've read scattered forum posts about the issue and unfortunately the replies are usually like gregrocker's. I did away with the issue for a few days by rebuilding the system tray icons with ccleaner and choosing to show each icon instead of choosing the show all icons automatically notification. It happened again this morning though. Some services don't load too. So I think this is a Windows problem. It's definitely not a failing hard drive or a virus problem. Do you have a video card?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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