Once upon a time, I believed that the Windows Startup folder (Start -> All Programs -> Startup) showed me every program that the system executed upon boot. Oh, to be young and ignorant. The Startup folder is a convenience for Windows users. Any application can register a program for automatic startup in the Windows Registry.
Too many applications booting at startup can not only increase your computer’s startup time, but decrease overall system performance. Windows 7 comes with the Microsoft System Configuration Utility, which provides a listing of all software configured for startup. From the Start menu, click Run…, type msconfig, and click Enter. Click the Startup tab on System Configuration for a rather dry list of your startup apps.
For a richer interface with more options, download EnhanceMySe7en Free by seriousbit. EnhanceMySe7en brings a large array of Windows 7 performance and interface tweaks under the aegis of a single application. The Startup menu (Tools -> Startup Items) lists all running applications, and gives you the option of either disabling them or removing them from the Windows Registry altogether.
EnhanceMySe7en Free contains additional startup performance tweaks under its Optimizations -> Startup, Shutdown menu. Here, you can disable group policy on startup, turn off Last Known Good Configuration generation, and disable IDE auto-detection.
EnhanceMySe7en Free also integrates well over a hundred options for disk cleaning, Registry cleanup, Process and Service inspection, CPU caching, Aero features, desktop and Start menu management, and Internet and media applications.
On a side note, you can download the Pro version for a 15-day free trial, which contains enhanced system optimization options, a disk de-fragmentation interface, and a menu of network tools and tweaks. After 15 days, the Pro version costs $30. A caveat, though: when I enabled some of the advanced hard drive optimizations, namely Enable Boot Defrag and Optimize Hard Drives Behavior on Idle, Windows 7 on my HP 6730b crashed hard. As in, Black Screen of Death hard. Everything’s been smooth since that forced reboot, but be safe and create a System Restore point before turbo-tweaking your OS with EnhanceMySe7en.