Autoruns is a free utility from Windows Sysinternals that will show you exactly what your Windows loads on each startup. While true there are other utilities that will show this same information, when you want every single possible detail, Autoruns is the tool to use.
By default, on launch the tab you land on is "Everything", and it will show information like this:
Important note to laptop users: You may see certain run commands that look "weird". For example, the one above that would look weird to most people is "Persistence" and "HotKeysCmds". Both of these are from Intel and particular to my Dell netbook. More often than not you will see weird/odd entries on laptops compared to desktops.
Another one that probably looks out-of-place is OA012Mon, which is for the built-in webcam on my netbook’s LCD panel.
If you see anything in your run list that you’re not sure is safe or not, simply search for it on the internet and you will get the info you need on whether it’s safe.
When and when not to freak out if you find something "bad"
Seeing something like this from the "Drivers" tab may freak you out:
(note the "catchme" portion)
…until you do some research and find out it’s nothing to freak out about at all.
The point is that if you do find something that "looks bad", search it first online to confirm it is in fact something truly bad.
On a final note, Autoruns is not exactly what you’d called a beginner’s utility. It’s very detailed and for some may be a bit overwhelming. What I mean by this is to NOT go unchecking everything in there, as it may render your Windows inoperable. Simply use Autoruns to make sure everything on startup is exactly what should be there and nothing more.
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