If you are troubleshooting your Windows XP installation, a prudent task is to boot up your machine without running the configured startup programs. Doing this can disable malicious programs from loading altogether.

Of course doing this could require quite a bit of effort if you were to manually edit the msconfig entries. Instead, try a shortcut mentioned in this Microsoft article, Troubleshooting the Startup Process, which is to simply hold down the Shift key while booting your machine. Doing this disables programs set to load in the following locations:

  • systemdrive\Documents and Settings\Username\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
  • systemdrive\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
  • windir\Profiles\Username\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
  • windir\Profiles\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

In order for this to work, you have to continue to hold down the Shift key until all the desktop program icons have appeared.

Additionally, this is a great way to make your computer boot faster to Windows as it doesn’t load all the programs in the background. You would, however, have to start these program manually if you wanted to use them.