win patrolIn a recent column, we suggested using “msconfig” or Windows 8’s task manager to prevent too many programs from loading at start-up, slowing down your computer. A reader pointed out that a free program called “WinPatrol” from does the same job and provides more information.

The reader said he liked it so much he bought the “Plus” version because it gives a thorough description of mysterious files. That solves the problem other readers have brought to our attention: How to decide what should and shouldn’t run in the background. One reader said he disabled too many programs and lost his audio. Of course he was able to get sounds back on quickly by simply checking “enable all” in the list of start-up programs.

As an alternative to WinPatrol, msconfig or Task Manager, another reader wrote to recommend  Type in the name of a process running on your computer and get an explanation. If in doubt about what it means or whether or not you need it, the safest path is to leave things alone. If you make a mistake, however, you can always click “start,” run” and “msconfig” (or in Windows 8, use Task Manager) to re-activate any start-up item you disabled. Task Manager is available by right-clicking the task bar at the bottom of your screen.

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