Be systematic

To find out which application is the problem, you need to take a systematic approach. There are two ways to do this: You can shut down all other programs, make sure the problem does not happen anymore, then turn them back on one by one, until it happens again. Most likely the last program you turned on before the problem reappeared is the culprit.

The other option is to shut down one program at a time, until the problem disappears. Most likely, the one program you just shut down is the culprit.

Prevent them from loading

The best approach is to make sure a possible suspect doesn’t even load on startup. Windows 98 comes with a built-in utility that lets you control what loads when Windows starts. Start this utility by going to Start/Run, typing msconfig and clicking OK. You’ll see a dialog with several tabs across the top. The last tab is labeled Startup. In here is a complete list of items that Windows loads automatically. Note the checkbox next to each item. Uncheck the first item, reboot, see if the problem persists. If so, go back to msconfig, re-check that item, uncheck the next item and reboot. Repeat this procedure until you found the culprit.

For more information straight from the horses mouth on how to use the MSConfig utility, check out this article from the MS Knowledge Base.

Shut them down


There is also a way to shut down a program that runs in the background of your current Windows session which does not require a reboot. You can push Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Close Program window. Now highlight the program you want to disable for now and click End Task. The Close Program window should disappear. Sometimes it can take a few seconds for the program to unload, so be patient. Other times, you might get another window informing you that the program is not responding. That window will have its own End Task button that you should push to close it for good. Repeat this process for every program that you want to shut down.

Be careful: Do not push Ctrl-Alt-Del while the Close Program window is still on the screen, it will reboot your PC, reload Windows and all those programs you were just trying to shut down, and you’ll have to start all over again.

Also, remember not to shut down Explorer. That’s Windows running and it’s supposed to be there.

The main advantage of the first procedure is that it will completely prevent that item from loading, and will not load that item again until you re-check its box. The disadvantages of the second procedure are that it will load all programs again as soon as you reboot and that it’s not as thorough because it might not completely get rid of the program or unload all parts of it.

Either way, you should be able to isolate the program that’s causing your problem. With that knowledge, you can take the necessary steps to correct it, e.g. uninstalling the program if it is no longer needed, upgrade it if there is an update, upgrade or patch available from the manufacturer, or at least temporarily disable it to avoid the problem when applicable.

To take this one step further, you can download a neat little program called Startup Cop. It not only lets you prevent programs from loading when booting, it also lets you create separate profiles so you can boot with only pre-defined applications running. This tool is especially helpful if you have Windows 95 which does not come with the msconfig tool.


– Alex –

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