Clean Boot Windows 10

by Eric Wyatt
(last updated December 23, 2019)

With our computers making our lives, as some would say, "easier," it's easy to forget that a lot is going on in these small, powerful machines. With each program requiring possible drivers, custom settings, and a whole list of other items, it's a possible recipe for conflict. This conflict can result in our computers running improperly. While your computer's running fine and smooth one day, the next it may seem sluggish or unresponsive. If you're not aware of what caused the change in performance, it may be necessary to look for the culprit(s). For many users, who are familiar with issues affecting their computers, they'll recommend starting in Safe Mode. Sometimes this can help, but if you need more control you will want to start Windows using a "clean boot."

Clean boot allows you more control than you are allotted with starting in Safe Mode. When your computer is restarted with a clean boot, you can control what programs and services are launched or run at startup. This allows you to focus on and isolate the problem and hopefully fix it.

Before we get started with how to perform a clean boot, it is important to know a couple of things. First, you must be logged in as an administrator. This is not usually a problem when you're using your computer. If you're in an environment where you have an admin or IT department, you may need to contact them to have them run a clean boot. The next item to keep in mind is that when you're running a clean boot, your computer may act differently than you are used to; this is normal. Just remember that when you're done you will restart your computer to normal operating mode. This is also not a quick process; remember that you are attempting to isolate any possible conflicts and that can take a bit of time.

How to Perform a Clean Boot

  1. Press the Windows button and type (without quotes) "msconfig", then press Enter. Windows opens the System Configuration app.
  2. Click on the Services tab at the top of the System Configuration app. This displays a list of services currently running on your system. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Services tab of the System Configuration app.

  4. Select the checkbox that says "Hide all Microsoft Services." This modifies the list shown by hiding all the services that are registered as being from Microsoft.
  5. With all the services selected (a checkmark is next to each service), press the button labeled "disable all." All of the services listed will then be unchecked.
  6. Click on the Startup tab at the top of the System Configuration app. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The Startup tab of the System Configuration app.

  8. Click on "Open Task Manager." This opens the Windows Task Manager window.
  9. Select the Startup tab at the top of the Task Manager window. You are shown a list of all the items that start when you start your computer. (See Figure 3.)
  10. Figure 3. The Startup tab of the Windows 10 Task Manager.

  11. Click on any items you feel might be interfering with your computer and click on Disable. Repeat this step, as needed, for all startup programs that you feel are impacting your computer.
  12. Close the Task Manager window. You should see the System Configuration window, still open to the Startup tab.
  13. Click the OK button. This closes the System Configuration window.
  14. Restart your computer.
  15. When your computer restarts, try to perform the or process that was having issues. If your problem has gone away, you will need to determine which service was causing the issue by systematically turning them on or off and restarting the computer after each change. Doing this can be a long and tedious process; to speed it up you can turn a set of the services on at the same time. To start identifying the issue:

  16. Repeat steps 1 through 3. The services tab will list all of the services on your computer though none will have a checkmark next to them.
  17. Select (click on the checkbox) each service in the top half of the services list. There should be a visible checkbox next to each service.
  18. Click the OK button, again this will close the System Configuration window.
  19. Restart your computer.

When the computer has restarted attempt the problem issue again. If the problem has returned, then one of the services you've turned back on is the problem. You will need to repeat steps 12-16, but this time turn off half of the services you turned on previously. Continue to do this until you have identified the issue. Once you have identified the problem service, you can contact the manufacturer of the program and see about a solution. In the meantime, you can run Windows with the selected service left disabled.

Returning Computer to Normal after a Clean Boot

Once you have completed the search for the problem program during the Clean Boot process, you can reset your computer to normal operation by following these steps:

  1. Press the Windows button and type (without quotes) "msconfig", then press Enter. Windows again opens the System Configuration app.
  2. In the General Tab of the System Configuration app, click on "Normal Setup"
  3. Click on the Services tab at the top of the System Configuration app. This shows a list of services currently running on your system.
  4. Unselect the checkbox that says "Hide all Microsoft Services." This will modify the list shown by unhiding all the services that are registered as being from Microsoft.
  5. Click on Enable All. This turns all the services back on.
  6. Click on the Startup tab at the top of the System Configuration app.
  7. Click on "Open Task Manager." This opens the Windows Task Manager window.
  8. Select the Startup tab at the top of the Task Manager window. You are shown a list of all the possible items that can be started when you start your computer.
  9. Enable all of the startup programs and then press OK.
  10. Select Restart when prompted.

Having gone through the Clean Boot process your computer should be free from any issues that you were facing before. While this process can be time consuming, it helps narrow down a culprit that brings your machine down.

 This tip (13716) applies to Windows 10.

Author Bio

Eric Wyatt

Eric Wyatt is a swell guy (or so his friends tell him). He is a formally trained designer and branding expert, bringing a wide range of skills to his Tips.Net articles. ...

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