Most of the time the items in the startup folder are there for reason. These are programs you access frequently or may need running in the background to perform some common task, such as synchronizing your personal digital assistant. For example, if you check Outlook for new email and to synch your appointment calendar every time your computer starts in the morning, why not add a shortcut for Outlook in your startup folder? That way, you can turn on the machine, get a cup of coffee, and return with Outlook front and center. You can concentrate on the tasks at hand, not on launching all your necessary applications.
But sometimes you might want to prevent startup items from running. Such a step could potentially speed up system logon times. Let's say, for example, that you've configured several accounting and graphics applications to launch at logon time, but all you want to do right now is quickly start the computer and check Outlook Express to see whether you've won the eBay auction. You don't need the other applications in the startup directory to launch as well.
Fortunately, it's easy to bypass startup items. Just hold down the Shift key while logging on (most of the time, you'll log on by clicking on your name in the Welcome screen), and XP bypasses items in the startup folder.
If your machine logs you on automatically after booting up, so that you are not presented with the logon screen, hold down the Shift key when you first see the Welcome to Windows XP screen where the user name first appears.
As another example, let's say that you examine the startup items, only to discover that you have put most of the items there. (Many applications' installation routines try to create a shortcut here.) To prevent an application from being a part of the startup folder, just access the appropriate startup folder in Windows Explorer (either All Users or the individual), right-click, and choose Delete. This prevents the application from starting at logon time, but will in no way harm the actual program itself.