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How can I stop applications and services from running?

I've installed some applications that I mostly like, except for the fact that they all decided they were too important not to auto-start. None of them give me any option within the application to disable the auto-start "feature."

Can I stop these applications from auto-starting? And if so, how?

Note: My phone is not rooted, so I'm especially interested in solutions that do not require a rooted device, but all answers are welcome, even if they require rooting the device, since I may do this eventually.

Also note: I'd prefer not to fiddle around with clumsy auto-kill features in task-killer programs, as I've found them to be incredibly unreliable on my phone (Motorola Milestone/Droid).

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You could kill the apps after they start, but contradicts your question's requisites. Do these apps really create that much overhead? If so, I'd look for alternative apps that don't auto-start. –  Matt Casto Sep 16 '10 at 2:28
    
It's not really an overhead issue, more an issue of bugginess; they seem to run fine interactively but I've seen them inexplicably eat up enormous amounts of CPU and therefore battery in the background. And then there's apps like Google Finance that just have no business whatsoever auto-starting. I do of course look for alternatives but as I'm sure you know, it's not always that easy to find a perfect fit. –  Aaronaught Sep 16 '10 at 23:38
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That's quite normal behavior for Android. Android manages running applications by firing Intents. Most of the time, you shouldn't need to control/kill apps that automatically runs, Android manages resources smartly, and will kill and resurrect applications as necessary to provide as much services as needed given the memory constrain. If a particular app have a disturbing behavior though (e.g. turning on GPS/Wifi all the time and sucking up the battery), simply uninstall them. –  Lie Ryan Oct 19 '10 at 12:12
    
I found Android Assistant to be useful to some extent, since it's really not a "preventer" but rather a "killer" (after a tasks start) and also there are some applications/services with which it cannot deal and it asks the user to force close them manually. –  uTubeFan Sep 22 '11 at 23:28
    
Merged android.stackexchange.com/questions/2258/… into this question –  Bryan Denny Aug 17 '12 at 13:10
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marked as duplicate by Matthew Read Oct 3 '12 at 23:11

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9 Answers

I'd recommend the application Autostarts.

What it does (citing from the Market description):

Keep control over your phone: See what applications do behind your back.

Shows you what apps run on phone startup, and what other events trigger in the background. Root users can disable unwanted autostarts and speed up their phone boot.

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There are some apps around that will claim to offer this functionality. However, they are basically task killers under the hood. This means they will allow the app to load, and then kill it. This means that extra battery power is used to kill the app, and then it will probably be reloaded on some event trigger later, only to be killed again.

Honestly, if you use these apps, and don't want to uninstall them, the best thing is to just let them load. They will use a bit of memory, as long as there is some that isn't being used. As soon as something needs the memory, then the system will kill the app - and believe me the Android system has a better idea of which tasks to kill than any dumb task killer.

There is a good description about why task killers are a bad idea here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=6426198#post6426198

Otherwise, there is no way to do this on an unrooted phone, unless the app specifically gives an option to disable auto-startup. On a rooted phone, however, there are a range of apps that are able to actually change the way broadcast intents are delivered to apps, meaning they can pre-emptively be prevented from starting.

To be honest I struggle to think of a reason that an app might want to load a service at startup, that it couldn't achieve by just registering a broadcast listener. Services should typically be used for background tasks that have a limited lifetime. Some apps may load a service at startup to do some processing, but will then typically close it once that processing is complete.

However, that said, not all developers understand the rules. I would rather uninstall a badly written app that consumes resources like this.

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These are good points, and task killers are probably going to become extinct eventually as the new devices gain processing power and memory. Still, my question isn't born so much out of an anal-retentive concern that the apps are wasting resources, it's born out of observation of apps that are too useful to uninstall entirely but clearly buggy in their implementation - to the point of literally turning my phone into a mini space heater. –  Aaronaught Nov 28 '11 at 21:42
    
Understood. While the task killer approach will certainly work for apps that ONLY respond to phone startup events, some apps will respond to other events too (e.g. location changes, SMS arrival, email, incoming calls, app install/uninstall etc). For those apps the task-killer will be perpetually re-closing the app everytime it loads. It may be a useful tool in this case, but just keep an eye on it. –  Martin Nov 28 '11 at 22:24
    
'Course I wouldn't have asked the question if I was satisfied with task killers - but it bears mentioning that we are talking specifically about startup apps, meaning that the objective isn't to prevent the apps from running at all (otherwise they'd be uninstalled), just to have better control over when they run. –  Aaronaught Nov 28 '11 at 23:04
    
I have updated my answer, hopefully to clarify. I just saw a lot of task-killer being recommended in other answers, knowing that wasn't what you were asking for. I'm quite familiar with the Android source, and basically wanted to say there that unless your phone is rooted then all of the solutions rely on killing the task once it has started. –  Martin Dec 2 '11 at 21:12
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Can you enlighten me on the “range of apps that are able to actually change the way broadcast intents are delivered to apps”. Tell me three, please. And maybe some keywords to search for the rest. Add their differences if you know. –  Robert Siemer Apr 9 '13 at 12:55
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I doubt you can fix this without rooting the phone, if you are ready to root, you can try:

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These look promising, in particular the second one, insofar as it explicitly describes different behaviour for root and control over all of the triggering events (not just system start). I'll give that a try very soon. –  Aaronaught Dec 2 '11 at 16:47
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Though not a dedicated app for this purpose, the System Tuner free app has the feature of disabling "startup apps".

You can find that option by scrolling the list of buttons below in the app and select "Apps" then choose the "startups" tab.

This seems to perform things in a much better fashion than other startup managers.

I am not sure if it works exactly like a auto task killer or if it explicitly requires root (other features of system tuner may be the ones demanding root actually)

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Android is an OS specifically designed for resource constrained environment. Android manages resources intelligently, and will kill applications when other applications need to use memory, and resurrect them later to restore service. Unlike some other phones, which sacrifices basic smartphone functionality, like multitasking, by only allowing one running application at a time).

As for how Android determine how to resurrect apps, it's mainly determined by Intents. Applications can register to be notified by the OS when certain events occur, e.g. the phone starting up, you're entering a particular location, the wifi gets turned on, etc. When handling notifications (Intents), the application (or parts of it) may get resurrected. In a sense, conceptually in Android, all installed applications are always running all the time and you have conceptually infinite memory. The OS will kill and resurrect applications as needed to maintain this illusion.

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How I hate crappy answers... Or actually not answers at all! The OS will not maintain any illusion, but make the phone slow, because endless apps hang in memory all the time and the OS keeps killing and launching. – This questions asks about how to keep apps from being run. –  Robert Siemer Apr 9 '13 at 12:58
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Please, please, please, please put down the task killer.

It isn't needed. The operating system knows how to handle and end applications just fine. Otherwise you are going to waste performance/battery because when you kill a task it is going to re-spawn back up. And if you killed a task that was writing to disk (or a database), then you could potentially create corruption.

The only time you ever, ever, ever should kill a task is if it is obviously running wild or hung up (and usually when this happens you get the Force Close screen. If not, go to Settings --> Applications --> find your app and kill the task there).

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Frankly, I don't give a damn about (for example) Maps' corruption when it's running automatically after rebooting without ever touching it. It doesn't need to store any data. What is it doing writing to the disk anyway? And indeed, I wouldn't run a task killer that runs automatically (that'd be ironic actually). –  Luc Feb 18 '13 at 22:15
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You don't really want or need to run a task killer. See: http://android.stackexchange.com/questions/9/do-i-really-need-to-install-a-task-manager

Apps on the Android are pretty well-behaved. If an app is starting automatically it's because it needs to. Well-designed apps that may or may not really need to run automatically will have an option in their settings to turn that on or off.

Note that unlike your PC, having extra RAM doesn't improve performance so much. It's better for your often used apps to already be in RAM when you launch them, so that they don't need to be loaded. Running with little to no free RAM is a good thing on Android, and the OS does a good job of killing things it doesn't need any more.

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hmm the example of application which starts automatically are instant messaging clients, which causes me to go online when I don't want to, and sync clients which i suspects drains the battery a lot. –  Louis Rhys Oct 20 '10 at 8:15
    
thanks for the info that small available RAM is a good thing, +1 :) –  Louis Rhys Oct 20 '10 at 8:16
    
Every app I've seen that syncs for you allows you to modify the frequency of its syncing. Making it less frequent will drain the battery a bit less. –  Al E. Oct 20 '10 at 12:33
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Startup Manager. Looks a little buggy but it claims to actually prevent the startup of apps instead of just killing them after startup.

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This does look like it has at least a chance of working. It mentions that it supports "rooted and unrooted" phones so my suspicion is that it might truly disable apps on rooted phones and work as a task killer on unrooted phones. But it seems to be worth checking out regardless. –  Aaronaught Sep 16 '10 at 23:42
    
Just tried out the trial and after a reboot, one of the disabled apps still auto-started. It's a little more effective than some of the other apps I've tried, but whatever it's doing behind the scenes, it doesn't seem to actually be removing the startup entry from the system configuration. –  Aaronaught Sep 17 '10 at 0:01
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I just saw this this morning, it requires root however: xda-developers.com/android/… –  Matt Sep 17 '10 at 11:06
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+1 for answering to the point. –  uTubeFan Sep 22 '11 at 23:07
    
In order to prevent startup it needs to be rooted. The OP specifically has an unrooted phone. –  Martin Dec 1 '11 at 14:35
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You can use applications like "Startup Cleaner" or other similar applications

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Appears to be just a task auto-killer; can you confirm or deny this? –  Aaronaught Sep 14 '10 at 18:32
    
Actually I believe it is. :-( –  Ravi Vyas Sep 15 '10 at 0:34
    
+1 for providing links to tools that at least offer a chance to accomplish what I have been looking for. –  uTubeFan Sep 22 '11 at 23:08
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protected by Al E. Dec 9 '11 at 2:26

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