Looking at the task manager this morning, I noticed a bunch of old/garbage items running -- like WDBtnMgr, which is a "button manager" for WD hard drives that was left over from when we briefly owned one (we returned it, partially because of the software it insisted on installing everywhere, and partially because it tried to be clever with power management and didn't always connect properly. In any case, why would I want a "button manager" for a hard disk?).
Anyway, while searching I found this site: http://www.wikihow.com/Alter-Startup-Programs-in-Windows-XP which shows how to use msconfig to disable the startup items.
But the most useful information on that page (for me, at least) is the link to ProcessLibrary, which is a list of all those cryptic process names with information about each one. Very useful!