Windows

Five tips for speeding up Windows boot time

The time required to start a PC has improved dramatically. Yet to many, it's still agonizingly slow. Here are a few ways to fix that.

If you get impatient waiting for Windows to boot, you can take a few steps to speed things up. The changes I suggest are not momentous, but they will shorten the time required to boot. If that appeals to you, read on.

1: Alter BIOS settings

Many hardware experts consider changing the system BIOS to use Quick Boot and Boot Device Priority a good idea. I have tried both on several computers. I did not see much improvement. But if you want to give it a try, all it requires is altering two default settings in the BIOS.

Unfortunately, it seems that every computer has a different way to access the BIOS. MVP Michael Stevens' Web site is the place to go for information on how to enter a computer's BIOS configuration page. Just be careful: One wrong move and the computer may not boot at all.

2: Disable unused hardware

Computers have hardware that activates at startup even though it's not used. That adds to the boot time. In Device Manager, look for unused network adapters, Bluetooth controllers, PCMCIA card controllers, modems, and multimedia devices like game ports.

Something new in Windows 7 is Virtual Wi-Fi Miniport Adapters. They are used to create a Wireless Hosted Network. Regardless of being virtual devices, they still require processor cycles at boot time.

If a particular device is not used, including virtual adapters, right-click on it in Device Manager (Figure A) and disable it. A word of caution: Do not disable any device located under Computer, Disk drives, Display adapters, IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers, or System devices.

Figure A

3: Remove extraneous fonts

Both Windows XP and Windows 7 load more than 200 fonts at startup. And that number jumps big time if Office is installed. Ask yourself: Are all those fonts necessary? If not, remove them. The computer will boot faster.

There are two removal options. Move the unused fonts to a different folder if you're unsure about usage. Or delete the fonts if there's no doubt. The following links describe how for Windows XP and Windows 7.

4: Let WinPatrol help

WinPatrol is one third-party application I refuse to be without. Besides helping to keep the host computer secure, WinPatrol can optimize booting. Once WinPatrol is open, pay attention to the following three tabs: Startup Programs, Delayed Start, and Services.

Startup Programs displays all the programs that start with the computer (Figure B). Do they all need to? If the program doesn't look familiar, highlight it and punch the Info button. WinPatrol will provide an explanation. If you don't think the program needs to start right away, disable it.

Figure B

Delayed Start (Figure C) is for people like me. We want a fast boot but get annoyed when programs have to be started manually. In my case, changing the printer and scanner executables to have a delayed start knocked almost five seconds off the boot time.

Delayed Start offers two additional choices: the length of the delay and whether the application opens in a normal window, maximized, or minimized.

Figure C

The number of services and what they actually do can be overwhelming. The Services tab in WinPatrol can help with that. Highlight the service in question and press the Info button. All available information will be displayed in a new window (Figure D). You'll see why this is helpful in the next tip.

Figure D

Another nice feature of WinPatrol is the List non-Microsoft Services Only option. Checking it hides all Windows services, allowing you to focus on third-party applications.

5: Use the Windows Services app to change startup type

WinPatrol helps you determine what a particular service is and whether it needs to be activated at startup or started manually when needed. The next step is to make the actual changes. That happens in the Windows Services app. Figure E shows the options available in the startup type window.

Figure E

Microsoft Vista and Windows 7 include a new startup option, Automatic Delayed. It is similar to WinPatrol's Delayed Start, but less granular.

Bonus tip: Remove crapware

I recently wrote an article on how to remove crapware from computers. While researching the article, I discovered that many of the unwanted applications start when the computer boots. Adding insult to injury, that increases the time needed for a computer to boot.

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47 comments
ArtShapiro
ArtShapiro

I use a little freeware utility called "Startup Monitor" (by Mike Lin) that asks one's permission whenever anything tries to put itself in the various start-at-boot areas of Windows. It's great to tame obnoxious programs like Adobe Reader and Quick Time that are constantly trying to foist their own update checks on everyone. Art

sahaavik
sahaavik

Though the WinPatrol is more robust, one can simply run msconfig and select the programs to load at start-up.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Use Sysinternals/Microsoft's autoruns. Will find drivers that are loaded but not needed or links to files that don't exist. Would like to remove the non-"roman" fonts [i.e. Chinese, Japanese, Indian, ..] that Windows 7 dumps in [they are restricted].

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

Uh am I the only person who can manage to fill the 2 minutes while my computer boots? Usually a few things around the office to do with a couple of minutes (like even getting a cup of coffee). For instance "In my case, changing the printer and scanner executables to have a delayed start knocked almost five seconds off the boot time." Really! 5 whole seconds!

Slayer_
Slayer_

Move your temporary internet files out of Documents and Settings. Documents and settings is indexed at each bootup and indexing the temporary internet files folder can take awhile. This is harder to do on firefox and Chrome, but not impossible. If you can, also move your Windows temp files out as well. Again, google search on how to do it. This one lady in our office had 30k files in temporary internet, this caused the "Applying settings" portion of bootup to take nearly 5 minutes. Moving the folder out changed her login time to near instant.

sparker
sparker

One of the most effective speed boosters is to change the Windows swap file from "windows Managed" to a fixed size. This will speed up your boot time as well as the shut-down time.

Animal13
Animal13

I'm using WIndows 7:32 Bit. I created an unused font directory. I went to Windows/fonts and tried to move the fonts I did not want (Japanese, Arabic, Jewish, etc.) and move was not an option. SO I copied them to the folder and then tried to delete them. Most of them are "Protected System Fonts" and can't be deleted. I have admin privs but Windows is being too smart and not allowing certain things in this folder. Is there a way to remove the fonts for languages I do not plan to use?

seanferd
seanferd

Don't forget to look under the System Devices. How many people use terminal services device redirector and similar stuff? You may or may not have anything here to disable; it depends on the installation.

brett2010
brett2010

Well, the single thought I had about this was not mentioned. I will be doing it on a machine I am building in the new year, based around an Intel i7 960. That is to use an SSD to hold the OS. No aps, just OS and drivers. This will give a boost of around 100% I am told (using Win 7 64 bit). There is no unused hardware, but moving unwanted fonts to another directory is well worth while also.

dgsmall
dgsmall

Here's the best tip of all! - - Get a Solid State Drive and boot from that. You won't believe the difference THAT makes. Don

Audiblenod
Audiblenod

I use Autoruns to manage programs and services starting on my system. If you haven't tried the Sysinternals suite yet, then now's a good time to start. Also, consider a slow boot time of a symptom of a larger problem and diagnose other aspects of system performance. Review your system and application event logs update all your device drivers along with security patches and clock your boot time regularly. Additionally, create a baseline when adding major software, in terms of start time and CPU resource consumption. From there, identifying problems down the line will be easier to spot.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The one feature that WinPatrol has that other apps doesn't is the ability to explain what the program or service is. To many inexperienced people, that is priceless.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That is great for you. Now consider the person going through a security check and they ask to start the computer. How about a person that is giving a presentation and needs to reboot. I could go on. I try to do my research so it pertains to the widest possible audience. That allows you to take from it what you want.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Your not the only one. Five seconds extra for my system to boot up.. woopty.. If I'm on the job I probably have a second machine already booted. If I don't have a second machine already booted then I'm probably not dealing with time critical productivity. I can see the challenge though. It's the same as tweaking for maximum graphics FPS; you'll never notice the differences without an FPS counter but good for you figuring out how to do it. Overlcoking proc/ram is the same again; challenge to get the max figures out of it rather than any practical advantage. It's a normal Ricer/Tuner challenge I'd equate to getting just the right size air intakes and cylinder bore size for one's engine or maximizing miles per gallon if your a "green" type car hacker.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Thanks for the tip. Do you have any suggestions as to what size it should be?

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

With the understanding that when you try to fool Mother Microsoft you may cause problems, you can delete any Windows file with Linux because Windows' access control and permissions are not active. Choose a LiveCD version of a distribution such as PCLinuxOS, open the file manager, and then select the drive or partition where Windows is installed. If you are working on a netbook/notebook without a CD drive, you can use a program like Unetbootin to load the PCLinuxOS ISO file onto a bootable USB stick. After you've discovered how powerful the LiveCD on a USB is, I'll bet that that USB finds a permanent home in your toolkit.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have been getting mixed information about this very subject. I am wondering if it is version dependent. I will try and get more information for you.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Now if the cost would come down. Apple will lead the way on this. I doubt they will have a mechanical HDD in a year or so.

ian
ian

Storage and price far outweigh speed for me. Maybe one day, but for now I can't justify the cost.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Imagine the SSD read times combined with a well tuned startup. (just don't get all Defrag'y on it)

Ron_007
Ron_007

it is very hard to find good advice on which specific hardware devices and services you can turn off without breaking things. There are a lot of cryptic names to decypher.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I thought about AutoRuns, but WinPatrol does that along with having other important features. Base-lining is always important. Thanks for bringing it up.

robo_dev
robo_dev

it does the same thing as Autoruns, but it's already installed. MSCONFIG also lets you reduce your boot delay timer, which by default is set to 30 seconds. I set mine to 3 seconds, which makes XP launch a bit quicker.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

There are many situations where a slow-booting computer is agonizing. You are fortunate that you do not have to deal with them.

kwolf
kwolf

I have always heard that your swap file should be 1.5 times the amount of physical ram installed. And, if possible, move the swap file to a separate physical drive if one is installed. Not a separate partition on the same drive as the OS, but a physical drive

gechurch
gechurch

As of Windows 7, Windows is now SSD aware. It knows whether the HDD is an SSD or a spinner and acts accordingly. I'm not sure what happens if you try to defrag an SSD under Win7, but it won't do the writes. If it's running on an SSD, Win7 also sends the fulsh command less often so fewer writes are performed. For earlier versions of Windows though you are absolutely correct - stay away from defrag!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

It is a big no-no to defrag SSDs. I found it fascinating how the memory physically breaks down.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

My take is that I leave it alone if I do not know what it is. I have experimented with some exotically-named hardware and found it did not reduce the boot-up time significantly. So, I just shut off things like BlueTooth and other major players.

jfuller05
jfuller05

is one of my favorite tools. It's helped me solve a lot of problems. After reading this article, I'll have to check out WinPatrol.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Or do you select certain ones to start first? Edit: Spelling

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I do still run into slow booting machines and have extensive experience from the past let alone being a Ricer class system tuner through the NT4, 2k and early XP days. I still sit infront my my machines and microwave screaming "come on!! hurry up.. why it take so long!!" It's one reason i don't game as much as I used too; can't be bothered to shutdown everything I'm doing in Debian and wait for a reboot just for a few hours of Shogun Total War. Granted, if a geek is the boot time or FPS counting type; have at it. I can appreciate a challenge for the challenge beyond any practical benefit. The people I really feel for are those (like yourself?) who have to live with machines that require in depth boot tuning to make it bearable.

sparent
sparent

... and don't forget to defrag before changing your swap file settings. This will ensure that your swap file will be contiguous. I used to go with 2 times the RAM for my swap file but have reduced it somewhat now that RAM is in GBytes. (I used to disable hibernation to save the space it would take on my hard drive. Now that the HD to RAM ratio is back around 500:4, it's not as big a problem. For a while, it was around 80:2)

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have a SAN disk that I use for ReadyBoost. I think it is similar to swap files.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Question for you. Why does it ask to defrag flash drives then? Is that a different process? It should be able to recognize them as an SSD.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

sadly, it took me more than two flashdrives lasting less than a week to learn about write limits. That week sucked. One nice feature if MyDefrag is a Flash profile which tries to defragment with as few data moves as possible. They still don't recommend running it regularly though. SSD is non-volatile RAM though so the only benefits defrag will offer is cosmetic. ("ew.. pretty.. the graph colours are all sorted")

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

WinPatrol does the same, plus a few other neat things. I think that is why I selected that over MSConfig. But, you are right in that MSConfig is already there.

robo_dev
robo_dev

it's the same as running regedit and navigating to the 'run' key and deleting registry keys. Though some people are not comfortable hacking around in the registry. How to use MSCONFIG "Built into Windows is a special tool called the "Microsoft System Configuration Utility" or simply "MSCONFIG." Designed to help you troubleshoot problems with your computer, MSCONFIG can also be used to ensure that your computer boots faster and crashes less." http://netsquirrel.com/msconfig/index.html

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