Microsoft

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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