Windows

How do I... Use BootVis to improve XP boot performance?

BootVis.exe is a free Microsoft utility that can help users boot their machines and access the operating system more quickly. Jim McIntyre shows you how it works.

Microsoft Windows XP was designed to optimize the boot process so that users can boot their machines and access the operating system as quickly as possible. For the most part, XP is successful. There is, however, almost always room for improvement, and BootVis.exe, a free Microsoft utility, can help you get the best boot performance possible from an XP system.

Editor's note: BootVis.exe is no longer supported or available from Microsoft. However, you can download the application from the TechRepublic Downloads Library along with a PDF version of this blog post.

How the Windows XP boot process works

A main cause of slow boots with Windows NT/2000 was their method for loading drivers. Prior to XP, Windows versions loaded drivers sequentially. Windows XP, however, loads drivers concurrently. It also records which applications are launched during startup. This information is written to the C:\WINDOWS\Prefetch\Layout.ini file.

When the Layout.ini file is created, XP performs a partial defragmentation on the files listed in Layout.ini. This defrag process attempts to make the files listed in Layout.ini available in one contiguous area on the hard disk, allowing these files to be accessed, and the associated drivers to be loaded, more quickly. This process is run in the background approximately every three days.

There are four factors affecting the defrag process:

  • The system must be idle for XP to perform the defragmentation.
  • There must be enough free, contiguous disk space to contain all the files listed in the Layout.ini file.
  • The partial defrag performed by XP will not create the necessary contiguous disk space. That can be accomplished only by running a full defragmentation with the XP defragmentation tool or a third-party disk utility.
  • The XP defrag process will not use a third-party utility to perform the defragmentation. Any external tools must be run on their own.

BootVis, which Microsoft describes as a "performance trace visualization tool," actually performs the same tasks as the XP boot process, except that BootVis allows the information obtained during a single boot to be used for optimization, rather than monitoring the system over a period of several days.

Download the file and then extract the BootVis.exe utility by double-clicking the archive file, selecting a location for the Bootvis.exe file, and clicking OK.

Opening BootVis and running a trace

To run BootVis, simply double-click the BootVis.exe file and the BootVis screen, shown in Figure A, should appear.

Figure A

Here is the BootVis main window.
The first step in tweaking or troubleshooting your boot process is to run a boot trace. Click File | New | Next Boot + Drivers Trace. The Trace Repetitions window, shown in Figure B, will prompt you for the number of repetitions (reboots and traces) to run. Go with the defaults and click OK.

BootVis will now provide you with a 10-second countdown before it reboots the system and performs the trace, giving you time to cancel the reboot and close any applications you might have left running. Click Reboot Now to bypass the countdown or Cancel to cancel the reboot.

Figure B

Select the number of reboots and driver traces for BootVis to run.

Once the system reboots, BootVis restarts automatically and provides individual graphs for the following system activity areas (This can take a few minutes, so be patient.):

  • Boot activity
  • CPU usage
  • Disk I/O
  • Disk utilization
  • Driver delay
  • Process creates

Reading the boot activity graph

The Boot Activity graph (shown in Figure C) breaks the boot process down into the following components:
  • Disk: The time required to detect all devices in the nonpageable device path. This entry can include any device from the CPU to the boot disk. This value should be around two seconds.
  • Driver: The time required to initialize devices.
  • Prefetching: The time required to read pages that are later used to initialize devices. This entry also includes Winlogon, services, the shell, and any applications loaded when the system boots.
  • Registry + Page File: The time required to read the registry and initialize the page file.
  • Video: The time spent setting the display mode and refresh rate. This time is affected by both the video BIOS and the video driver used.
  • Logon + Services and Shell: The time required to startWinlogon, any services, the shell, and any applications, such as firewall or antivirus software, that are run when XP starts.

Figure C

Here is the BootVis boot activity graph.

The components are displayed in the order in which XP calls them and are read from the bottom up. Each component's bar begins at the point in the boot sequence when the component was called and the bar's length reflects the time in seconds required to load the component. To determine the time required for any individual component activity, place the cursor over the title for the component.

To get the most important number, the time used to boot the system, place the cursor over the vertical line that crosses through all the components. This line represents the time the system took to boot. In the example in Figure C, the system required 33.84 seconds to complete the boot process.

One item of note, this boot time is dependent on the time it takes the user to enter the logon password, if one is required. Make sure to enter the password as quickly as possible when testing a system.

Optimizing the boot process

Now that you have an indication of how well the boot process is going, the next step is to optimize the system. To optimize your system boot, click Trace | Optimize System, and BootVis will present you with a 10-second countdown before rebooting. When the system reboots, the window shown in Figure D will appear, indicating that BootVis is using information gained from the previous boot and the current boot to optimize the system.

Figure D

BootVis is optimizing the system.
The next window, shown in Figure E, appears when BootVis actually begins to place the files specified in the Layout.ini file in the area of contiguous disk space created during the defragmentation process run prior to using BootVis.

Figure E

This shows BootVis organizing files on the hard disk.

When the window shown in Figure E closes, restart BootVis and run another boot trace by clicking File | Next Boot + Driver Trace. This will allow you to see how much improvement was gained from the optimization process.

Figure F shows the results on my test machine. After running the optimization, the boot time was reduced to 30.85 seconds -- a difference of almost three seconds. As I mentioned earlier, this value is affected by the time it takes to enter a logon password, so enter the password as quickly as possible. While three seconds may not seem like a lot, I have seen this value change by as much as 10 seconds. And in today's world, where we expect instant-on computers, every second counts.

Figure F

BootVis reduced my test machine's boot time by nearly three seconds.

Identifying driver problems

Now that you know how to optimize a machine's boot process with BootVis, let's look at how to troubleshoot boot issues involving problem drivers. BootVis can identify drivers that cause problems during the boot process and will indicate them on the Driver Delay graph, shown in Figure G, with a red bar.

Fortunately, my test machine does not have driver issues. If it did, I would check the manufacturer's Web site for the latest drivers.

Figure G

BootVis reports no driver delays on my test machine. If it did, they would have appeared in red.

BootVis can only do so much

BootVis tries to optimize the XP boot process as much as possible, but it can't work miracles. If a machine loads antivirus, firewall, and/or e-mail programs when booted, BootVis can only do so much. Remember the phrase "Your mileage may vary," and use BootVis within the context of how you use your system. This will help you achieve a compromise between a fast boot and a system you can work with as soon as it boots to XP.

67 comments
Darr247
Darr247

Number of Physical drives in the trace is 0. Trace file has invalid system configuration information. is the message I get on each machine (with only SATA hard drives) I've tried it on. Brand new XP Pro SP3 installs, then motherboard-specific drivers, plus IE8, plus WMP11, plus .NET 1.0 through 4.0, plus MSE & definitions, then all 115+ updates for XP (and those extras) applied. So I guess the only solution is to setup a some Scheduled Tasks to run " %windir%\system32\shutdown.exe -r " every few hours and let them run for 3 or 4 days so XP arranges the load order itself.

prorank
prorank

i was having a problem booting, i would see my desktop icons but my start menu and clock etc... took forever to load, close to 2-3 minutes. then i followed the instructions above and now it boots it less than 45-60seconds SWEET thank you so much fo rthe help and telling me about bootvis. I reccomend it to anyone with a slow boot. Have a great day! Maddog

UTouchedMe
UTouchedMe

BootVis doesn't seem to recognize my hard disk or perhaps the hard disk controllers. Specifically, on my 2006 HP Pavilion a1250n that runs XP Pro with SP3, I get the following error after each "Next Boot + Drivers Delay" trace: "Number of Physical drives in the trace is 0. Trace file has invalid system configuration information." Are there any work-around recommendations or perhaps a substitute program that I can use to speed up my shut down and start up times?

rn018b5249
rn018b5249

Bootvis works extremely well, in my opinion, 333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333333 experts in their own field, but not necessarily experts in this particular utility. To get it right so you can always have the best optimization file for your setup and how you want to use it, and the precise and most informed authors on thiss ubject, You have to find published directions from various sites and draw your own conclusions from that. This site, for example, even goes to the lengths to show you informative graphics. My best advice, is bookmark any bootvis sites you favour because of content, layout, explanations, then identify where they differ. At this point you are going to emd up eliminating some because they failed to convince on points that other authors had convincing comment to say; and let's not forget that folks who log in here, have to go through a hellish information collecting exercise, in order to post a reply. I admit it a nuisance to have to decide the right and wrongs of various guidance, then cross off the list the items though to wrong or not supported by a body of opinion. At the end of day you have to be satisfied that you have the best guidance. One thing I would do, though, is set repetitions to 3, so as bootvis can process these files to look for differences or bottlenecks that could be avoided if application responsible could be started later. You do havw to be very precise about running bootvis, its apparent sinplicity seems too good to miss; When you've invoked bootvis, do not take any actions, such as move moouse, scroll any open displays, before the bootvis application message comes up, which can sometimes be 15 seconds on some machines, especially if they are doing a background task. The app needs to disabled, unless it is doing something that is absolutely necessary to your use of the hardware.When you see a confirmation that bootvis trace(s) were successful, i would shut down the system & cold reboot. If you had set number of repetitions to three, the prcess will repeat itself twice more, doing its own shutdown/ restart operatations. Leave it alone for these also!

walterdryja
walterdryja

Notify me via e-mail when new posts are added to this thread

HapGail_HomeInMd
HapGail_HomeInMd

From Hacking Windows XP; Steve Sinchak, page 166, Using Bootvis to analyze your system start. A Misconception arose because Bootvis is capable of starting some of Windows XP???s boot optimization features that are normally run by the operating system after it has fully analyzed the boot. However, Bootvis was designed to be a performance analysis and diagnostic utility, not a speed boosting app. Because users were using Bootvis for the wrong reason, and because use of its advanced boot optimization features could possible do more harm than good, Microsoft decided to remove the tool from their site.

letter_2_roy
letter_2_roy

Mr.Jim McIntyre (author), With due respect, I am very much fond of this e-article of you. Because, I will help me for ever. With thanks & regards, swapan singha roy.

sura.jan
sura.jan

When I don't receive the Boot Activity Graph because of "Number of Physical drives in the trace is 0. Trace file has invalid system configuration information." error then bootvis doesn't help me. It runs on some comps, not on the others. It's a pity that no substitution of Bootvis exists.

Doug Vitale
Doug Vitale

Well, it looks like BootVis did not get along with my SATA drive, Windows XP SP3, or both. It got hung up on the "Optimizing system for boot performance" dialog box, and after 20 minutes I killed the process. Now it takes longer to boot into Windows. I wish BootVis had an "undo" feature. It looks like BootVis hasn't been updated since 2003. I don't think it's a good idea to use such old software on modern hardware and software. Caveat emptor.

chandu
chandu

is it possible, xp instalation from usb flash drive from the begining

ExcitingMike
ExcitingMike

Did anyone read mfc133's post? He knew what I and probably hundreds already knew, this is not tool to improve boot performance, it is used for tracing/analyzing only. The author needs to check his facts. Rob C, I'm with you, turn PF off. And while yer at it look for and purge any boot-time registry crapware: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\ & HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce\

Rob C
Rob C

I believe one of the goals of PreFetch is to make the boot faster. I believe we should try to make the boot process as uncomplicated as possible, NOT as fast as possible. I turn Prefetch off. I don't care if the boot takes 3 time longer, I am content to know that there are less things to go wrong during the boot. Let the flames begin. Rob

seanferd
seanferd

While the optimization offered by BootVis is probably unnecessary if you have a decent defrag program, the Trace function is kind of nifty. If you do want to try the Optimization, but nothing is working, here is what I've found: 1) To get Trace to work properly, you may need to disable any type of 'execution guard' that comes with a firewall or anti-malware program. This means disabling any Service belonging to the program, and disabling any auto-run as well. 2) For Optimization, the Task Scheduler service must start automatically. 3) You may need to disable anti-virus and firewall software auto-runs and services. 4) Disable auto-starting defragmentation software and services. That's what I did to make it work, just for kicks. Is it worth it? YMMV.

canajian_eh
canajian_eh

Note the comment from Microsoft that BootVis is included in Xp and is run automatically. Also MS's note no benefit from end user running it.

lkuhlman
lkuhlman

I'm trying to track down a driver that hanging on my Vista 64 Business system...

Larry Huisingh
Larry Huisingh

My Boot Activity chart has no data points. It also only has Video, Registry+Pagefile and Disk (no data for these, though). No Shell, Logon+Services, Prefetching or Driver portions. I do have data for Disk I/O and Disk Utilization charts.

tgfj
tgfj

Not much really; on loading it gave and error then no graphs but after much re-installing it worked although I cannot look at the thing twice because I get a timestamp error. After optimising the boot time changed from 79.4 seconds to 165 seconds. I'll leave you to guess what I've done!

mdiaz
mdiaz

interesting post, and I agree that all the engineering required to install Bootvis to shave 3 seconds off a boot is a complete waste of my time. Now if only MS could actually optimize the boot so it was really fast. I'm not enough a techie to understand the OS steps and why they take so long, I just want it to be FASTER! Ciao!

mfc133
mfc133

Please note that Bootvis.exe is not a tool that will improve boot/resume performance for end users. Contrary to some published reports, Bootvis.exe cannot reduce or alter a system's boot or resume performance. The boot optimization routines invoked by Bootvis.exe are built into Windows XP. These routines run automatically at pre-determined times as part of the normal operation of the operating system. Taken from: http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/sysperf/fastboot/default.mspx

geo
geo

This one has been around for a long time. I tried it on a couple machines in the past and didn't see any noticable difference whatsoever.

warwick_TechRepublic
warwick_TechRepublic

Crap !! Doesn't do a thing !! I look at the Boot Activity and I have a blank graph. My CPU and DISK ACTIVITY graph say it all - but is incorrect, my disk is defraged (O&O professional). TOTAL WASTE OF MY TIME.....

satydg
satydg

i was testing it on machines in our domain. It doesnt seem to work as it shows the progress report however does not have data for the boot delays or drivers trac.. the graph area is blank...

Sean Byrne
Sean Byrne

It's a pity Microsoft no longer supports this tool, as it doesn't seem to recognise certain hard disk controllers (or hard disks). For example, on new HP PC I have running Windows XP SP2, it displays the following error after each "Next Boot + Drivers Delay" trace: "Number of Physical drives in the trace is 0. Trace file has invalid system configuration information." On the PCs I tried where this tool works, the optimisation process has had anywhere from a negligible effect to around 10 seconds quicker booting. From my experience, it works best on PCs with excessive boot times (e.g. over 1 minute), where the system already has plenty of RAM.

prorank
prorank

i was having a problem booting, i would see my desktop icons but my start menu and clock etc... took forever to load, close to 2-3 minutes. then i followed the instructions above and now it boots it less than 45-60seconds SWEET thank you so much fo rthe help and telling me about bootvis. I reccomend it to anyone with a slow boot. Have a great day! Maddog

seanferd
seanferd

Or use the checkbox you just named posting. Welcome to TR.

seanferd
seanferd

It should help. Select any available options for speeding boot or defragmenting drivers or files called by prefetch. Note: If the Task Scheduler service is not running, optimization will fail. Anti-virus, firewalls, or other security apps may interfere also. In my post above, I describe what i had to do to get all features of BootVis to function. It may not be worth the bother for you, so running a quality defrag utility (while the system is otherwise idle, perhaps even in Safe Mode) should sort you out. http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=269580&messageID=2553609 What may have happened is that defragging the files failed after the process had started, leaving the relevant files more fragmented than they were to begin with.

edeng8
edeng8

Is there any printed or downloadable user info available for use of BootVis other than the McIntyre article? I installed it and it confirmed my usual start up time of about 3 minutes (190 sec). I then reran as instructed and now it is 232 seconds! I will try turning off some stuff as suggested to see what happens. Any other ides ideas?

Rob C
Rob C

Thanks for that. I have raised my suggestion in the past, and you would not believe the attacks I received (from experts). Rob

Doug Vitale
Doug Vitale

...but I'd like to make the point that it is NOT a good idea to periodically delete the contents of the %systemroot%\Prefetch folder. Many Windows users think that it somehow speeds up Windows performance to delete the prefetch files when they delete the temporary files on their system. This is simply not true and is actually counterproductive. If you use prefetch, don't mess with the files in the Prefetch folder. Thank you.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Thanks for the additional information. Everyone needs to note that this is an unsupported utility and is designed to work with Windows XP only. Certain hard drive controllers are too new to be compatible with the app, so use with caution please.

seanferd
seanferd

It is at microsoft.com, as MS liked them so much, they bought the company. There is also a whole slew of other interesting tools. I don't think I'd try BootVis with Vista. It's unsupported as it is, and doesn't work on all hardware. I don't think that it will identify your problem driver, but it would change the disk layout if fragmentation were the issue, at least on XP.

AzWiz
AzWiz

If you look in the second paragraph it's stated: Editor?s note: BootVis.exe is no longer supported or available from Microsoft. However, you can download the application from the TechRepublic Downloads Library along with a PDF version of this blog post. Most offshore tech support responses miss half or more of the original complaint because it's not fully read (or comprehended). This post is a good example of that. My motto: don't complain if you haven't fully read the article, it only makes you look foolish.

impalassz
impalassz

I agree with all of you about shaving off 3 seconds doesn't seem sufficient enough for an operating system. I have not tried BootVis yet , but I can tell you I have tried TWEAKXP and that is def. a program many of you should consider. It's got all the tools you need to make your XP system bootup faster and as well as a lot of tweaking. It's also got a tool that it will login you in automatically so once you bootup your system no need to press crtl+alt+delete it will just bootup and come up to your screen. I have found this to be a very great assest in day to day operations. Of course I am only using this at home so just an fyi in case some of you have not heard about it. You can do a search in google once again it's called TWEAKXP so hope this will help.

sura.jan
sura.jan

But I've found recommendation to clean Prefetch file using Ccleaner, Advanced, clean old Prefetch items. If you don't do it you have many unused items on the Prefetch (uninstalled programs).

rclark
rclark

This goes back to when XP first came out. As a large builder of PC's we tried it on most of the first hundred or so machines that were built. There seemed to be little if any difference, and there were problem reports about its use. Put this down as another TC "golden oldie".

UTouchedMe
UTouchedMe

Is there another software program that I can substitute for BootVis? It seems not to recognize my hard disk or perhaps the hard disk controllers. Specifically, on my 2006 HP Pavilion a1250n that runs XP Pro with SP3, I get the following error after each "Next Boot + Drivers Delay" trace: "Number of Physical drives in the trace is 0. Trace file has invalid system configuration information." Are there any work-around recommendations or perhaps a substitute program that I can use to speed up my shut down and start up times? Christopher UTouchedMe@ymail.com

bo9b
bo9b

I have found Unibluee's Speed Up My PC product to do the same thing as BootVis. It even uses the same icon in the powerbar. You do have ot pay for it by there is a free version www.uniblue.com

phenningsen
phenningsen

I have the same problem: "Next Boot + Drivers Delay" trace: "Number of Physical drives in the trace is 0. Trace file has invalid system configuration information." Is there any way to fix / work around? System is a 3 or 4 year old Dell Dimension 8400 running XP, SP2.

bo9b
bo9b

I believe that the main issue on not working may be the SATA drives . . . I followed several threads and many lead to that or RAID controllers.

buddyfarr
buddyfarr

Unfortunately I get the same error when my trace is done. :(

Doug Vitale
Doug Vitale

Yes, the Task Scheduler service on my PC is disabled :-( No AV is running, though. "What may have happened is that defragging the files failed after the process had started, leaving the relevant files more fragmented than they were to begin with." This was exactly my thought. I ran AusLogics Disk Defrag (http://www.download.com/Auslogics-Disk-Defrag/3000-2094_4-10567503.html?tag=lst-2&cdlPid=10857004) and it has helped, though my boot time is still not *quite* as snappy as it previously was.

seanferd
seanferd

Get one that can defrag the page file and move drivers, etc., which load on boot to the fastest area of the disk. Diskeeper works fairly well, so I haven't tried any free defrag utils lately. Maybe give Auslogics Disk defrag a shot. Even Windows' own defrag utility should help, unless you've already tried that. A really good way to go is an offline defrag utility, as no files will be in use by the OS, and can be moved around with impunity.

seanferd
seanferd

Since I simply had to make it work, I thought I'd share what I found. Another note: The box on which I ran BootVis is using SATA hardware. (Intel ICH8 Serial ATA storage controllers)

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Try Autoruns from Microsoft's Sysinternals group. It will tell you actually what Windows is loading and what it can't load because it can't find the drivers. I'm sure time is wasted when Windows can't find a driver....

seanferd
seanferd

And I'll bet there are five others in the comment thread. But BootVis doesn't need to recognize your drive, the OS does that. It sounds like you might need to run a chkdsk /r from the command prompt. Or you simply have something configured incorrectly. "Trace file has invalid system configuration information." Perhaps one of these may apply to your error, but it doesn't really sound like it. http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12843-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=269580&messageID=2553609 Oh, and, unless you really like spam, don't post your email address in public forums.

buddyfarr
buddyfarr

I believe you are correct. I am running SATA drives also.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I have 2 SATA drives in my system [but I think my system partition is on an IDE].

seanferd
seanferd

Depending on which version of Windows you're running. On XP it is pagefile.sys, and would be located in the Windows or root directory. Since you can't delete the pagefile while it is in use The easiest way to delete and re-establish the pagefile is this: Right click My Computer > Advanced tab > Performance settings > Advanced tab > Virtual memory Change > No paging file > Set >> now, return to the previous setting (System Managed, or if Custom Size, enter the number(s) used previously) >> Set > OK > OK> OK. If you are going to defragment it, don't bother with deletion. You get Page Defrag from Sysinternals, which is now part of Microsoft. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897426.aspx There is a ton of other good stuff there as well. It defragments the pagefile/swapfile/virtual memory, and the registry, event logs, and hibernation file (if it exists) as well. Use in conjunction with regular defrag utility, as directed.

edeng8
edeng8

What is and where do you get Page Defrag? Also, another post refers to deleting the page file- what is the name of the page file so I can do the same.

seanferd
seanferd

I had entirely forgotten about Pagedefrag. Occasionally, I just delete the swapfile.

Doug Vitale
Doug Vitale

I used the Windows defragmenter in safe mode, followed up with PageDefrag, and now my PC's speed is back to normal. I never knew about PageDefrag; I had only ever used AutoRuns and Process Explorer from Sysinternals.

seanferd
seanferd

Thumbs to Dumphrey. I knew you could do something like that with the Windows utility. This whole thing got me interested in defragmentation again, which is how I found out that the Diskeeper service won't run in safe mode. The reason I haven't checked with the Windows defrag is that it seems to arrange files in an entirely different manner than Diskeeper, so Diskeeper wants to rearrange everything again as soon as it starts up. (It shouldn't change the drivers loaded at boot though, should it?) I'll be looking for a good offline defrag utility next.

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