When you’re in a hurry, waiting for your PC to start up can take what seems like an eternity. However, with a few simple changes to your system, you can make a real improvement to your system’s startup time. In this article, I’ll show you how to speed up your Windows startup.

Memory, hardware, and defragmenting
First, take a look at the amount of memory your PC carries. The minimum recommendation is 32 MB, but 64 MB or even 128 MB is better. Also, look at the speed of the memory modules. If you’re running 66-MHz bus memory modules on a board that has a bus speed of 100 MHz with a processor that’s also running at the 100-MHz bus, then you’re running into a bottleneck. This arrangement will reduce your system’s capabilities at any point, including the startup.

Now, take a look at your hard drive. Older hard drives do not spin up as fast as the newer ones, and they may not have the buffer size that the newer drives have. You also want to keep the data on drives in good working order by using the Disk Defragment utility on a regular basis. Running the defragmenter keeps your files in order and cuts down the seek times for startup applications.

Not only is it a good idea to defragment your drive on a regular basis, but you should also delete any unnecessary files. Search your Temp folder in the Windows directory and delete the .tmp files that are older than the date of your last system start. You can also regularly go through your hard drives and delete unnecessary files that are taking up space. You’ll probably find empty folders that are left over from the removal of applications.

In addition, be sure you’re allocating enough space on your hard drive for the Windows swap file. The amount of space you have for your swap file will make a difference in the performance of Windows as a whole, not just at startup. The swap file, by default, is the remaining amount of space on your C drive. If you find that you have very little room left, you may want to move the swap file or other applications off that drive to another drive or upgrade to a larger drive.

Some computers, such as ones built by Compaq or Dell, come with custom interfaces that replace the standard Explorer interface found in Windows. They use proprietary software as the shell for your startup screen, which can ultimately result in a much slower startup. You can remedy this by making a simple change in your System.ini file. Open the file in Notepad, locate the Shell= line under the [Boot] heading, and change it to Shell=explorer.exe.

You can also make a change to the MSDOS.sys file that will eliminate the delay when you first boot up. Use Notepad to open the MSDOS.sys file and add the following under the [Options] heading:


If this line already exists, then make sure the numerical value is 0. As a precaution, you may want to make a copy of this file before you make any changes.

The biggest culprit
An area that may be the biggest culprit is an application loading at boot-up that’s going to run in the background. You’ll notice many of these programs appear as little icons down in your System Tray. Other programs just load in memory in the background invisibly without giving you any indication or warning that they’re running. The more applications you run in the background, the slower your system will run. In many cases, you can remove these programs by clicking on the icon in the System Tray and specifying that they not load at startup. In other cases, you may need to search your Win.inior System.ini files to find references of the file next to Load or Run. You can then edit the .ini file and remove or remark the line. Also check your Startup folder. This folder often ends up with application shortcuts that provide no real benefit for the user.

Some files that are being accessed for no reason could be the .bin files of a disk compression utility. If you’re not using the disk compression utilities Drivespace or Doublespace, you won’t need their files. Located in either the root directory or the Command folder in the Windows directory, these files can be deleted or moved without any harm. Do this only if you’re NOT using the disk compression utilities.

You may find that just a few adjustments here and there will produce a gratifying change for your system. Improving your hard drive is only a portion of the solution. Once you’ve made some of the system changes I discussed in this article, you’ll find that your Windows 9x system will start up more quickly.

Paul Suiter received his first taste of the deadline rush as a photographer for the Montgomery Advertiser, where he earned four photography awards. After receiving degrees in economics and business management from Auburn University, Paul entered the college book business. After managing two bookstores for three years, Paul became a business analyst for EDS. Four years later, Paul continues with EDS, taking its equipment apart, while working with G3 switches and advanced imaging programs. But, he’s finally getting back to one of his favorite pastimes—writing. (Of course, he also enjoys spending time with his wife and son.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.