Checking and Reducing StartUp Time On Your Computer

Windows XP is a lot more stable than any previous operating system. With a computer running Windows 2000, and before that Windows NT, if you ran a lot of tasks on it, you learned from experience to restart the computer regularly. Improved system stability reduces that need. This is good, because even with the advanced startup procedures in Windows XP, which make it startup faster than any previous operating system, it still takes too long. So I keep my main computers on 7 x 24.

But what if you can’t keep your computer on 7 x 24? What can you do then? Well, no computer will start instantaneously, but you can reduce startup time substantially. One of the best ways to reduce startup time is to remove unnecessary tasks.

Now some folks will advise you to get rid of unneeded services. They advise you to take a look at a mirror of Black Viper (the god of NT services analysis). You can turn off a lot of services that aren’t needed, and save some startup time.

Many folks, though, will note that their computers started out fast, when they were new, and gradually got slower. Now that’s not a services problem – you don’t accumulate services as you use your computer. There are a very finite amount of services, as Black Viper’s website will show.

The problem here is unnecessary user programs, loaded to start automatically. When your computer starts up, and takes a long time to load the desktop, it’s starting programs that you loaded onto your computer. In many cases, these programs are ones that you didn’t intentionally set to load at startup.

You can start with education and research. Autoruns, MSConfig, and StartUp Control Panel will all show you what programs are set to load at startup. And, if you like, you can even use malware anaylsis programs, like HijackFree and HijackThis, to identify autostart entries.

All of the 5 tools identified above – Autoruns, HijackFree, HijackThis, MSConfig, Startup Control Panel – will list some amount of programs that start automatically. They’ll all differ in what they show, and how they show it. But they all have one common failing – none of them show which tasks take the longer amount of time to start.

If you are going to figure out which tasks you should not allow to autostart, you have to know which tasks cause the long autostart times. There are two tools that I use for this purpose. Microsoft produced Bootvis long ago, and in typical Microsoft tradition stopped distributing it. But you can get it from MajorGeeks or SoftPedia, or others (just Google on “download bootvis” for a list).

My favourite tool, for this purpose, is Process Explorer. One of the metrics, under View – Select Columns, on the Process Performance tab, is Start Time. By sorting on Start Time, you can get a neat log of the startup sequence of each system and user task. You can even export the log to a text file. Exporting the log to a text file makes the final step in this process a lot easier.

If everybody using a particular computer is experiencing slow startup, look for common tasks. Simply eyeballing a Bootvis or Process Explorer log should give you some candidates for removal. If everybody in the domain is experiencing slow startup, look at the domain setup too.

If some users complain, but other don’t, then do some relational analysis. Compare two users on one computer (with problems noted), and then on another computer (no problems noted). With a total of 4 test cases, you should easily find the offending programs, and banish them from startup. Comparing the Bootvis or Process Explorer logs will make this task a lot easier.

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