Speed up Windows startup times with a few simple tweaks

Tired of waiting for Windows to start up? In just a few minutes, you can trim your boot time and get to work right away

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Windows should take less than a minute to start up, but over time that fast boot up inevitably becomes a slow crawl. This is caused by autoloading programs, junk files, unnecessary services, and other performance-draining culprits. Let’s put an end to these shenanigans.

Optimize startup programs and services: The first step is to weed out the programs you don’t immediately need when Windows starts. Head to Windows’ built-in System Configuration Utility: Hit the Windows key, then type "msconfig" in the search box (without the quotes) and click on the Startup tab to see the software that loads at startup. You might be surprised by how many programs launch automatically.

Photo by acidpix

Uncheck the ones you don’t need. Some programs, such as QuickTime, Acrobat Reader, and your printer’s management utilities obviously don’t need to be started the second you log onto your computer. For others, especially those you don’t recognize, find out what those startup entries are all about before removing them from the startup list. Sysinfo.org, a startup item lookup tool, and Microsoft’s Sysinternals Autoruns can help you decide which items to uncheck.

Next, head to the Services tab to uncheck the services you don’t need running at startup. Again, only uncheck the ones you recognize, and look up the others before disabling them.

After unchecking your selections, click OK and reboot, and you should see a significant startup boost. In my test with a laptop taking almost 3 minutes to load, this step saved nearly a minute and a half during bootup--a 50 percent improvement in just a few minutes.

General housekeeping: Several general maintenance steps and free tools will also reduce your boot time--and can also help protect your system:

  • Antimalware/antivirus: Because malware is a big cause of system slowdowns, make sure you have good antivirus and antimalware programs running. Do a scan with Malwarebytes, an excellent anti-malware tool, and Microsoft Security Essentials, a free and lightweight antivirus program, to make sure your PC is clean.
  • Defrag: Disk fragmentation slows down your system overall and can affect your startup. I like the fast Auslogics Disk Defrag Free for this task.
  • Cleanup: To clean up bogus registry entries, temporary files, and also startup items, give the highly lauded CCleaner a try. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of system cleanup programs.

Startup troubleshooter/utility: Want a semi-automated startup-improvement tool? It’s name is Soluto. This free PC-troubleshooting program is designed to help you improve your boot time. While it isn’t perfect (it takes a while to run and can be a resource hog), in my tests Soluto shaved nearly 70% of boot time. You can save minutes of your life every day just by removing some background apps.

Hardware upgrades: If, after doing the above, Windows still takes too long to start up, two really worthwhile and inexpensive investments are practically guaranteed to solve the problem: install more RAM or an SSD (solid-state drive). If you have insufficient memory (e.g., only 2GB), adding more RAM is the best bang for your buck; it’s the cheapest and most effective way to boost your system’s performance overall. Similarly, going from a traditional hard drive to a solid-state drive would be a really impressive and speedy improvement: You can improve boot time by more than 50 percent in some cases, saving half a minute or more.

By the way, want to know how to measure your startup times--without having to get out a stopwatch--and see how long Windows 7 should take to startup? Luckily, Windows gathers that information for you. Hit the Windows key, then type in "eventvwr" to open the Event Viewer. Navigate to/expand Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Diagnostics-Performance > Operational. Look for Event ID 100, which shows you how long the boot process takes, from right before the Windows boot logo to network connectivity, in milliseconds. So with each change you make above, you can see the effects. (For even more on troubleshooting startup times with the Event Viewer, see IT Expert Voice’s detailed guide.)

Got any other tips for boosting that boot time? Share them with us in the comments.

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