I was recently on a mission to make my laptop boot as fast a possible. I learnt a fair bit in the process of getting my boot time down below 30 seconds (that’s from hitting the power button to being able to use it), which doesn’t sound fast, but compared to most machines is very rapid (time how long it takes for your machine to get to a state you can use it after hitting the power button, I bet it’s measured in minutes). I thought I’d share some of the things that helped me (note, these tips are aimed firmly at XP, although there are some universal ones that can help any version of Windows).
Reinstall Your OS
First off, it’s a good idea to start with a clean slate, over time you end up with all sorts of junk running on your machine, plus the debris of old or uninstalled applications. Wiping the slate clean is always a good idea.
Use the Correct Drivers
This may sound a little odd, but most of the time spent on loading the OS is drivers, having the correct ones for your hardware, even upgrading to the latest ones, can have an impact of how quickly the machine boots.
Check Your Device Boot Order
If you look in your BIOS (which you can usually get to by hitting Delete or F2 during boot), you will generally find a section listing the preferred boot order. This always used to be floppy disk drive, hard drive, CD-ROM, although few machines have a floppy drive any more. Check that hard drive is the first boot device.
Switch Off Auto-Discovery of Drives
Another setting in the BIOS will show you your drives (hard and optical). This is often set to auto-discover, use this to discover the drive in the BIOS and then set the drives as they are (remember to change it if you install a new drive), this will shave the time it takes to interrogate the drives.
Switch Off Automatic Memory Checks
As RAM is more robust these days, and there’s more of it, most machines seem to have abandoned the old memory checks, but if your machine is still doing this, disable it in the BIOS.
Pick a Simpler Theme
Each version of Windows is designed to look better, but all those extra gradients and shadows take time and effort to render, switch to the classic theme which is a lot less graphic intensive. To do that:
1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select Properties.
2. In the Display Properties box, go to the Themes tab and pick Windows Classic from the dropdown
3. Click OK.
Adjust XP for Best Performance
Jimmy covers a number of tips in this video, first up is simply selecting XP’s built-in performance option.
Remove Unnecessary Windows Components
Windows installs a ton of applications and utilities you probably don’t want and will never use, to remove these:
1. Go to the Control Panel and select Add/Remove Programs
2. In the box that appears, select Add/Remove Windows Components
3. Untick the boxes of anything you don’t want or need (click on the item to see a description of what it is). If the Details box becomes available when you select and item, click it to see a sub-list of programs/services to see there is nothing you wish to keep.
4. Click Next
5. Click Finish
Disable the Indexing Services
Indexing Services is a small little program that uses large amounts of RAM and can often make a computer endlessly loud and noisy. This system process indexes and updates lists of all the files that are on your computer. It does this so that when you do a search for something on your computer, it will search faster by scanning the index lists. If you don’t search your computer often, or even if you do search often, this system service is completely unnecessary. To disable do the following:
1. Go to Start
2. Click Settings
3. Click Control Panel
4. Double-click Add/Remove Programs
5. Click the Add/Remove Window Components
6. Uncheck the Indexing services
7. Click Next
Speed-Up Folder Browsing
You may have noticed that everytime you open my computer to browse folders that there is a slight delay. This is because Windows XP automatically searches for network files and printers everytime you open Windows Explorer. To fix this and to increase browsing significantly:
1. Open My Computer
2. Click on Tools menu
3. Click on Folder Options
4. Click on the View tab.
5. Uncheck the Automatically search for network folders and printers check box
6. Click Apply
7. Click Ok
8. Reboot your computer
Speed-Up Folder Access
If you have a lot of folders and subdirectories on your computer, when you access a directory XP wastes a lot of time updating the time stamp showing the last access time for that directory and for ALL sub directories. To stop XP doing this you need to edit the registry. If you are uncomfortable doing this then please do not attempt.
1. Go to Start and then Run and type regedit
2. Click through the file system until you get to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SystemCurrentControlSetControlFileSystem
3. Right-click in a blank area of the window on the right and select ‘DWORD Value’
4. Create a new DWORD Value called ‘NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate’
5. Then Right click on the new value and select ‘Modify’
6. Change the Value Data to ‘1’
7. Click ‘OK’
Make Menus Load Faster
This is one of my favourite tweaks as it makes a huge difference to how fast your machine will ‘feel’. What this tweak does is remove the slight delay between clicking on a menu and XP displaying the menu.
1. Go to Start then Run
2. Type Regedit then click OK
3. Find HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop
4. Select MenuShowDelay
5. Right click and select Modify
6. Reduce the number to around 100
7. This is the delay time before a menu is opened. You can set it to 0 but it can make windows really hard to use as menus will open if you just look at them – well move your mouse over them anyway. I tend to go for anywhere between 50-150 depending on my mood
Improve Swapfile Performance
If you have more than 256MB of RAM this tweak will considerably improve your performance. It basically makes sure that your PC uses every last drop of memory (faster than swap file) before it starts using the swap file.
1. Go to Start then Run
2. Type msconfig.exe then press OK
3. Click on the System.ini tab
4. Expand the 386enh tab by clicking on the plus sign
5. Click on new then in the blank box type ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1
6. Click OK
7. Restart PC
Disable Any Unnecessary Start-Up Programs
Some applications automatically add themselves to the start-up list, sometimes by putting themselves into the “Startup” folder, which you can find on your Start Menu, simply delete the programs from the folder to stop them executing. Some applications add themselves at a lower level. Jimmy covers how to remove these using a built-in windows app called MSConfig in his second tip (and how to look-up what any unknown apps on Google).
Disable Any Unnecessary Services
Some applications and hardware automatically adds services to your computer which start with the computer, Windows also includes and enables a lot of services by default, many of which you don’t need. You can disable these using the previous mentioned MSConfig, or if you type services.msc into the Run command it will bring up the Services module and allow you to set their status and see a bit more about them. I found Beemer World’s Optimize XP Services article useful to see what I should keep and what I could disable.
Disable Hardware Before You Shutdown
Some hardware runs a number of checks when you are loading, I found that disabling my wireless card before I shutdown meant I started up around seven seconds faster.
A useful application for identifying what is causing delays in your boot process is BootVis.
Once you have your machine booting quicker, you can improve the day-to-day handling by running lighter versions of popular applications, like Foxit PDF Reader, instead of Adobe’s 100Mb+ Acrobat Reader. You can find a good list of these apps over at mattbthompson.blogspot.com.