This article generally applies to Windows XP, although the principles can be applied to any Windows based system.
Keepin It Real… Fast
Does it seem like your computer is booting slower than it used to? This is one of the most common complaints I get from new customers. Most are certain they have a virus or have been “hacked” in some way. Even though that is a real possibility, I have found that it’s usually not the case. Here are some tricks of the trade that I and countless other geeks use all the time to get Windows into high gear at the startup.
Some of this stuff may look technical, but it’s not. For it to be technical you would have to use your keyboard. You can do everything here with your mouse. (Well, there is a little bit of typing, but just a little!)
1. Scan For Malware
Any virus, worm or piece of spyware that gets on your system is going to slow it down. These things aren’t there to do nothing, after all, and no matter what they do they use up your resources. Many of them will try to attach themselves to real Windows processes, which makes it harder to shut them down and ensures to a degree that they will run every time you start your pc. Removing them is mainly a security matter, but it is certainly a performance issue as well. Always keep your antivirus up to date and perform a full scan at least once a week.
2. MSConfig/Startup Items
Instant messenger programs, pdf readers, office plugins, antivirus and other security products… you name it, somebody has made it start at the same time as Windows. If you want your pc to start faster, you positively have to cut back on some of these. Click on START and then RUN. Type in “msconfig” and the System Configuration Utility will appear. Select the tab that says Startup. You will see a window containing a cryptic list of items with little check-boxes to the left. Hold your curser on the dark line just to the left of the word “Location” in the columns at the top. Hold your left mouse button and drag the line to the right, so that you can see the middle column better.
Note: If you see an entry with no information in the center column, you definitely want to uncheck that one. Then, with an updated antivirus scanner run a complete system scan. This is probably a piece of malware of some type, and must be removed before you want to go any further.
If no one’s ever been in here, all the little boxes will be checked. These are the programs that are starting up with Windows and constantly running in the background. When you uncheck the boxes, these programs will no longer start when you boot your pc. You will still be able to use the programs, and some of them will start up on cue, right when they’re needed, without any help from you.
Look through the list. You want to make sure you DO NOT turn off your antivirus programs. In the center column, labeled “Command”, you will see the path that tells your pc to run these programs. If you’re running Norton Antivirus, you don’t want to turn off anything that has the words “Norton” or “Symantec”. If you’re running McAffee, leave the commands that have the word “McAffee” in them. If, like me, you only use products from F-Secure, then leave their commands alone. Other antivirus/firewall/intrusion detection programs should be recognizable to you as long as you know the names of them. We want to leave those settings as they are.
But you can feel good about turning off alot of the rest of them. Common boottime parasites can include anything from AOL, any instant messenging program, the Adobe Launcher for their products, Microsoft Office, Quicktime and most other commercial players. You will probably also see entries for updater services which don’t need to be started with Windows. Common entries are Jusched from Sun Java and Quicktime or iTunes and the updaters from major pc vendors. You might also find other items that you don’t recognize and I haven’t mentioned here. Turn off the obvious ones first, and see how it affects your start up time. To turn them off, just uncheck the box beside it. When you’re done hit APPLY and OKAY. A prompt will appear asking to restart your pc. We’re not done with this step yet, so click CANCEL.
Click on START, PROGRAMS and the STARTUP folder. If there’s anything in there, right click on it and delete it. Then you want to restart your pc. We’ll be restarting a few times during all this.
As Windows is starting up, it scans several folders on your hard drive. If we get rid of the unnecessary clutter in these folders, the pc should start faster because it’s not looking through all those useless files. One of these is the Temp folder. It’s buried deep, so getting there can be a chore for the inexperienced. But you can do this. Here’s how:
1. Open My Computer. Click on Tools and select Folder Options. Select the tab “View“. Towards the bottom of the window, check the box that says “Show hidden files and folders”. Select Apply to make it permanent, or just hit Okay.
2. Double click the C drive, then “Documents and Settings“, then your “username“, then “Local Settings“, and finally “Temp“. You can find your username normally at the top of the Start menu.
3. Click on EDIT and Select All. Then click on FILE and Delete. A box will appear confirming the delete. Just say yes. If there’s alot of buildup there, it might take a minute or two to delete it all. When it’s done, hit the Back button until you are back to the C drive.
4. Next we’re going to the place you’ve always been told not to go: the Windows folder. Open the Windows folder. A warning message may appear. Just tell it to show you the files. You will see that there are alot of them that are blue. The ones that have names starting with “$NtUninst” are the ones we want to get rid of. This probably will still leave some blue colored files in the folder, and that’s okay. The NtUninst files are left overs from all those Windows Updates you’ve been getting. You can select them all by clicking on the first one, then scrolling to the last one and while holding the “shift” key, click on it. This should highlight all of them between the first and last. Check again to make sure you only selected the ones beginning with $NtUninst. Then click on the File menu and select Delete.
5. Now that these files are gone, we need to check out the Windows Temp folder. You should be able to see it there in front of you. Open it up and select Edit, and Select All. Then select File and Delete. Some of these files may refuse to be deleted. Don’t worry about that. If you get a message saying a file cannot be deleted, just say OK and close out the window.
6. Now go to your Control Panel. Open the Fonts folder. Windows has to scan every font you have as it starts, so the fewer the better if you want a shorter boot time. Look through the Fonts folder and delete any you don’t think you will ever need. Be careful here. You can always get the fonts back, but that might not be something you want to have to worry about. When you’re done just close out that window and restart your pc.
Over time the registry just gets cluttered with old and useless information which Windows reads every time your pc starts up. There are lots of tools out there for cleaning up your registry, some good and some not-so good. Registry Clean Pro is a good one. I usually see a noticeable improvement when I use it on a customer’s machine. I won’t go into other registry cleaners here, except to say that Any time you make changes to the registry you should back it up first. Period. In case you want to know how, here it is:
Click on Start and Run. Type “regedit” and hit Okay.
Select File and then Export and then Save. This will save a backup of your registry in your My Documents folder. Now get out of there. Trust me, you do not want to experiment with settings in here.
If you have used a registry cleaner, then you will need to restart your pc again now.
Now that we’ve made massive changes to the files on your hard drive, we probably need to defrag the hard drive. Open My Computer and right click on the C drive. Select Properties, and then Tools. Select the Defragment Now option. Select the Analyze option. Chances are, Windows will tell you that “you should defrag this volume now”. Go ahead and select Defragment, then get up and walk away for awhile. Depending on how much work Windows has to do to defrag the drive, this could take the rest of your night. There are situations when Windows will say it needs to perform a scandisk operation before it can defrag. If this is the case, you really should let Windows scan the disk.
Luckily, it’s the last step in this little dance and it will generally finish on its own. Seems like a great time to find a… a book. Good time to find a great book and relax for awhile. Remember? The way you used to?