Improving Windows boot times

Lenovo has been “tweaking” its laptops and PCs in preparation for Windows 7, heavily improving startup and shutdown times.

Some of the methods, however, can be easily transferred to any Windows system – in this post I’ll be concentrating on XP, but I’m sure many of these will work on other versions.

So, here are some of the things that Lenovo did and what you can do that’s similar…

Fixed the drivers of on-board hardware components that were cumulatively causing massive delays.

Ok, so there’s not much we, as individuals, can do to fix drivers. However, it is important to stay on top of Windows drivers to ensure that you benefit changes of this type.

Personally, I have a spreadsheet of download links for my drivers and regularly check them. The other option is to use software that will look for updates for you. DriverMax is a popular example, although others are available.

Tweaked the BIOS phase of startup to temporarily hide some devices from Windows 7, so that the OS only loads the drivers after the boot is finished.

What they’re doing here is hiding hardware devices from Windows until its loaded. This may be a webcam, CD drive, etc. Now, there are some things you can do here for yourself…

  1. Create a secondary hardware profile. This gives you an additional boot option where, say, lesser used hardware devices won’t be loaded. This is done by turning off different services (and having different startup options too). I used to have one for gaming, whereas non-gaming services would be disabled, saving memory and boot time.
  2. Switch hardware off that you don’t use very often. No, ok, this won’t stop the drivers from loading but there may be some exchange (or handshaking) of information that may be reduced. My scanner and lazer printer, for instance, are used only occasionally, so are left unplugged when not in use. Of course, this also saves on electricity!
  3. Uninstall old drivers. When you change hardware, you often leave the old drivers behind. Plug everything in, start up your PC and then find and uninstall any old drivers.

Tweaked Windows 7 to delay the loading of non-essential services and applications until after startup.

Ah, now this is definitely something we can do ourselves.

The first thing I’d recommend you do is to go through the various startup programs and disable those you don’t feel you need (RealPlayer, Quicktime and Java update checkers are popular ones to disable). You can use msconfig, but I find the option within the Tools section of CCleaner a better option.

A quick tip… you’ll find some startup options that don’t appear within the “Startup” folder in your Start Menu. If one of these is only relevant to particular users, who have their own profiles, then note the URL that this startup is running. Disable it and then create the relevant shortcut within the appropriate profile startup folder.

You can also delay when various startup options execute. So, lets say you REALLY want Quicktime, et al, to do their online checks, do they have to do them as soon as the computer starts? Programs such as Startup Delayer will allow you to delay startup tasks.

That’s applications. Now services. You have to be careful with these, but its still worth going through all your services and looking for those that are best set to manual or disabled entirely. There are many websites dedicated to which ones should be changed.

And that’s it. If you have any suggestions on how to improve startup and shutdown, feel free to contact me (or add a comment to this post).


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