January 2014 Archives


How to Make Your Windows XP or Vista Machine Start Faster

What is slowing down your Windows PC, particularly on startup? Address the likely causes of problems using a free utility from Microsoft.

How would you like to make your Windows machine more efficient? Many people pursue this objective with a range of memory accelerators, hardware upgrades, disk de-fragmentation software, file finding software and who knows what else. However, with the typical Windows software, generally all that happens is that the machine slowly grinds to a halt under the weight of all the competing utilities which are soaking up CPU and disk resources. The deleterious effects on performance are particularly noticeable at startup, as hefty service after service tries to query its own specific vendor's website for updates.

Well, you might ask, what can you do about this situation? The basic answer is to not overload the machine with software that competes for resources. Programs that use up memory and CPU power when you ask them to will be just fine. You can have as many of those programs installed as you would like and you will have no problems as long as you do not start too many programs at once. Programs which install services which run in the background, though, are a problem. You end up with a host of programs running at the same time. These background processes are listening for updates to your Java runtime, waiting for the next set of advertisements to display on your music player, looking out for your ancient Palm Pilot, scanner activity, and so on. Soon your computer becomes bogged down with all this extra software activity; simply keeping track of the processes, even though they might not actually be doing any work, takes precious CPU cycles. And when this happens, often you start to think about installing additional software to speed the computer up, or buy new hardware altogether.

However, there are things to do that will help the situation. If you know that you are never going to use the old scanner or printer software again, and you suspect that you have a printer or scanner service running, uninstall the associated software. Often this will be called something like XYZ Print Center, or something similar in your Add or Remove Programs section of your Control Panel. Of course, be very careful that you are conscious of what might go wrong here, be current on your backups, and take all the usual precautions. If you are not comfortable with administering a Personal Computer, don't try this yourself. Get your IT expert to do this for you. In general, whenever you adjust the software installed on a computer there is the small chance that you may need to restore from a backup or reinstall the operating system. So, always ensure that you have regular backups.

While you are uninstalling the XYZ Print Center, also take a skeptical look at any other hardware centric software that you no longer use and therefore no longer need. If you remove it from the machine you will remove the chance that it is starting up some kind of utility and thereby siphoning away some of your computer power it in its pointless activities. It is a pointless activity, because you no longer intend to use that piece of hardware.

Uninstalling unneeded software is a good habit to get into. It helps keep the machine tidy and under control. What if your machine is already a start up mess? In this situation, if you are comfortable with working as an administrator for the machine, you may want to try the SysInternals, AutoRuns package. SysInternals are a software company owned by Microsoft who make some truly fantastic tools for analyzing the Windows operating system. These tools are made freely available and provide an invaluable perspective on the health of your machine. To find the SysInternals site, use your favorite search engine because Microsoft regularly change URLs it is not straightforward to provide a reliable link to the appropriate section of the Microsoft site. However, when you get there you will see that SysInternals are essentially a part of Microsoft.

When you run AutoRuns you will see a lengthy listing of all the things that Windows needs to do on start up to get the machine ready for use. At least these are the things that all the software that has ever been installed on the machine has requested be done. AutoRuns lets you list everything and also turn these services on and off.

As mentioned, AutoRuns, like all the SysInternals tools, is not for the inexperienced user. However, if you are reasonably experienced with computers, and if you spend a little time reading its help pages and exploring its interface, you will soon learn how to adjust the various programs which are started when you start up the machine.

By a combination of uninstalling unnecessary software, and removing unneeded autoruns, you should be able to make substantial improvements in the start up time of almost any Windows PC. Additionally, because resources are not being shared with, and switched between, as many programs when the machine is running you will likely experience improved performance in general after you have cleaned up your machine's start up characteristics.

You might also want to take a look at the other programs that SysInternals have created. They can tell you a great deal about the behavior of your programs and can help you solve a large variety of software problems.

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