Supercharge Windows Vista’s Startup Time

April 17, 2008 – 5:09 AM

Windows Vista boots up quickly—but seeing the desktop is hardly a sign that the OS is ready for use. When your familiar wallpaper and icons appear, you better not start clicking, because in the background the OS is still finishing up its startup process. Sometimes it seems like you have time to go watch an opera before Vista finally becomes responsive.Getting to the desktop quickly, but not being able to use it for another minute or so, is Vista’s big tease. The drive thrashes, icons don’t seem to respond to clicks, and if you manage to get a program to load it goes into the annoying Not Responding mode if you dare try to use it.

Outside of the operating system, during the POST, there are built-in BIOS options to speed up that portion of the bootstrap. Quick boot. Quiet boot. Fast memory checking. But once the operating system takes over, it’s all Vista, and it seems that the more applications you install, the longer the window of time from powering up the PC to being graced with a responsive GUI becomes.

There are a few steps you can take to cut down on the hard drive churning, semi-responsive purgatory that Vista foists upon you before it lets you use it. First, let’s look at the root cause.

Why Does it Take So Long?

Like Windows operating systems before it, Vista runs all kinds of routines in the background even while you do whatever it is you do with the GUI. Some of the code Windows loads up is called services; these are bits of software that facilitate activities that you might wish to engage in during your Vista session. Others are higher-level applets called processes that tend to be more dynamic than services; processes are instances of programs that the computer is actually running.

When Windows Vista boots up, it struggles to show you the desktop right away, but in the background it’s loading processes and starting services, and both actions eat up resources. They load from the hard drive, they eat up processor cycles, and they take up precious system memory.

Because Windows Vista optimizes itself to store the most-executed code on the fastest and most accessible portion of the hard drive, the load time can theoretically decrease with regular usage. Unfortunately, that notion is defeated by actual, realistic usage. As you install programs, many of them come with their own services or start their own processes on bootup. Before long, Windows Vista demands a solid two minutes of your time from the moment you push the power button until the OS becomes useable.

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