BOOT CAMP 357 (21/12/04)




Our short series on streamlining the Windows XP (Home or Pro) boot up process concludes with some tips for advanced users so novices avert your eyes. Please don’t attempt these tweaks unless you are confident in your abilities and have taken the usual precautions of backing up your data and setting a new Restore Point before you begin, and don’t forget you try them entirely at your own risk!


One of the main causes of a sluggish start up are the scores of ‘Services’ that Windows XP insists on loading and on some PCs this can easily add a minute or more to boot up times. Services are programs and processes that operate in the background and because Windows is designed to operate in as wide a range of configurations as possible Microsoft take the view that it is better to have most of them running, whether you actually need them or not. Programs installed in your PC can also create their own Services and these can include ‘malware’ components that hijack your Internet connection, so we definitely need to get rid of those, but there will also be things that you want, like your virus scanner, Firewall etc., so you need to be quite careful.


To see what Services are running on your PC go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘services.msc’ (without the quotes) and this will open the Services dialogue box with a long list of items. You may recognise a few of them, like your anti-virus program but most of the file names are not very informative. If you look down the Startup Type column you will see they are all in one of three states: Automatic, Manual and Disabled; we are interested in thinning the Automatic ones, which start with Windows and if there’s a lot of them -- more than half the list, say, -- then there should be plenty of scope for improvement.


For a general idea of what each Service does highlight each item in turn and a brief, jargon-riddled explanation appears to the left of the list (make sure the ‘Extended’ tab at the bottom of the list is highlighted). This is not terribly helpful but there are ways of finding out what they really do, and if you need them, but we’ll come that in a moment. To change the status of a Service double-click on the entry and a dialogue box opens; on the General tab, under Startup Type, there’s a drop-down menu that lets you select Automatic, Manual or Disabled, but don’t touch anything yet!


Unfortunately there is no quick or easy way to disable unwanted Automatic Services en masse so you are going to have to work your way through the list and the best way to decide if a particular Service is required on your PC is to visit the following web sites:


Both sites have extensive lists of the most common entries along with explanations of what they do written in more or less plain English plus recommendations on which ones to change, according to how your PC is used. You may find it easier to print the lists out, to save having to continually revisit the web sites. If, for any reason you need to get your PC back to its original state there is a list of the default settings for Windows XP Home and Pro at:


I suggest that you only change one or two settings at a time and then carry out a full shut down and ‘cold boot’ and keep an eye out for warning messages. Keep a tally on the boot up time as you go by referring to your benchmark time, made before you carried out any modifications (see part 1 in Boot Camp 355).


Our final tip is also for experts, faced with a stubbornly slow PC that hangs for a long time on the XP startup or logon screens. It involves modifying the Windows Registry to display which Services and processes are being processed during boot up. Editing the Registry is not difficult but it is imperative that you do a backup before you start so that any changes can be easily undone.


Start by opening the Registry Editor (type ‘regedit’, without the quotes in Run on the Start menu) and make a backup by going to Export on the File menu. Under File Name type in today’s date then click Save and a .reg file will be saved in My Documents. If you need to restore the Registry just double-click the .reg file icon.


Now in Regedit work your way to the following key:



Double-click the System icon, right-click into the right hand window, select New > DWORD Value, then whilst it is highlighted rename it ‘verbosestatus’ (without the quotes) and press Enter. Next right-click on the new key, select Modify and change Value Data from 0 to 1. Exit Regedit and restart your PC and if it spends more than a few moments on any Service or Process the name of the offending item will be displayed on the screen; if you see nothing then you can assume that something else is causing the hold-up. To remove the key right click on it and select Delete.


Next week – Browser tuning tips





Starting a PC from its switched-off state, as opposed to a Restart or Suspend or Hibernation modes



A large, constantly changing collection of Windows system files containing details of how your PC is set up and information on the programs stored on the hard disc



A backup of important system files created by the Windows XP System Restore facility, used to return a PC to a previous known good configuration




Here are a couple of quick tips that could reclaim a few seconds from boot time; again they are for intermediate and advanced users who know their way around their PC’s BIOS program (the small program that tests and configures your PC hardware prior to loading Windows). Most BIOS’s have a facility called ‘Allow Quick Boot’ or ‘Fast Boot’ and this should be enabled. The Boot Order should be set to start on the main C:\ drive and you should disable any unused IDE and external drive channels.


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