BOOT CAMP 493 (11/09/07)

Vista Tuning Tips part 2


Believe it or not Windows Vista, like XP before it, has the potential to boot up from cold in just 10 seconds; I can’t promise you that sort of performance but with a little effort it should be possible to have your PC ready to use in a minute or so.  


The principle cause of a slow boot and general system lethargy is all the programs and ‘Services’ that are launched automatically with Windows. Some of them come with the pre-installed applications on a new PC and they rapidly accumulate, as you install programs and applications. On a well-used PC there can be dozens of them, slowing down the boot up and sapping your PC’s resources.


The fact is most of them are completely unnecessary. They include configuration utilities that you’ll never use, programs that search the web for updates, Windows components that you don’t need, bits of programs that you’ve either stopped using or uninstalled and if you are really unlucky, malware or spyware programs as well.


However, before you start poking around with Vista’s inner workings it’s a good idea to have a clear out and remove any programs that you no longer need and if you’ve bought your PC from one of the big name manufacturers that should keep you busy for quite a while…


Most new PCs are stuffed full of trial and demo versions of programs that, if not uninstalled, will keep popping up, trying to persuade you to buy them. If you do succumb then once the trial has expired you will then be pestered to pay up for the full version, so get rid of all of them now from Programs and Features in Control Panel; see also this week’s Top Tip.


Don’t rush it, only uninstall a couple of programs at a time between reboots and when you have finished go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. Run the utility to clear out all of the detritus and temporary files, and providing your PC is behaving normally you can afford to be ruthless and tick all of the boxes. Carry out another reboot, and make a note of the time it takes; even at this early stage you may notice a small improvement, compared with your benchmark time (see Part 1). If you have uninstalled a lot of programs it’s worth defragging your drive (type ‘defrag. in Search on the Start menu).


Once you are satisfied the PC is behaving normally manually set a new System Restore point (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools). You are now ready to take control of your PC’s boot up. Go to Start > Search and enter ‘msconfig’ (without the quotes), this should appear at the top of the list, double click the icon and the System Configuration utility will open then select the Startup tab.


If your PC is only a few months old you will probably see a score or more of ticked entries, if it is any older this list could easily contain two or three times as many items. At first glance most of them look like gobbledegook but you may recognise a few names. However, there’s a lot more useful information in the Command column, though you may need to widen this to see the whole entry (place your mouse cursor on the ‘separator’ on the right hand side of the Command label, click, hold and drag to expand the width).


All of the items on the list can be disabled, by unchecking the tick box at the start of each line, but there are some items you should leave alone and one or two that could cause their host program to misbehave if disabled. The ones you should definitely keep checked are anything to do with your anti-virus program, firewall, any other security related or must-have items, such as utilities for your printer or tools that you rely upon and want to start automatically with Windows.


Before you start unchecking things it is a good idea to find out what each item does. You can Google the name of the file listed in the Command column and you will find plenty of references, though some of them may be contradictory and many of the sites that turn up will try to sell you often-dubious software. The safer alternative is to consult the huge database of Startup items at This site also has a simple to understand rating system that tells you whether an item should be left alone, isn’t required, doesn’t matter or definitely should be disabled, as it could be malware or a virus.


Once again take your time. Only uncheck two or three entries at a time and watch for any warning messages when you reboot. If a problem does arise simply re-check the offending item.


Every time you reboot after making changes with msconfig utility you will see a pop-up message, asking you if you want to return to the utility. If you tick the ‘Do not show…’ box you will have to re-launch msconfig every time, so only check it when you have finished. If you stick at it there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to pare your Startup list down to half a dozen entries or less, at which point you should notice a dramatic reduction in boot up times. If not then there may be some more deep-seated problems and we’ll be having a look at some of those next week.



Next Week – Vista Tuning Tips, part 3





Over time the files on a PC's hard disc drive become disorganized - 'defragging' the drive restores order and speeds up reading and writing data




Programs that load with Windows, often used to automatically request updates and upgrades using a PC’s Internet connection



Facility in Windows (ME, 2k, XP and Vista) that stores and records changes to key system files, which can be used in the event of a crash or serious problem to restore Windows to a previous known good configuration




Just because anti-virus and security software has been pre-installed on your new PC don’t feel that you are compelled to use it. There are plenty of excellent freeware alternatives (see the Software section of PCTopTips) including virus scanners and firewalls that are every bit as good as their commercial counterparts, and judging by the numerous emails and letters we receive, a lot less trouble than some of the better known paid for offerings


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



© R. Maybury 2007, 0509

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