BOOT CAMP 560 (21/01/09)
Startup and Shutdown Problems, part 2
As we saw last week booting up a Windows computer
involves a lot of steps that have to be carried out in strict sequence. Most of
them take just a few seconds but things can slow to a crawl during the very
last stages after Windows has finished loading. This is when the programs
you’ve selected to start with Windows are launched, along with the background
Services and utilities.
Some PC owners mistakenly believe that a slow boot up has
something to do with files becoming disorganised and ‘defragging’ the hard
drive or cleaning the Windows Registry will cure it. Sadly neither does much
good; a bi-annual defrag might make a cluttered PC a little livelier and a
Registry cleaner can sometimes fix an annoying system error but neither has any
significant effect on how long it takes a PC to boot up.
The commands that launch all of the bits and pieces that
start automatically with Windows can be found in two places. The first one is
the Startup folder, which is a specialised User folder. If you copy or drag and
drop a program shortcut from the desktop into the Startup folder, that program
is launched automatically at boot up. It’s as simple as that.
The second group of start-up commands are buried deep in
the Windows Registry. They are responsible for launching dozens of small
programs that run in the background. Most of them are Services and utilities
that are supposed to assist other programs. Some use your Internet connection
to seek out and download software updates. This can be very useful; your
anti-virus programs, for example, uses a Service program to download the latest
signature files. However, most of them are just a waste of space and sap your
machine’s resources. Do you really need to be told that your media player
software is out of date – even though it still works perfectly well -- or be
reminded to pay for a trial program that you stopped using a year ago?
Registry commands are also responsible for the myriad of
little icons that cluster around the clock in the Taskbar (this section is
called the System Tray). Many PC users haven’t the foggiest idea of what half
of them do and rarely, if ever, use any of them. Try a few for size,
right-click on them and you’ll see obscure menus for opening control panels
that adjust your PC’s sound effects, tweak mouse or touchpad settings,
configure browser toolbars or change preferences on long forgotten programs.
Almost all of them are completely useless. In addition to slowing down the boot
up, they waste precious resources because they’re running all of the time. If
you want to fiddle around with any aspect of your computer you will usually
find a perfectly good set of adjustments in the Windows Control Panel or in the
programs own configuration menu. We’ll begin the cull next week.
None of the procedures we’ll be using are in any way
risky and all can be easily undone, nevertheless, we will be making changes to
System files so it’s good practice to make sure that all of your irreplaceable
files are safely backed up. I also recommend that you set a new System Restore
Point before every operation, and if you’re unsure how to do that see this
week’s Top Tip.
You’ll want to see how well you are doing so time how
long your computer currently takes to boot up, before you begin. This should be
from the moment you press the On switch, to the PC being usable -- the activity
icon (hourglass or spinning disc) is replaced by the mouse pointer and the hard
drive activity indicator no longer continuously lit. You might want to repeat
it two or three times to get an average.
So let’s make a start; we’ll round off this week with a
something simple and check the contents of your Startup folder. In both XP and
Vista you’ll find it by going to Start > All Programs > Startup.
Hopefully it will be empty, if not you can safely delete any program shortcuts
you find there, unless of course it’s for something that you absolutely cannot
I cannot think of anything that might qualify although I
can see it is tempting to put shortcuts to programs that you use every day,
like your browser, email program and word processor, in the Startup folder.
However, because they’re all launched at the same time they compete for hard disc
and memory resources and this can easily add a minute or more to the boot up
time. Lose the lot and if you want to launch a program click on the desktop or
Quick Launch icon and it’ll be ready to use in a fraction of the time.
Next Week – Startup and Shutdown Problems, part 3
constantly changing collection of Windows system files containing configuration
information for both the PC and programs stored on the hard disc
and utilities that operate in the background that are usually launched
automatically with Windows
samples of computer code used to identify viruses, worms, spyware and Trojans
System Restore in XP, Vista and Windows 7 can get your PC back up and running if something unfortunate happens.
It’s very easy to use and you’ll find it by going to Start > Programs >
Accessories > System Restore; click ‘Create a Restore Point’ (XP) or ‘Open
System Protection’ > Create (Vista) and follow the prompts.
To use it just retrace
the above steps and this time select your latest Restore Point from the
calendar and follow the prompts. If Windows won’t start normally you can
usually launch System Restore from Windows Safe Mode, which is started by
pressing the F8 key immediately after switch on. Select Safe Mode from the
Advanced Options menu that appears and when it has finished loading follow the
above procedure to launch System Restore.
Don't forget, there's a
full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at www.pctoptips.co.uk
© R. Maybury 2008, 3112
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