BOOT CAMP 561 (28/01/09)
Startup and Shutdown Problems, part 3
The usual reason for Windows taking more than a couple of minutes
to boot is the time it spends loading dozens of small 'Service' programs that
operate behind the scenes. Some of them are okay and belong to Windows but many
more are put there by the software that you install on your computer, so the
slowdown can be quite gradual and often goes unnoticed for the first few
months. Most third-party Services (i.e. not part of Windows) are a complete
waste of space. They slow your PC down both during and after boot up, so this
week we'll look at how you can thin them out, and hopefully perk up your PC.
Service programs are mostly launched by Registry commands and as
regular readers will know this critical set of system files is strictly off
limits to novices. Fortunately Windows comes with a simple configuration tool
that lets you safely tinker with the relevant bits of the Registry, letting you
take back control of your computer's startup programs.
The tool is not listed on any menus, but in XP, Vista and W7 all
you have to do is go to Run or Search on the Start menu and type 'msconfig'
(without the quotes) and click OK. In Vista and W7 you have to be logged on as the
Administrator and you may be asked by the UAC to grant permission to continue,
if so just click the Continue button.
On the box that appears select the Startup tab and you'll see a
list of entries with tick boxes. Unticking an item stops it running at startup.
In the unlikely event that a disabled startup entry causes problems you can go
back into msconfig and re-tick the box, so there's very little chance of
getting into trouble.
If you see more than a dozen ticked entries on the msconfig
startup list there is room for improvement and you may be able to shave up to
30 seconds off the boot up time. If there's more than 20 then the boot up
savings could easily be a minute or more, but don't untick anything just yet.
Some entries you must keep, like the ones responsible for
launching essential Windows Services, your antivirus program it's signature
file update service and your firewall (if you are using a third party
application). The startup list may also contain malware infections, like
Trojans and keyloggers, and to make life really difficult some of them have the
same or very similar names to legitimate entries, so you have to be on your
So how do you tell what's what and whether or not an entry is safe
to uncheck? You may be able to figure some of them out from their name, but the
safest method is to consult the list of almost 18,000 startup items published
on the Sysinfo.org website (http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php).
Each listing has a brief explanation of what it does, plus a simple Status code
that tells you whether or not it is necessary. Items classed as 'N' are not
required; 'X' means it definitely has to go as it's malware or spyware; 'U'
stands for user's choice and is safe to uncheck but you or a program may need
it at some point and items marked 'Y' should be left checked.
So let's begin, and the first thing to do is close all running
programs except your browser, set a System Restore point (see last week's Top
Tip) and open msconfig. Note down the top two or three items and check their
purpose and status at Sysinfo. The one's we're interested in are rated by
sysinfo as N, U, and X. When you have found a couple of entries that can be
safely disabled go into the msconfig startup list, uncheck them and click OK.
Windows will tell you that the PC needs to be restarted. Click OK and the PC
shuts down and reboots.
Don't expect any dramatic changes at this stage, the PC may even
take a little longer to boot as system files have to be rewritten but when
Windows reappears you will see a balloon message in Vista, or an information
box if you are using XP, reminding you that you've blocked or disabled some
startup items. You can ignore it because you'll probably be using msconfig
again. However, you should respond to any other warning messages and recheck
the relevant entry in msconfig if a program reports a problem. If Windows boots
cleanly you go back to the startup list and repeat the exercise on the next two
or three entries.
It's important to go through the rigaramole of rebooting and
checking the entries on the sysinfo site a few at a time as it means you'll be
keeping a running check on your Internet connection. Trust me, the last thing
you want to do, after unchecking a score or more Services, is to have to go
back and find which one that was responsible for the disconnection. When you
have finished (see also this week's Top Tip), reboot twice; on the second
reboot time how long it takes and compare it with your benchmark time (see last
week's Boot Camp) and hopefully you will see an improvement.
Next Week - Startup and Shutdown Problems, part 4
Login account, with full access to all aspects of a computer's
configuration and operation
Malware program that records keystrokes, looking for bank accounts
passwords and PINs, which are then sent out to scammers and fraudsters
User Account Control - introduced in Windows Vista, to stop users
doing daft things, or making mistakes by asking them to confirm actions that
could affect system stability or security
When you've unchecked everything you can on the startup list you
can disable the warning message that appears after each reboot. In XP simply
tick the box that says 'Do not show this message again'. In Vista you have to
right-click the Disabled Startup entries icon in the System Tray then (somewhat
bizarrely) select Run Blocked Programs followed by System Configuration
Utility. On the message box that appears tick the 'Do not show again...' box.
Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top
Tips at www.pctoptips.co.uk
(c) R. Maybury 2009, 0701
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