Speed up booting in Windows XP
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In a new installation of Windows XP with no added programmes installed it takes as few as 15 seconds or thereabout to boot all the way to a working desktop from the Welcome screen (in my case although Microsoft did mention some 30s as the aim). As soon as you install additional programmes the start up time increases, sometimes substantially.
The following guide applies mainly to standalone workstation computers or those not joined to a domain in which other issues such as roaming profiles and folder redirection would be additional contributory factors. I'm not covering many technical hardware issues such as overclocking or error-correction coding (ECC) either.
If you enable autologon boot up would be quicker but this is not generally advisable; therefore I've left it out of the following list.
The general steps in the following list have variable contribution to the startup delay and not all may be applicable to your own circumstances.
1. Use a fast processor.
2. Install plenty of physical memory. For Windows XP, 256 MB is acceptable, 512 MB or more would be better.
For advanced users: if you have plenty of RAM, you can try using RAM in preference of virtual memory by setting this key in the registry:
You can also adjust the SecondLevelDataCache value depending on your processor. These two adjustments can improve system performance overall; I cannot definitely say how much they speed up booting .
3. Use a fast hard disc (at least EIDE 7200 rpm or SCSI).
4. Defragment the hard disc regularly (third party tools are better than Windows XP's own Disk Defragmenter).
5. Fix any hard disc problem, particularly bad sectors. If auto check runs on every reboot, do a check disk (chkdsk). If auto check is persistent, refer to my article on Auto check (here).
6. Disable Floppy drive seek in the BIOS (if there is such an option).
7. Disable unnecessary hardware in the BIOS and Device Manager, for example, if you don't use your firewire (IEEE 1394), game/MIDI, USB ports and RAID/SCSI devices.
8. Trim the Windows system services list: change non-essential services from automatic start up. Refer to my article on this.
9. Resolve any driver conflict. If you have a problem with shutdown then it is important to sort it out as the statup and shutdown processes are related. Windows XP has a Troubleshooter in Control Panel or consult KB 308029.
10. Disable the boot screen by adding the No GUI boot syntax in boot.ini.
11. Don't use the Legal Notice window. This is an extra window you can add and customise during booting: it appears in between the boot screen and the Welcome (logon) screen and again when you log off. The registry entries are:
12. Disable unnecessary programmes from starting up. The entries or paths for these can be in several places in the registry, the task scheduler and the start up folders. You can manually edit these entries, or use Windows XP's System Configuration Utility (msconfig, startup) or a third party manager like Startup Control Panel. Remove all browser hijack objects, adware and spyware regularly (Refer to my articles on IE Hijack). Disable any auto-update function apart from your anti-virus. Legacy files which run on start up can also cause delays so make sure you uninstall applications completely including the start up entries.
13. Enable prefetch. It is enabled by default. You can optimise it from time to time by trimming the prefetch folder and getting rid of old files from programmes you no longer use. Also, run this command in the command prompt: defrag -b. The optimal registry setting is (more info here):
Setting the value to (1) if for application-only prefetching; (2) is for boot-only prefetching and (3) for both. There is no (4) or (5) as seen on the internet.
14. Antivirus and firewall programmes can cause substantial delays especially with newer versions. You may wish to try another programme and see. However, don't stop using them altogether.
15. Don't wait for Network connections. Windows XP does not wait for the network by default during logon but it can be enabled in Group Policy (Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, System Logon, Always wait for the network at computer startup and logon).
16. If you use PPPoE for broadband internet configure the settings correctly by entering the TCP/IP parameters directly. Refer to your ISP for details.
17. Don't search Network printers (in Group Policy: Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Control Panel, Printers, Browse the network to find printers).
18. Use logon scripts sparingly and only if necessary.
19. Disable Offline file synchronisation (Group Policy: Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Network, Offline Files, Synchronize all offline Files when logging on).
20. Clean the Windows and My Documents folders regularly. This include Windows temp files, temp internet files, unused fonts and hotfix uninstall folders (if you are sure you won't uninstall them).
21. Clean the registry (for experienced users only) especially for legacy keys left by uninstalled programmes.
22. The Bootvis tool - Microsoft now officially says it does not help the end user (read this) but its graphical log is useful to diagnose problems. In my experience the Optimize Boot tool made an improvement of a few seconds only.
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Last updated 28 June 2004