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Slow Startup

How to speed up Windows Startup


When Windows starts up it must perform a number of tasks such as loading the OS, initializing hardware, launching services and loading various components of applications that have requested to run at startup. For example, an Anti-virus program would typically launch as part of the startup process to protect from attacks as early as possible.  

Some of these startup processes are unnecessary and should be removed to speed up the launch process. Some startup components are written poorly so they take an inordinate amount of time to run and lock out other programs until they are complete. Unfortunately, Windows provides no easy way to identify these slowpokes and unnecessary components that contribute to slow startups.


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  Windows XP, Vista, 7
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Remove Slow Startup Items
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You can control what services and applications startup up in Windows. Many of these are required for normal Windows operation. Others are parts of programs you've installed that may be desirable or not. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to identify which items are causing the startup to slow. We'll walk through one way to accomplish this, but there are many ways to approach this.

Before we begin, there are third-party products that make this process a little easier. We like AutoRuns, a free utility from Microsoft, but there are plenty of others available.

Get the Baseline

You should have a baseline startup time with your current configuration. To do this, restart the computer, and when you see the BIOS messages appear, time how long it takes before you can login, and then also time how long it takes after logging in to see the desktop appear and cursor stops showing busy. Try to be consistent for each test to get times you can compare against.


We'll use the MSCONFIG program included with Windows. This utility allows you to disable programs and services. You can disable items you know are not important or needed and then reboot to measure how much of a change occurred.

  1. Open the Run dialog (Windows key + R) and type msconfig and Enter.

  2. We suggest trying Diagnostic Startup to see the maximum possible performance gain you could get. This disables many services and startups, even quite a few that you will really want to keep. The idea is to confirm the maximum improvement possible to see if it's worth the effort later to identify the worst offender.
  3. Click OK in the MSCONFIG dialog and restart the system. Measure again how long the system takes to boot.

Compare how much faster diagnostic setup too against the baseline you took earlier. If the difference is small, it is not worth any more effort, and you can return to MSCONFIG and reset the option to Normal Startup.

If the difference is worth going further, the following steps will help identify the item taking the most time to start. Be aware while the process is easy, it can be quite time consuming, as you will be rebooting and timing the startup many times. It's also possible the slow startup is caused by many smaller duration startup items. This process assumes one item is worse than all the others, and will help you identify that one item.

  1. Run MSCONFIG again, and this time select the third option, Selective startup. Add a check to Load system services. Select OK, reboot and record the startup time.
  2. Run MSCONFIG and uncheck Load system services, check Load startup items. Select OK, reboot and record the time.
  3. Of the last two tests, you'll want to focus on the one that took longer. Run MSCONFIG and uncheck both boxes under selective startup. Go to the tab that took the longest (either Services or Startup). Here's you'll see a long list of unchecked items. We suggest enabling five at a time. Select OK, reboot and time the startup. Make a note of which set of five items were enabled too.
  4. Disable the last five items that were checked, and check off the next five items. Select OK, reboot and record the time.
  5. Repeat until all the items have been run.
  6. Review the list of timings and locate the group that took the longest. Go back to MSCONFIG, the same tab, and uncheck all items and then start on the group that had the longest time by only checking one item at a time and repeating the OK, reboot, time steps. Record the time and name for each one.

At the end of this, you should have identified the slowest startup item. The big questions is the item something you can live without or if an application, can it be replaced with something better. This is a choice you'll have to make.

To return the system to normal, select Normal Startup. If you want, unselect the item you identified as slowing the startup process the most. Select OK, and reboot one last time.

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  FaultWire Staff
Posted: 29-Jan-2010
Boot From a SSD
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Although expensive, replacing the boot drive with a fast SSD (Solid State Drive) can dramatically reduce the startup, shutdown and program load times - often by a factor of 3! Our SSD system with many applications and startups will boot Windows 7 in about 20 seconds and shuts down in about 10 seconds. SSD sizes typically range from 32 GB to over 1 TB, but the cost for larger drives can be prohibitive.

Desktop PCs

One trick to save money for desktop PCs is the use a smaller SSD drive along with a normal size conventional hard disk. The SSD drive holds the OS and applications. Documents, music, photos, videos and other data are loaded onto the larger hard disk. As a bonus, it can make it easier to backup your personal data from the second drive.

Using two drives allows you to fit the OS and many applications into a smaller SSD drive in the range of 64 to 80 GB. The D data drive is a conventional hard disk.

Laptops and Notebooks

Laptop users typically only have room for a single drive, and the cost for larger SSDs is still quite expensive. One bonus for laptop users is the drives are impervious to shock, so dropping a running laptop will often destroy a conventional hard disk, where a SSD will have no damage. The SSD will likely be a bit lighter too.

Be aware that SSDs are only made using the SATA connection standard. If your laptop drive uses the old Parallel ATA connection, you cannot use a SSD. Most (but not all) laptops made in 2008 and later use SATA.

Not all SSDs are the Same

When choosing a SSD, there is a large difference between cheap SSD drives and top-of-the line SSDs. The cheaper drives will use a technology that will not last as long, they will run dramatically slower (although still better than a rotating hard disk), and are unlikely to support the important TRIM command.

Drives that state they are Windows 7 compatible typically implement the TRIM command. Note that prior to Windows 7, the OS does not understand SSDs and your performance and life may be reduced. The TRIM command improves the drives life and speeds write operations by eliminating data merge operations for data writes. Windows 7 also recognizes that SSDs should not be defragmented. Using a defragmenter on a SSD drive cannot improve performance, but it does waste CPU cycles, and it can actually reduce the life of the SSD.

If you were considering getting a new high-performance PC or upgrading components such as the CPU and motherboard, it is likely a SSD will give you more performance gains for the money spent than any other purchase.

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  FaultWire Staff
Posted: 29-Jan-2010
Make the Hard Disk Boot First
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Your BIOS controls which media devices are checked to see if they should be booted. The BIOS is a program on the motherboard that starts before the OS and is responsible to select the boot device.

The order of these checks can waste 5-15 seconds in the boot up process that can be easily trimmed. The default boot order will often appear as:

  1. The diskette drive (if exists) can take about 2-4 seconds to check
  2. The CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive can take 5-10 seconds to check
  3. The hard disk

By making the hard disk boot first, you eliminate these other checks that are rarely necessary. It also improves your system security, should you (or someone else) leave an infected boot media in the diskette or CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive.

To make this change, when the system starts up, you'll need to go into the BIOS Setup. Use our Guide to accessing the BIOS if you're not sure how to do this.

Changing the Boot Order

Once in the BIOS setup, look for a menu choice "Boot". Here you can change the order of Boot devices. You'll want to place the hard disk as the first boot device.

There are many different BIOS designs, so we can't give you precise instructions, but most are fairly obvious and provide a limited amount of help. Your computer manual may also include detailed instructions for setting the device boot order.

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  FaultWire Staff
Posted: 29-Jan-2010
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Last update: 29-Jan-2010 4:38 pm