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Windows boot time is pretty good, but it takes forever to get to my desktop once I login. Whats the best way to find out whats happening? I only have 3 items in my Startup folder, but the admins at work seem to have installed like 30 things into my system tray somehow.

One big annoyance is that I have a ~45 second pause after I login but before anything shows up on the screen. During this pause, the hard disk light isn't flashing on my laptop so it feels like nothing is happening which drives me crazy. Is some app trying to connect to the network and hanging? How can I find out?

What would be really cool is some kind of tool that visually mapped out everything thats starting up and which resources its using.

Any suggestions?

I was going to suggest disabling real-time antivirus scanning, but then I got to the part about "admins at work". You have my sympathy. :) –  mmyers May 8 '09 at 21:06
I am really curious about this question. I use Linux, but hate rebooting to Windows because it takes so long. A full startup and shutdown of Windows is almost 4 minutes! And I don't even use Antivirus or other resource-hogs. Ubuntu boots in about 20 seconds, and shuts down in about 10. –  Zifre May 9 '09 at 1:05
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8 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Your admins probably have some startup scripts they are pushing through group policy and could be what is causing the delay.

To see exactly what runs on startup from your computer, take a look at Autoruns from SysInternals.

If you have a lot of stuff trying to run at once, it may be worth it to look at using Startup Delayer to force your startup apps to run in a specific order rather than all at once.

+1 for the startup delayer. I knew something like this exists. I have been looking for it because I badly need it for my laptop. ;-) Thanks! –  MarlonRibunal May 8 '09 at 21:09
I have a similar delay at work. The startup script connects to a server to get some login data, but notoriously enough some servers are slower than others and the script picks one at random. Sometimes I can see the command prompt with this, sometimes not, but the network delay was the issue. –  Dillie-O May 8 '09 at 21:32
very often the delay in startup scripts is due to slow network response when mapping network drives or adding network printers –  Jimmie R. Houts May 8 '09 at 21:35
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Autoruns is good, as is msconfig.

You might want do test it out in various environments ... network connected, network not connected, safe mode, standard mode, different users, some peripherals connected and not connected.

Good luck!

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BootViz is a Microsoft tool that quantifies what is happening in your bootup sequence for Windows XP (only, not for Vista or 2000). It usually makes a substantial difference in the troubleshooting process by giving you something to investigate other than "the computer is slow!"

Other suggestions:

  • McAfee AV 8.7 has a few bugs that slow boot time with authenticating proxy servers.
  • Applications that preload (Acrobat, OpenOffice) will slow down login time.
From microsoft.com/whdc/system/sysperf/fastboot/default.mspx: "Please note that Bootvis.exe is not a tool that will improve boot/resume performance for end users. Contrary to some published reports, Bootvis.exe cannot reduce or alter a system's boot or resume performance. The boot optimization routines invoked by Bootvis.exe are built into Windows XP. These routines run automatically at pre-determined times as part of the normal operation of the operating system." –  Dennis Williamson May 9 '09 at 13:08
It shows you what the most time consuming parts of the boot sequence are and allows you to optimize. I used it to help diagnose extremely slow boot-ups where people were hammering an AD group to optimize some complex group policies. Bootvis led us to look at a buggy driver and application, which ultimately fixed the problem. –  duffbeer703 May 9 '09 at 21:15
Your answer said that "[it] optimizes" and "It usually makes a substantial difference..." That's a lot different than what your comment says. Maybe you could edit your answer. –  Dennis Williamson May 9 '09 at 22:49
Good point, upon reading it again it was rather unclear. Thanks. –  duffbeer703 May 10 '09 at 2:35
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Windows XP has a built-in tool called the System Configuration Utility which can help with this. Type msconfig from Run to open the tool, and look at the Services and Startup tabs. From here you can disable unneeded services and startup items.

The Services tab also has a Hide All Microsoft Services option to help filter out necessary services.

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two words: uninstall symantec ;-)

No Symantec but they do have my virus scanner scheduled to run all the freaking time. I swear I would rather have a virus. –  Eric Johnson May 9 '09 at 1:44
Properly configured, a modern computer should have no trouble running an A/V package in the background. This isn't 1995.. (I make no apologies for Symantec though :) –  romandas Jul 20 '09 at 14:44
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What about using Hibernate (or possibly Stand-By)?

At the end of the day when you leave you select Hibernate (or make it the default when you power off your computer). A complete Snapshot of Windows will be saved to disk (in about 10-30 seconds), and your computer shuts down as normal.

Then when you arrive next morning, turn on the computer and within 30 seconds Windows is running exactly as it was when you left. All applications, windows etc are exactly as you left them.

I can't beleve the number of normally intelligent people I meet who say Hibernate/Stand-by is "only for Notebooks". Hibernate is incredibly useful in improving productivity, you pick up immediately where you left off. At the same time it lets you shut-down your computer overnight so you don't irresponsibly waste power. What's not to like?

Hibernate is probably better option at work, as it ensures that your data is saved to disk, whereas Stand-By is "Suspend to RAM" and will lose all data if you have a power outage over-night. If you want still want ultimate start-up speed, however, Stand-By is an option, just be aware that your computer will still draw a small amount of power to keep the RAM refreshed.

Hibernate writes a snapshot of your system state to a large file on your primary disk, so as long as you have more hard disk space then your installed RAM you will be right.

Things to watch out for:

  • Some motherboards support of ACPI (Advanced Configuration Power Interface) is still not so good, so things like USB devices may not be properly re-enabled when you return from hibernate. But just unplug and plug-in again. (This is often incorrectly attributed to Windows XP.)

  • Admins will probably think you have not re-booted computer for weeks and so have not run their slow statup scripts. However there is nothing to stop you doing a once weekly full re-boot while you're at lunch, if needed.

  • Hibernate can be disabled by Group Policy I believe. Why this would be the case in a company is beyond belief however.

On another point, be very careful if you decide use Autoruns/MSConfig to stop one or more of those startup items. Remember, you don't actually own the computer and most companies, if they find out, will be very "unhappy" with you. Unfortunately it doesn't even matter if you just stop seemingly pointless items.

Yeah I try to do this as much as possible, but the nortel vpn software is terrible and on average I can only log on to work once per boot. –  Eric Johnson May 9 '09 at 3:50
I feel your pain. This is the reality I suppose. It's almost criminal when hardware or software to be used on a users computer (not a server) can't handle Hibernate/Standby. Maybe older stuff can get away with it, but anyhting in the last 5 years is a joke if it can't. –  Ash May 9 '09 at 3:59
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While your question description indicates you are leaning towards tools, nobody has suggested what I consider to be the obvious answer to the short version of the question:

Throw some money at the problem! Buy and install a faster system drive. One of the new fast SSDs such as the OCZ Vertex would go a long way to solving your problem... and it won't just be your boot times that improve :-)

thanks but its a work laptop. i have no choice. –  Eric Johnson May 9 '09 at 20:32
Why not let the company buy you a SSD then? –  Aputsiaq May 10 '09 at 2:52
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