Stuck with a sluggish boot? Can't wait to get away from your desk but held back by a slow shutdown? Well, there are a number of simple tweaks and tools that you can use to speed up your boot. The following pages offer a series of helpful hardware upgrade suggestions, simple system tweaks, as well as free utilities that aim to speed up your system. Read on for all the best tips!
One of the easiest (if more expensive) ways to dramatically improve the speed of your system boot is to get your hands on a solid state drive (SSD) that you can use as a boot drive. SSDs feature dramatically improved read and write times compared to the old-fashioned magnetic disk drive. The massive difference in access speeds also translates to a spike in the speed of boot, as your system can access necessary disk resources that much faster. If you're interested in grabbing a new SSD, check out Tom's Hardware's recommendations of the best SSD's for your money.
Impact: Large, though keep in mind you'll have to fork out a fair amount and move your system to the new drive as well.
Another hardware upgrade that can speed up your boot (and everything else in your system) is upping your system's RAM. Adding more RAM serves as a general purpose boost to everything your system does. More memory means more resources for your system to work with, which translates to faster system performance and boot speed.
Impact: Moderate, but the extra memory means all around performance improvements, too.
Another source of startup bloat is the number of programs that are automatically loaded during Windows' boot routine. A wide variety of programs will automatically attempt to load during boot up, depending on what you have installed. These range from the critical (antivirus, system utilities, etc.) to the situational (instant messaging clients, social media tools, manufacturer utilities). If your system tray in the task bar is bloated with icons, this is likely to be an effective tweak to shave time off a slow boot.
Go to your Start menu, type 'msconfig,' and take a look at the Startup tab. What you see is a checklist of all the programs that are set to load automatically during your boot. Some (like your antivirus of choice) are critical and do need to go online right at the beginning, while others (such as messaging tools like Skype) can be dropped from your boot routine to lighten the load on your system and speed up boot times. Please make sure to read up on each item so you're absolutely sure of what they do before disabling them.
Impact: Variable. Depending on how many programs you have loaded, you can save a few seconds or whole minutes if you have a bloated setup.
Windows loads a large number of services to fulfill various OS functions during boot. Many are critical to the OS and should not be messed around with while others are not as necessary. These can be set to manual (start when needed) or can even be disabled altogether with the "services.msc" utility (type straight into the Start menu search bar). So, which ones can be disabled safely? Well, you'll need to read up on this a bit, but there are numerous Internet resources that you can consult before taking on this challenge. These include the excellent tweaking guide by Black Viper, which lists a series of configurations that can be applied across a variety of Windows versions and varying degrees of optimization/stability.
Impact: Small to Moderate. This isn't for the faint of heart, as turning off the wrong service can mess with system stability, but it is a viable option.
Another way to save some time is to check your BIOS boot priority. Many BIOS configurations default to checking your DVD drives or USB ports first to check if you've plugged in a boot disk, rescue CD, or other bootable utility. They do this before loading from your system drive. You can shave a few seconds off boot by removing your optical drives and USB ports from the boot priority and immediately selecting your system drive. Just don't forget to restore the 'boot from CD/USB' functions when you do need to plug in a rescue drive or system install DVD.
Impact: Moderate. You'll save a few seconds.
Disk fragmentation occurs when the parts of files are scattered across different physical sectors of a magnetic hard drive. This means it takes slightly longer to access any given file as the read head has to spin across multiple parts of a disk. The difference can be infinitesimal or pronounced, depending on the degree of fragmentation, though the speed of many modern disk drives can mean that any slowdown might only barely be noticeable. Still, regularly defragmenting your HDDs will improve read/write efficiency, and therefore improve the speed of your system and boot, if only slightly.
Impact: Small, but overall helpful for your system as well as your boot time.
NOTE: Do not defragment your drive if you use an SSD. This is unnecessary, and the many small read and write operations involved in a defragmentation can reduce your drive's life span.
There aren't as many ways to accelerate shutdown as there are tweaks for a faster startup, but there are some popular registry tweaks to speed up your machine's shutdown procedure. The tweaks are simple, but as with any operation involving the system registry, any slip up or mistake can mess with stability. Fair warning: Backup your registry for an added layer of security.
Type 'regedit' into your Start Menu search bar to bring up the Registry Editor, and then navigate to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control." Look for the variable "WaitToKillServiceTimeout," which should have a default value of 12000 (or 12 seconds). This is the amount of time that Windows waits for a service to shutdown cleanly before killing the process automatically. You can manually define this value provided you stay within the range of 2000 to 20000, meaning you can set it lower to speed things up. That said, it's worth noting that this isn't always desirable. If you have a lot of applications open and then initiate a shutdown, apps will use the leeway provided by "WaitToKillServiceTimeout" in order to save data and perform other cleanup tasks before shutting down. Reducing the timeout can mess with that leeway.