Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Optimize Your PC Startup Time

Other than buying a new PC, I sometimes wonder how to speed up my PC and its startup time. It used to be quick, but through that mysterious alleged process of ‘windows machines getting slower over time’, it’s been getting pretty painful lately.

I decided to try and find the cause, and thought I’d document my attempts here, in the hopes of saving the world from upgrading their PC’s. (I’m all about saving the planet.)

Clean Up That Systray

I went through all the icons in my system tray, and uninstalled the ones which I wasn’t really using.

Instant Messaging

I was running Microsoft Messenger and Skype. I tried using task manager to see how much memory they use. The ‘Mem Usage’ column (‘View->Select Columns’) seems to be the current physical memory, which fluctuates too much to give you a useful number. The ‘VM Size’ seems pretty constant though. Messenger takes 26meg, and Skype takes 15meg. I decided to not start them by default, and install Trillian, and have that start by default instead. Trillian is a small download, works with Messenger, and looks like it might use less memory. That said, I found that it takes about the same as messenger, so it might not be much of a win. Still, I think that not having Skype on by default will save me something. Anyone that I talk to on Skype is also on my messenger list, so I can use Trillian to see if they are online.

Startup Folder

I had a look what was in my ‘Programs->Startup’ folder. I had ‘Google Updater, Adobe (Acrobat) Speed Launcher, and Juice (a podcasting program I’ve not really been using). I deleted all of these, as I decided they weren’t generally serving much purpose for me.

Internet Browser

Browser startup time was something that I was curious about. I experimented with IE7, Firefox and Opera. I found that they all opened up to my home page in about the same amount of time. The difference in perceived performance was pretty intangible, so I decided to stick with what I’m used to, which is Firefox.


OK, now I’m getting all hardcore and dangerous. I don’t recommend that novices play around with this application.

If you run MSConfig (‘Start->Run->type “msconfig” in the box’), there’s a tab called ‘Startup’ which lists a bunch of executables which run at startup. Looking down this list, I found plenty of things to turn off:

  • A version updater for ‘Musicmatch’ (mp3 player), which coincidentally was also causing me problems when shutting down windows.
  • “ITunes helper”, something that iTunes can live without.
  • “QTTask”, something that QuickTime player can live without.
  • A program which my bank gave me.
  • A web browser launcher which got installed during my broadband setup.
  • A printer software update program. (I’ve had the thing two years, it works fine, and the update never gives me new software. I left the printer spooler though.)
  • A program related to my old webcam.
  • A program which I accumulated at some point which supports a remote control for my DVD drive. No thanks.

Other Cleanup

Finally I’ll list a few other things that I like to do occasionally to keep the machine clean.
  • Run spyware and anti-virus scans.
  • Look through the ‘Add/Remove Programs’ list and delete things I’m not using.
  • Delete or move things off the desktop which I’m not using.
  • Empty the recycle bin.
  • Defrag.

The Result

So after all this messing about, is my machine much faster? I’d say it’s going mildly faster, but not so much. That said, I do have a nice feeling of cleanliness, knowing that I’ve cleaned up a bunch of stuff.

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