One of the longest-running
debates in computer circles involves the question of whether to turn off
the computer when you’re not using it. The “off” camp believes that
shutting down the computer reduces hard disk wear and tear (because the
disk’s platters spin full-time, even when the computer is idle),
prevents damage from power surges or power failures that occur while the
machine is off, and saves energy. The “on” camp believes that cold
starts are hard on many computer components, that energy can be saved
by taking advantage of power-saving features, and that leaving the
computer running is more productive because it avoids the lengthy
In the end, I believe
the overall boot time is what usually determines which of these camps
you belong to. If your startup time is unbearably long, you’ll certainly
be more inclined to leave your computer running all the time.
Fortunately, Windows Vista has made great strides on improving startup
times, which now routinely measure in seconds instead of minutes.
However, if you’re convinced that turning off the computer is a sensible
move but you hate waiting even for Windows Vista’s faster startup
process, the next few sections provide a few tips for improving startup
performance even more.
Reducing or Eliminating BIOS Checks
Many computers run through
one or more diagnostic checks at system startup. For example, it’s
common for machines to check the integrity of the system memory chips.
That seems like a good idea, but it can take an interminable amount of
time to complete on a system with a great deal of memory. Access your
system’s BIOS settings and turn off these checks to reduce the overall
time of the computer’s Power-On Self Test (POST).
How you access your computer’s BIOS settings (also called the CMOS setup)
depends on the manufacturer. You usually have to press a function key
(normally F1, F2, or F10), a key such as Delete or Esc, or a key
combination. During the POST, you should see some text on the screen
that tells you what key or key combination to press.
Reducing the OS Choices Menu Timeout
If you have two
or more operating systems on your computer, you see Windows Vista’s OS
Choices menu at startup. If you’re paying attention to the startup, you
can press the Enter key as soon as this menu appears and your system
will boot the default operating system. If your mind is elsewhere,
however, the startup process waits 30 seconds until it automatically
selects the default choice. If this happens to you frequently, you can
reduce that 30-second timeout to speed up the startup. There are three
ways to do this:
Press Windows Logo+R (or select Start, All Programs, Accessories, Run), type msconfig -2,
click OK, and enter your UAC credentials. In the System Configuration
tool’s Boot tab, modify the value in the Timeout text box.
Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties. In the System
window, click Advanced System Settings and enter your UAC credentials to
open the System Properties dialog box and display the Advanced tab. In
the Startup and Recovery group, click Settings and then adjust the value
of the Time to Display List of Operating Systems spin box.
Start, All Programs, Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and then
click Run as Administrator. At the command prompt, enter the following
command (replace ss with the number of seconds you want to use for the timeout):
Turning Off the Startup Splash Screen
You can prevent the
Windows Vista splash screen from appearing, which will shave a small
amount of time from the startup. Press Windows Logo+R (or select Start,
All Programs, Accessories, Run), type msconfig -2,
click OK, and then enter your UAC credentials. In the System
Configuration tool’s Boot tab, activate the No GUI Boot check box.
Activating the No GUI
Boot option means that you won’t see any startup blue-screen errors. In
other words, if a problem occurs, all you’ll know for sure is that your
system has hung, but you won’t know why. For this reason, the small
performance improvement represented by activating the No GUI Boot option
is likely not enough to offset the lack of startup error messages.
Upgrading Your Device Drivers
designed to work with Windows Vista will generally load faster than
older drivers. Therefore, you should check each of your device drivers
to see whether a Windows Vista–compatible version exists.
Using an Automatic Logon
One of the best ways to
reduce startup time frustration is to ignore the startup altogether by
doing something else (such as getting a cup of coffee) while the boot
chores occur. However, this strategy fails if the logon process
interrupts the startup. If you’re the only person who uses your
computer, you can overcome this problem by setting up Windows Vista to
log you on automatically.
Configuring the Prefetcher
is a Windows Vista performance feature that analyzes disk usage and
then reads into memory the data that you or your system accesses most
frequently. The prefetcher can speed up booting, application launching,
or both. You configure the prefetcher using the following Registry
There’s also a SuperFetch setting:
In both cases, set the value to 1 for application-only fetching, 2 for boot-only fetching, or 3
for both application and boot fetching (this is the default for both
settings). You can try experimenting with boot-only fetching to see
whether it improves your startup times, but my own testing shows only
minimal startup improvements. The more programs you run at startup, the
more your startup performance should improve with boot-only fetching.