May 032012
 

I have reviewed before how to speed up a slow computer – a good indication of computer speed is how long it takes to boot (start up) to the point where the desktop appears and you can open a program.

If the boot speed is glacial it is likely the computer will be generally slow to use. There are two main phases of startup:

1. Time to get to the logon stage – mostly due to the speed of the hard drive and therefore difficult to improve unless you buy new hardware (e.g. a faster hard drive).

2. Time to get from logon to the desktop – mostly due to the number of startup processes, services and Windows components. These elements can often be speeded up dramatically to make a computer quicker.

Before trying to speed up a slow computer it helps to find out how long each phase of start up takes so you know where the major bottleneck is. You can also compare how quickly it boots before you make any changes to how quickly it boots afterwards – so you can be sure that your changes work and haven’t slowed it down instead…

A very simple way to accurately check how quickly your computer starts up, and see the time for both phases separately, is to use the free BootRacer utility for Windows.

BootRacer automatically calculates your Windows boot time and logs the results in a history report so you can compare it to your previous boot times. It provides a total time and also splits it into the two phases – you can easily see how much optimizing is possible and compare the results of changes you make.

BootRacer subtracts any time you spend at the logon screen (e.g. typing in a password) so you don’t need to be a touch typist to get an accurate speed.

Download – download and install BootRacer from the developer here -  there are 7 different language versions to choose from.

After installation the main program window appears as shown below:

bootracer

BootRacer – Main Window

For simple use just press Start then confirm that you want BootRacer to shut down and restart your computer so it can automatically measure the boot up time.

Note that BootRacer will record times of every startup by default – if you want to change it to only record once, see the Advanced options below (or uninstall it when you have finished).

Advanced Options

“Display Last Results”

- when you have used BootRacer more than once, this option displays the most recent results.

“Options”

1. Choose whether to run BootRacer every boot (default) or just once
2. Display BootRacer window during startup (default) or hide it
3. Write times to Windows events log (all selected by default) – best to leave these as the default or the time may not be recorded
4. System Information – provides very basic information on CPU/RAM etc – to get far more detailed info on your computer hardware see how to use Speccy
5. Help Manual
6. Get Support – online support at the developer’s website
7. Language – switch to English or your native language.
8. Click Start to reboot and time your boot – confirmation required.

After Restart

After restart BootRacer calculates the total startup time and displays it with a message asking if you want to see why boot took so long.

Click on the message or open the BootRacer program to display the last boot results as shown in the example below:

bootracer2

BootRacer – Last Results

In the example the last boot results show the total time to desktop as 93 seconds and the time to logon as 57 seconds – the time from logon to desktop is therefore 36 seconds.

The ‘History’ button displays a simple bar chart of your most recent results – split by the two phases so you can easily see what effect any changes you make have on boot times.

The ‘Speed Up’ button is basically an advert – it takes you to the developer’s website and offers you a ‘Free Scan’ program by Uniblue which transfers you to the Uniblue website. I don’t recommend this.

Warning: numerous comments from Web Of Trust (safe search) users here complain that Uniblue programs may not be free or may be harmful

The ‘Contest’ button compiles basic hardware data about your computer and lets you post it, together with your results, to the BootRacer website for bragging rights if you have a quick score.

Note that a sudden unusually slow result compared to your other tests could be due to Windows doing some background maintenance tasks during that particular startup – retest to make sure.

What Is A Good Time?

It’s more a case of comparing your current time to your previous times – at some point in speeding up a slow computer you will reach the limit of what is possible for your hardware – BootRacer can help you see when that point is being reached.

A total time of less than a minute is good for a newish computer but older systems could take longer even when fully optimized. The main aim of optimizing a computer is to improve the time you started with to make the most of the hardware you have.

Conclusion

BootRacer is a simple way to accurately check how quickly your computer starts up – helpful if you want to speed up your computer or check how quick it is before and after installing a new program.

See Part 2 for an example case study of speeding up a computer by 18%, using BootRacer times to check on progress.