May 042012
 

Yesterday I reviewed BootRacer – a free utility for Windows which provides a simple way to accurately check how quickly your computer starts up.

Today I’ll look at an example case study of how to easily speed up a slow computer, using BootRacer times to check on progress.

Test Computer Specifications: 5 year old laptop – Vista Home Premium SP2, Celeron Processor, 160GB SATA Hard drive with 1GB RAM.

Software: Little used laptop so not a great deal of software installed – Avast 7 free antivirus, Libre Office, Firefox, Chrome, music and video players. Vista was installed from scratch so there is not the usual manufacturer’s trial software and junk installed.

Aims Of Optimization – As discussed yesterday, BootRacer splits the total boot time into two phases:

Time to logon – this time is mostly due to the speed of the hard drive and CPU/RAM.

The 5 year old hard drive is slow by modern standards, the Celeron CPU is very weak and 1GB RAM is not enough for Vista. These factors guarantee that the time to logon will be sluggish – the only realistic way to improve that time (without hacking Vista to pieces) will likely be to upgrade the hardware.

Time from logon to desktop – we should have some success here as it is more dependent on software.

However, the fact there is no manufacturer’s software (bloat) installed and few other programs makes this laptop a challenge to speed up – the more software installed and the more a computer is used, the more speed improvements are likely to be possible…

BootRacer Test Results – As shown below I ran Bootracer 4 times – an initial baseline test at the bottom and then 3 more times (once after each change made). After re-imaging the drive, tests were repeated to ensure they were not a fluke.

bootracer3

BootRacer Test Results

As suspected, optimizing made no difference to the time to logon which stayed stuck at around 56 seconds – primarily because of the 5 year old slow hard drive. Changing to an expensive SSD drive might halve this time but is outside the scope of this article.

The times from logon to desktop improved substantially though – a 44% improvement of 16 seconds, resulting in an overall improvement in startup time of 18% – from 93 seconds down to 76 seconds.

18% may not sound a huge total improvement but the changes only took a few minutes and could also help speed up the laptop in general use (not just startup).

If performed on a typical home user computer bloated by manufacturer’s crapware and years of accumulated installations, your results would likely show even more of an improvement – this computer was already fairly clean and well optimized which made it a good challenge to see if any more could be done.

Simple Methods Used To Optimize Time From Logon To Desktop

1. The first improvement (down to 30 seconds) was achieved by cleaning temporary files with Ccleaner and  using MSconfig to disable unnecessary startup processes.

2. The second improvement (down to 28 seconds) was achieved by defragmenting the hard drive using Defraggler.

3. The third and largest improvement (down to 20 seconds) was achieved by disabling just 2 services – Windows Defender and Windows Search for Vista/Windows 7.

Windows Defender should not be needed if you have a decent antivirus program. Windows Search includes an indexing service called Desktop Search which aims to speed up searches of files, documents and emails etc.

However, most people rarely use it and the indexing process can slow down a computer quite dramatically – during use as well as startup.

To disable these services for Vista and 7:

  • Type ‘Services’ in the Start Search bar and press Enter
  • Scroll down to the service e.g. the Windows Search service, right click on it and choose ‘Properties’.
  • Change the Startup type to ‘Disabled’ and press OK (so it won’t startup in future)
  • Now stop the service by right clicking it and choosing ‘Stop’ (so it no longer running in this session)

Warning: be careful if disabling services – many are essential for Windows to work properly so don’t disable other services unless you know/research the impact first.

Conclusion

The above methods are easy to use and resulted in a substantial 44% improvement in logon to desktop times – even though this laptop did not offer much opportunity for improvement.

The 80:20 rule applies to optimizing – there are more advanced or risky optimizing tweaks that could perhaps save another few seconds but the bulk of possible improvement can be achieved simply and quickly.

It is always worth checking times with BootRacer before and after tweaking to ensure that you have not inadvertently slowed boot times down instead of up.