Tips for faster startups

Here's one thing I love about my PDA: I push the On button, and boom -- it's on.

As for my notebook, I push the On button and wait for all the little programs to start up. And I wait. And wait.

When you're in a hurry and want to check e-mail, cooling your heels while your notebook starts up is a real drag. Here are some ways to minimize -- and even avoid -- those interminable delays.

Put your notebook into Stand By mode

Starting up from a complete shutdown takes so long because the operating system has to reload numerous files into memory. Antivirus, WinZip compression, and PDA synchronization utilities are among the files automatically loaded during a Windows startup. Then you've still got to launch the applications you need, such as your e-mail program.

To get going faster, put your notebook into Stand By mode instead of shutting it down. In Stand By, your display and hard drive are shut down, but all open applications and files are stored in memory. The result: Your computer awakens from Stand By mode almost as quickly as a PDA turns on. And all the applications and files you were working on are open and ready for duty.

Stand By uses a low level of battery power, however. So if you'll be traveling all day and need every bit of juice available, use Hibernate mode instead.

Hibernate stores the contents of the notebook's memory in a file on your hard drive (instead of in RAM), sets your notebook to load that file's contents back into RAM at the next startup, and then shuts down your notebook. Hibernate uses less power than Stand By, and returns you to open files just like Stand By, but it takes longer to resume.

To go into Stand By, go to Start, Turn Off Computer and select Stand By. For Hibernate, select Start, Turn Off Computer, hold down Shift to see the Stand By option change to Hibernate, and click Hibernate.

Banish spyware and adware

Spyware and adware can significantly slow startup -- not to mention your PC's performance overall. If your notebook is taking for-ev-er to launch, it could be because of spyware or adware.

If you're not running an anti-spyware/adware program yet, it's time you did. In PC World's August issue, Mary Landesman chose Sunbelt Software's CounterSpy 1.5 (US$20) as her top anti-spyware pick. Mary liked CounterSpy's robust spyware and adware detection, easy-to-use protection, and affordable price. For more anti-spyware options, read Mary's lengthier feature, "Spyware Stoppers."

Do some housecleaning

Here's another possible reason your notebook startup is s-l-o-w: You've got too many programs on it, many of which have components that must be launched at startup. Removing unwanted programs will help improve startup performance.

To remove a program in Windows XP, select Start, Control Panel, Add or Remove Programs, select the program you want to ditch, and click Remove. Unfortunately, programs must be removed one at a time. If in doubt, don't delete.

Stop some programs from loading

Your Windows system tray, located in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, contains small icons for programs that automatically start with the OS and run in the background. Chances are you don't need all these programs running all the time; and cumulatively, they slow your notebook's startup.

Some system-tray-resident programs let you disable their automatic startup routine. Place your cursor over a program icon you don't think you need to start up automatically and right-click. Select Open, Options, Preferences, or something similar and look for an option that enables the program to automatically start with Windows. Disable the option. The changes should take effect when you restart. And don't worry; you can still launch these programs from the Start menu when they're needed.

Remove programs from the startup folder

Some applications automatically place a shortcut icon in the Startup folder to ensure they launch with Windows. But you can put a stop to that.

Right-click the Start button and click Explore. Windows Explorer launches with the Start menu selected by default. Click the plus sign next to Programs and click Startup. Shortcut icons will be listed in the right-hand pane. If you're sure you don't need any of the programs to launch automatically, cut and paste the shortcuts to the desktop, then restart your notebook. If it turns out you did need one of the programs to launch automatically, click and drag the shortcut back to the Startup folder. Otherwise, delete it from the desktop.

Turn off automatic program launches

Not all programs install an icon in the system tray and run in the background -- and yet, they still start up automatically with Windows. You can use Windows' System Configuration Utility to stop programs and tasks from starting up automatically.

For example, the utility's Selective Startup lets you choose which programs will be launched automatically with Windows. Before a plane trip, for instance, you might use Selective Startup to stop antivirus, firewall, Bluetooth, and other utilities you might not need in the air from launching. Back on the ground, you can use the System Configuration Utility to resume Normal startups, with all programs loading automatically.

Here's how: Click Start, Run. In the Open field, type msconfig and click OK to launch the System Configuration Utility. On the General tab, click Selective Startup and then choose the Startup tab. Remove the checks from any tasks you want to prevent from automatically launching. Click OK. You'll need to restart for changes to take effect.

To resume your regular startup routine, open the System Configuration Utility again and choose Normal as the startup option.

Many of the tasks listed in the Startup tab will likely seem foreign to you. To find out what the heck they are, you can look them up at the Windows Startup Online Search page.

Use a third-party utility

A number of utilities add more control over the startup process than what's available in Windows.

For example, with Startup Organizer's Controlled Startup feature, you can create a list of programs you don't want to load at startup. Holding down Shift when booting up your notebook keeps those programs from launching. In my informal tests of Startup Organizer, I've found the program takes some getting used to but does what it promises. The $25 program from MetaProducts is available as a 30-day free trial.

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James A. Martin

James A. Martin

PC World
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