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 startup process.
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 7 has made great strides on improving startup times, which now routinely clock in at well under a minute (instead of the multiminute startups of yesteryear). However, if you're convinced that turning off the computer is a sensible move but you hate waiting even for Windows 7'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 7'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:
- Select Start, type system, and then press Enter to select System Configuration in the search results. In the System Configuration window, display the Boot tab and then modify the value in the Timeout text box.
- Select Start, type advanced system, and then press Enter to select View Advanced System Settings in the search results. This opens the System Properties dialog box and displays 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.
- Select Start, type command, right-click Command Prompt in the search results, click Run as Administrator, and then enter your UAC credentials. 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 7 splash screen from appearing, which will shave a small amount of time from the startup. Select Start, type system, and then press Enter to select System Configuration in the search results. In the System Configuration window, display the Boot tab and then activate the No GUI Boot check box.
CAUTION: 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
Device drivers designed to work with Windows 7 will generally load faster than older drivers. Therefore, you should check each of your device drivers to see whether a Windows 7–compatible version exists. If one is available, upgrade to that driver as described in Chapter 22, "Troubleshooting Devices."
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 7 to log you on automatically. I discussed this in Chapter 4, "Customizing Startup and Shutdown."
Configuring the Prefetcher
Prefetching is a Windows 7 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 setting (open the Registry Editor by selecting Start, typing regedit, and then pressing Enter; see Chapter 12, "Tweaking the Windows 7 Registry," for more information):HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSessionManagerMemory Management
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.
Tuning Windows 7's performance
Windows 7 performance monitoring tools
Optimizing Windows 7 startup performance for energy efficiency
Optimizing Windows 7 application performance
Improving Windows 7 performance by optimizing the hard disk
Windows 7 virtual memory performance optimization
Printed with permission from Sams Publishing. Copyright 2009. Microsoft Windows 7 Unleashed by Paul McFedries. For more information about this title and other similar books, please visit www.pearson.com.
This was first published in September 2009