Optimizing Windows’ startup sequence

In days of yore, it was possible to go by one simple rule. When several minutes passed between the time your desktop appeared and the time you could actually do something, you could just run MSConfig and disable anything you don’t recognize. Back when a typical PC started up maybe a half-dozen things and a sick PC started up 12-18, that was manageable.

Not so much today. Not when there are 22,528 known things (as of 30 Nov 2010) that insert themselves into system startup.

I didn’t make that 22,528 number up. How did I know?

Sysinfo runs a startup list.

Here’s how to use it. Run MSConfig and look through the entries. Punch anything you don’t personally recognize into their database. It’ll perform a fuzzy search and tell you what it knows about the program–where it comes from, what it does, and whether you need to keep it, disable it, or do something else with it.

Take half an hour or so to run the stuff your PC plows through at boot-time through this list, and chances are you can regain a lot of youthful vigor. Particularly if your PC is still running on a factory-installed copy of Windows, rather than a clean install.

To go the extra mile, run through the services too. There are Black Viper guides for all recent versions of Windows.

Run services.msc and load up the appropriate Black Viper list. You can selectively hide the columns. There are two approaches you can take: setting your system back to the way Microsoft originally shipped it, or one of three degrees of “tweaked” settings. Early in XP’s lifecycle, Microsoft finally realized that keeping everything enabled all the time wasn’t a good idea from a security standpoint, so the defaults actually aren’t half bad, these days. The “safe” settings are usually OK, although I’ve seen some of Black Viper’s recommendations break stuff in corporate environments. I think it was antivirus. His disclaimer is that it works for 95% of users.

The “tweaked” settings are OK for gaming, but you shouldn’t do those unless you don’t mind tinkering when something goes wrong. The bare-bones configuration is something you probably won’t use unless you’re trying to run Windows on very marginal hardware.

These lists are invaluable for trying to squeeze out just a little more performance, or investigating whether someone’s been in there monkeying around where he shouldn’t be.

When you’re fixing a name-brand PC for someone, there’s always a decent chance that it didn’t come with installation media, and a chance that they’ve misplaced the discs for some critical program that they run. When a clean install isn’t possible, or you don’t have enough time to do one, this allows you to improve things.

If you’re looking for more, here’s my comprehensive guide to optimizing Windows 10.

One thought on “Optimizing Windows’ startup sequence

  • December 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    msconfig is great for this but tweaking services is not my cup of tea. Like turning off the page file, it can break things and make just using the machine annoying. I do turn off file indexing and windows update service though.

    I don’t run windows update or linux auto-updates (debian, ubuntu, etc) ever since on my realtek ethernet broke ride under me thanks to windows update. This was two years back, I logged back onto my machine to see that I had no more network thanks to windows update. Also in linux of course updates will break plenty of things…

    yes I am a computer curmudgeon.

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