How to Improve Windows 7 Startup Time

When you first wake up or sit at your desk for the first time in the morning, the last thing you want to do is wait for Windows to boot up. While Windows 7 itself depends greatly on hardware for dramatic startup time improvements, there are several ways you can reduce this waiting period.

LVTilley, a member of the LockerGnome community at large, asked about ways to improve Windows 7 startup time via the Windows Questions Form.

I, for one, want nothing more than to see Windows start up within seconds of hitting the power button at the beginning of the day. There was once a time when I would hit the power button, go into the other room, make coffee, pour myself a bowl of cereal, and return to my desk just in time to see my desktop appear. Thankfully, these days are mostly behind us. With the advances in hardware giving us more powerful processors, faster hard drives, and better overall system performance, we expect our computers to be ready at our beck and call the instant we need them.

In this article, we’ll discuss several methods to help reduce startup times in Windows 7. Some of these steps may seem like common sense, though they are easily overlooked as we go about our day-to-day lives.

Windows 7, like many versions before it, depends greatly on software developers to maintain a balance between performance and efficiency. A combination of factors play into your system startup time including: programs, drivers, background tasks, system utilities, and in some cases even your font library. It’s hard to nail down one specific cause of an extended startup time. You can, however, do your best to mitigate this delay by reducing the amount of unnecessary strain your computer goes through when it first boots up.

Here are some tips to help you improve Windows 7 startup time.

Solid-State Drives

Solid-state drives (SSD) are very quick, durable, and are an increasingly less expensive method of storing your files. While a solid-state drive may not be a practical approach to storing all of your data, it plays a very big role in speeding up your computer’s start up time, in addition to the time it takes to load programs. By installing your primary operating system and programs on a solid-state drive, you eliminate the need to wait while the platter speeds up and the magnetic read head locates and relays important system data.

If you’ve ever seen a video on YouTube demonstrating a solid-state drive, there’s a good chance it included a demonstration of Windows loading almost instantly. This is due in part to the remarkably fast read/write times made possible by a solid-state drive. Since all of the data is stored electronically rather than written to a platter, it’s much easier for the drive to locate specific bits and pass them on to the rest of the system.

Remove Ghosted Drivers

Ghosted drivers are one of those things that you rarely hear about, but can actually impact the performance of your system as it boots up. Believe it or not, your computer may still be affected by devices that you plugged in months ago, and haven’t used in ages. Whether those devices are plugged in currently are not, your system may be searching for them when it boots up.

For example, if you plug in a USB headset to record some audio, but don’t plan on using it ever again in the future, it may have unplugged it thinking that that’s all you really needed to do. But in reality, Windows may be searching for that device every time you boot up in order to quickly install and begin using it. This feature serves as a convenience in many cases as it reduces the amount of time it takes to recognize hardware that was previously plugged in and make it available to you. On the downside, this can make loading Windows take just a little longer than it should.

One way to find and remove these ghosted devices is through the Device Manager. By right clicking on Device Manager and selecting View > Show Hidden Files, you can see (and remove) ghosted devices.

Another method for removing them is through a third-party application called GhostBuster. GhostBuster lists all of your devices in an easy-to-read fashion, giving you the ability to select and remove ghosted devices all at once. GhostBuster can also help you avoid removing devices that are essential to your system’s well-being.

Control Startup Applications and Services

When Windows starts up, a lot of things happen. Drivers are loaded, fonts are put at the ready, and background tasks are initiated. One of the biggest factors to Windows startup time is the amount of applications that load without you even having to execute them. Music programs will load assistants that run in the background, allowing you to quickly launch the program when you hit a media key on your keyboard. Anti-virus programs, office applications, screen recorders, and just about anything else that runs on Windows may be launching the moment you boot your system. This can cause an enormous strain on your processor, hard drive, and RAM before you even have a chance to load anything yourself.

Not every program that starts up when you first load Windows appears in the system tray. Many programs will load in the background without even letting you know that they’re there. Often, the only way you can tell these programs are loaded at all is by checking the Task Manager.

Services are another issue. Like applications, some services may be considered unnecessary. For example, if you don’t use Windows Media Center at all, there’s no point in having it load each time to launch Windows.

Believe it or not, you do have a lot of control over what loads when you boot up Windows. You can tell your system not to allow specific applications to run until you have executed them yourself. There are several ways to go about this, and here are a couple.

Within the Application Itself

Many applications have an option within their preferences menu to stop it from running when Windows starts. This preference is often toggled on by default as it is considered a convenience to have the application run automatically. Unfortunately, it isn’t always a convenience. In fact, some programs are just downright needy and do little more than hog up all of your system resources. If you don’t use the program on a regular basis, what’s the point in having it run automatically anyway?

Finding out where this option is depends on the program itself. Often it’s available in the first general menu under preferences, but it may also be located under the advanced tabs of the settings window. If you’re having trouble finding it, a quick Google search might help.

How to Improve Windows 7 Startup TimeMSCONFIG

Another option available to you is MSCONFIG, a feature of Windows itself. By typing msconfigin into the search field of your start menu, you’ll have access to a system configuration utility that allows you to customize several key settings including which applications load when Windows starts.

You’ll find these program settings under the Startup tab, and can disable them by deselecting the check box next to the Application.

It’s important to note here that this should be a last resort taken only if the program itself doesn’t offer a solution. You should also note that there are several programs that may be essential to your system’s operation, making a blanket disable all option that should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Perform Maintenance; Get Rid of Things You Don’t Need

A computer is a lot like a car. It is a complex machine and its general life span and performance can be improved with a little maintenance. While it may be impractical to check the computer’s oil or washer fluid levels, you can see pretty amazing results from just a little love and care.

Defragment your hard drive once a week, clean out your Downloads directory once in a while, and delete programs you no longer need. A lean system fitted with only the programs you need to get through your daily life will perform better than one bloated with excess garbage. Windows startup times will likely benefit from this extra attention, as well.

Use Standby Mode

Windows 7 users can enjoy much faster access to their data by putting their systems in Hibernate or Standby mode instead of shutting them off entirely. While rebooting may be required from time to time, it’s typically a good idea to let Windows go into hibernation rather than simply shutting the system down. In many cases, firing up a hibernating system can take seconds rather than minutes, and give you almost-immediate access to your files and programs.

Laptops are especially benefited by this feature, as closing the lid and sliding your PC into your laptop bag shouldn’t be accompanied by the long wait while everything closes down and the little power light fades into darkness. Likewise, taking your laptop out of the bag and opening the lid should result in everything coming right up as it was before, with only a minimal amount of battery usage between locations. Hibernation takes it a step further, using almost no battery power (it’s technically shut down) to maintain the session you were in the middle of before hitting the road.

This can be equally beneficial to desktop users. Turning in for the night doesn’t have to be followed by a lengthy wait. You can use the energy preferences to control when your system goes to sleep automatically, waking back up with a click of the mouse, or tap of the space bar.

These are just a few of the many tips that can help streamline Windows 7 startup times. What are your suggestions? Are there any tips or tricks that have helped your system fire up faster?

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Ben

    Matt, what do you mean by “almost no battery power?” I though hibernation shut your computer down after saving the current state to the hard disk.

  • Michael Stokes

    My Inspiron N5110 using a 5400RPM SATA boots up in 32seconds.

  • http://twitter.com/MattRyan Matt Ryan

    You’re right. Some systems tick away battery life, even while shut down. Granted, it’s a very very small amount. I’ll make a clarifying note in the article. Thanks.

  • allegoricus

    msconfigin?

  • Pedifer1999

    a good option is to dissable GUI startup

  • go4java

    …to me, the most effective approach is using a SSD. My Win 7 Home notebook Lenovo E520 64-bit starts in 20 sec with a Samsung SSD 60GB.

  • Curtis Coburn

    I don’t usually mind the time it takes to boot up. It takes my computer about 45 seconds to get to my profile, and about 1:30 to load the desktop applications. That would be the internet security, Skype, Speech Recognition, Google Talk.

    I might take some of them out T make it boot faster.
    I have my drfraggmenting HDD set to do it automatically every week.

  • Synadude

    I never turn off my computer.

  • Trent Auld

    I use an OCZ Synpase drive, it has cut my boot time significantly, I also feel it has improved zoning in games.

  • Mozdony

    The event viewer/applications and services logs/Microsoft/Windows/Diagnostics-Performance/Operational/ contains information about every process that hinders may hinder the startup process, measured in miliseconds.

  • Don

    In msconfig under the startup tab is a advanced area. If you have a multi-core processor or multiple cpu’s mscongif can instruct the OS to use more than one cpu for start up services. The default setting is one so if available, changing that to 2 will speed up sytem responsiveness at start.

  • Robbie Gorman

    It’s amazing how many programs you can have slowing down your start up before you realize it.