Improve Windows XP boot speed

Eliminate unwanted programs from boot up

You will find that many of the programs you install on your system set portions of themselves to run automatically when you start up your computer. Each program that runs on startup not only consume system resources but also extends the length of time it takes your PC to fully boot.

Since it is generally unnecessary to have any programs running in the background (other than security software like virus-scanners or firewalls) disable your unwanted startup programs to increase your startup speed and conserve system resources.

The easiest way to go about this task is to use the MSCONFIG utility, which may be familiar to users of Windows 9x. This handy program contains a list of software which is set to start when you boot your PC. You can then easily disable and re-enable (if necessary) these items.

Go to `start\run` and type €˜msconfig` to access the utility.

The `startup` tab in MSCONFIG provides access to several other applications that are started at boot up and are running in the background. By examining their Filenames and directories, you should be able to get a feeling for what is necessary and what is not.

Be aware than several viruses and worms have a habit of disguising themselves with authoritative sounding Windows system file names, such as the Win32.spybot.worm as MSCONFIG32.EXE. Leave these for now if you are not sure.

The next place you should go is `start\programs\startup` which is a directory Windows XP uses to launch application shortcuts on boot-up.

If you remove the shortcuts from this directory, the applications will not load on startup. This directory can also be a repository for various badness such as spyware and virus software, so if there are files here which are not shortcuts and you don`t recognize them, you may wish to consider removing them anyways, as Windows will not place critical files in this directory.

Eliminate unwanted fonts to increase boot speed

The Windows XP control panel contains a €˜fonts` directory which holds all the fonts currently installed on your system. These can come from Windows itself or from an application such as Word.

Windows checks and loads these fonts during the startup process, therefore having a large amount of font files can cause performance to drag during startup. The simple solution for this (if you do not expect to use the majority of these fonts constantly) is to move the unnecessary fonts to a new directory elsewhere on the hard disk, preserving them in case they are needed, but preventing them from loading upon startup.

To do this:

Create a new directory called €˜font backup` or something similar on your C: drive.

Go to `start\control panel\fonts` and select all fonts. Drag and drop all the fonts into the backup folder you just created. Things will get garbled for a moment, never fear. Windows XP will automatically re-install the base fonts that it needs to display text into the fonts folder in a second or two.

Now you have the bare minimum of fonts installed. Go through the backup folder and cherry pick the fonts that you are sure to use (like Times New Roman or Arial).

If you removed a large volume of fonts, your system should now boot faster.

Turn off BIOS disk detection

Most modern motherboards will attempt to detect any IDE devices, such as hard drives and CD drives, during the POST sequence each time the computer boots. By configuring the BIOS with the correct drive information, you can shave a few seconds off your boot time by avoiding this detection process.

To do this enter your system`s BIOS setup screen.

Depending on your motherboard, you may have an IDE drive auto-detection menu. If you do, simply select it to automatically set your drives. If not, configure the drives through the `standard CMOS settings` menu.

Note that some motherboard chipsets (like Nvidia`s Nforce 2) do not allow this auto-detection to be disabled.

Use the Intel application accelerator

If your computer has an older Intel chipset (pre-865) you may benefit from downloading and installing the Intel Application Accelerator .

This software replaces the Windows XP ATA (hard disk and IDE device) drivers with ones specially designed for Intel chipsets, improving disk performance and boot time.

Please make sure that your computer conforms to the system requirements before installing the accelerator.

Disable unneeded devices in device manager

A quick fix that can make XP boot faster is to disable any unused devices in the Windows XP device manager. For example if you have a integrated sound card or video card that you have upgraded, or if you do not use a floppy drive on your system, it pays to disable these devices in device manager.

The same goes for extra network cards. Of course, the standard rule of thumb applies here: If you do not know what it is, leave it alone.

To disable unneeded devices in device manager:

Right click on €˜my computer` and select €˜properties.` From the €˜hardware` tab, select €˜device manager.` Expand the various categories to locate unused devices. Right click the devices and select €˜disable.`

Disable auto detection for empty IDE slots

Another quick trick for a faster boot up is to disable the auto detection that Windows XP uses to determine if there are IDE devices present in any of the IDE slots on the motherboard. More specifically, disable this feature on any empty slots to prevent the operating system wasting time and resources checking them.

Right click on €˜my computer` and select €˜properties.` Go to the €˜hardware` tab and select €˜device manager` to open the device management window.

Expand €˜IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers` and highlight the €˜primary IDE channel.` Right click the highlighted entry and select €˜properties.` Go to the €˜advanced settings` tab.

If either IDE slot on the controller is empty, the €˜device type` dropdown box will be not grayed out. Set it to €˜none` to disable auto detection of IDE devices on that particular slot.

Repeat the above steps for the `secondary IDE controller.`

Note that if you wish to add a new IDE device, you will have to reset the €˜device type` setting to €˜autodetect` in order for Windows to use the new drive.

Reduce wait time after XP boots

A common performance problem with Windows XP is `start lag,` in which the operating system boots up normally, the desktop is visible and usable, but programs will not start, and selecting icons and using the start menu are extremely slow. This can take anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes to clear up, and can make using the operating system extremely frustrating, especially if you are in a hurry after the reboot.

This delay is generally caused by Windows XP`s networking services looking for other computers and advertising their functions over the computer`s network connections.

If this problem is driving you nuts, there is a way to reduce or eliminate the delay, though if you are attached to a home network, it will reduce your computer`s functionality on that network.

If your computer is not attached to a home network:

Right click on €˜my computer` and select €˜manage.`
Expand `services and applications` and select `services` to open the services window.
Highlight the €˜workstation` service, right click and select €˜properties.` Set the `startup type` dropdown box to €˜disabled.` Click €˜ok.`

Note that you will need to re-enable the workstation service should you wish to network your PC in the future.

If your computer is part of a home network:

Go to `start\control panel\network and internet connections\network connections.`

Right click your current network connection (should be €˜local area connection` unless you have more than one network adaptor) and select €˜properties.`

Uncheck the €˜File and Print Sharing` box and press €˜ok.`

Note that this will disable your computer`s ability to share files and printers over the network, though it should not affect your ability to access such resources on another system.

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