Q: My computer is slow to boot and often slow to run. What can I do to improve its performance?
A: You will need to manually select which applications are loaded when Windows boots. The fewer the apps loaded at startup, the faster the boot time.
Editors differ in complexity and power, but all use the same basic step-by-step process. Because of that commonality, I suggest you begin by reading the two articles before this one before doing anything to your PC. That way, you'll have a complete overview of the options available, and you can select the right tool for your needs and abilities. Those articles can be found at nwitimes.com/business/columnists/april-miller-cripliver.
In my last column, I discussed the common System Configuration Utility that comes with almost every version of Windows. In that article I suggested you deselect those applications in the Startup tab which you do not want started automatically on each boot. However, don't go nuts and deselect everything. Some items truly belong in your system startup. For example, you want security tools (antivirus, anti-malware, etc.) to be up and running as quickly as possible, so leave them in your startup list. Use common sense and remove only those items that you clearly can do without.
When you've cleaned up items in the System Configuration Startup list to your satisfaction, check out the Services tab. There's more risk in modifying these items because they're deeper-seated, system-level software services. However, there are usually a few items here that are safe to remove from the system-startup process.
Use the same technique you applied to applications: identify each item and make an informed judgment as to whether or not it needs to be in startup. If you're not sure about any given service, it's best to leave it alone. Deselect unwanted items, reboot Windows and note the effect on startup time. Also keep an eye out for anything that's no longer running properly. When you're done with all your edits, your start times should be lower than your baseline number – perhaps significantly so.
Again, the System Configuration Utility is a basic tool. Windows has one more tool built in called the Administrative Tools' Component Services applet. The ATCS offers additional startup-editing options, but it's a tool aimed at expert users. I’m not going to cover this here because I could do more harm than good if I fail to make something clear. If you’re still interested in getting more control over your machine, consider purchasing WinPatrol (www.winpatrol.com) for about $30. This is a great tool for managing many aspects of PC performance and security. It has a great startup that makes it easy to dig into and modify almost all system-startup behaviors.
Perhaps the most powerful startup editor of all is Microsoft's Sysinternals Autoruns, which can be used as a live, online tool (no formal installation required) or as a conventionally downloaded utility. Sysinternals Autoruns benefits from Microsoft's inside knowledge of how Windows works. It can reveal more details on autorunning and startup software than any other tool.
Take your pick. Start with System Configuration if you're not a Windows expert. Make a system backup, and then begin editing your startup software by using the steps in the last few articles. A faster boot might be just minutes away!