Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Speed up Windows Boot Time with StartupDelayer

Maybe you still need those apps, but do you need them right away?

I recently read this article about how US employees are suing their employers over lost hours due to the time it takes Windows to boot. It's also struck me I really should do something about my Thinkpad's Windows XP boot time. It typically takes me the the best part of 15 minutes from power on to "ready to work" state. So it was good news when I came across a piece of software that can really help me gain some of that time back each day!

Some of the delay is due to the so-called "quick launch" applications that the likes of Adobe, RealPlayer and QuickTime install without asking. Many of these can be shut off but there are many drivers, applications and Windows services which are less obvious and think they need to load after Windows boots: anti-virus programs, Thinkpad drivers for Touchpad, TrackPoint etc, various corporate spyware apps my company makes me install, not to mention the applications I do need to use now and then - such as Messenger, printer drivers, Nokia phone software, Bluetooth support etc.

There are programs that let you optimize your system by removing/disabling some of these. A good write up of this is on Lifehacker here. You do need to make extensive use of Google to work out what a given EXE or DLL actually does. I see that they have improved this a bit in Windows Vista which provides more information on process names in its task list.

One of the problems with this approach is that often you do need some of these things to load - just not all together at the beginning. It's this "big hit" of 15-30 small apps all trying to load at once that renders your machine unusable when you just want to quickly check your calendar, email or a webpage. (i've actually arrived at work at 9.45 for a 10am meeting and still been late because of the time it's taken to boot my laptop and get into my calendar!)

The problem comes that (much to my disappointment) I do actually need a lot of this crud to run just to make things work (yet another reason why I prefer the Mac!). However I'd still like to avoid that initial delay that stops me starting working straight away. R2 Studios have come up with an ingenious solution - StartupDelayer. Essentially this is a program that lists your startup applications and lets you disable any of the items you want to - but more importantly, to specify a delay for each one - so that you can stagger your boot sequence and work away happily without overloading your processor. Here is what it looks like:

Screenshot of StartupDelayer

I've staggered the applications that still need to load over a 15 minute period, with things like TrackPad support and Access Connections loading straight away, and the items I'm least likely to need loading last of all. I activated the Delayer and restarted and the difference was noticeable - I can now get into the Web (thanks to Chrome's fast startup) well inside of 5 minutes. Lovely!

I'm not normally a fan of downloading extra applications to enhance Windows but this is one worth using. I recommend you give it a try!

Update: Well, it's name and shame time; I've found that the following applications add themselves back into the Windows Startup List and refuse to be controlled by StartupDelayer - meaning they will insist on booting up straight away and causing a CPU spike at boot time:

  • c4ebreg (corporate spyware thingy, can't be disabled or delayed)
  • ISAMtray (corporate spyware thingy, can't be disabled or delayed)
  • ISSI EZUpdate Service (internal company installer thingy)
  • BMMGAG (ThinkPad Power Monitoring, seems to be needed)
  • pmonmh (IBM My Help, seems to be needed although I'm tempted to get rid of it)
  • msnmsgr (Windows Live Messenger, fortunately auto-start can be disabled in Messenger preferences)
  • ISUSPM (something to do with InstallShield, can't be disabled or delayed)
Fortunately, if you're reading this, most of those won't apply to you (unless you work for the same company!). Oh well, at least things are better - now if I only I could get rid of these corporate monitoring applications! Any tips on getting rid of (or at least delaying) these last few are welcome!

Author's notes: Please excuse the strange vertical line down the middle of the page - I can't figure out where it's coming from or why it suddenly appeared - I suspect Blogger may have changed their template and since I customized it for a wider page, I'll need to go deep diving into the template HTML. Oh what a joy! Any tips are very welcome. Secondly, I just wanted to say that I can't believe I've been back a month from India now - I have a few blog post ideas kicking around so will aim to get them down over the next couple of weeks! As ever, thanks for reading.