I was asked to write a blog-post/guide for my new workplace’s quarterly newsletter, and it had to be something useful for most of our users. I decided to write this post detailing how to speed up your Windows start up and added it onto the site here as it may prove useful to some of you too!
This guide was made using Windows 8.1, so things will differ slightly for those of you using Windows XP or Windows 7, but not by much and I’ll try to point out the differences where I can.
Step 1: Uninstall old programs
Over time it’s amazing how many programs you’ll find you never actually use, follow these steps to remove the things you simply don’t use:
- Go to Control Panel -> ‘Add/Remove Programs’ or ‘Programs and Features’ (depending on what version of Windows you are using)
- If the column ‘Installed On’ and ‘Last Used On’ aren’t showing, right click on the column bar and click on ‘More’
- Check the box next to ‘Installed On’ and ‘Last Used On’ and arrange them where you’d like them to be seen by moving them up or down (or leave them as set by default), click OK
- Typically (and this is just my opinion) I would uninstall software that you haven’t used in over a year (by checking the Last Used On date) – chances are, if you were going to use it again you would have done so by now and you may well have found a different piece of software to do the job since installing it anyway
- Check on the program you want to uninstall and click on the ‘Uninstall’ button – wait for the uninstallation to take place before repeating that step for all the programs you want to remove
- Close down the Programs window and restart your computer if necessary – that’s step 1!
Step2: Remove programs from Windows startup
You know those annoying programs that you use very occasionally, but always seem to load themselves up at startup stopping you from using the PC until the taskbar is fully loaded? You can stop these programs from slowing down your startup by following these steps:
- Get to the run command box – Windows XP = Start button -> Run, Windows Vista/7 = Start button -> Type command in the search box, Windows 8/8.1 -> Open the search bar (on the right hand ‘charms’ bar)
- Type in the command ‘msconfig’
- Go to the ‘Startup’ tab
- Choose the worst offending programs for taking time to start up your PC and deselect them in the checkboxes
- Once complete you will probably have to restart your computer for these changes to take effect – restart your computer
- Upon restart, you should notice these programs don’t appear in your tool tray in the bottom right of your screen
N.B. In Windows 8 you just right click the programs in the Task Manager and click on ‘Disable’ for those you don’t want to appear at startup – you can still access this through the MSConfig way though
Step3: Delete your Temporary Files
Temporary files are created by Windows and other programs, these are just files that are used temporarily to carry out tasks or to speed things like web browsing up (i.e. local cache). Here’s a quick tip on how to clear these out – if you don’t do this regularly you’ll be amazed at how much space you can recover on your hard drive
- Using the same method as opening msconfig in Step 2, type in %temp% in the run or search box
- A folder will open with all of your Temporary files
- Select all of them (the shortcut for this is Ctrl and A) and then delete them (either press delete to send them to the Recycle Bin or press Shift and Delete to permanently delete them)
- A progress bar should show you the deletion progress and give you an idea of how much data you have just freed up!
Step4: Clean up your registry with software (CCleaner)
The Windows registry is a very important file on your computer, it’s basically a list of all the programs and settings that controls how everything works. When you install and uninstall software, keys (basically, a field in the database) can be left in the registry with no value. Deleting these ‘keys’ helps speed up the start-up of your PC by reducing the size of the database it has to scan when starting up. I use the very popular CCleaner for this, available for free from the company Piriform.
- Download the free ‘standard’ version of CCleaner – available here
- Use the default settings – don’t worry, there aren’t any nasty toolbars included with the installation
- Finish the installation and run CCleaner
- Even though we’ve just cleared out Temporary files from Windows in Step 3, you might as well run the clean-up of Temporary files from CCleaner here, click on the ‘Cleaner’ tab and click on ‘Run Cleaner’ – it will now clean out all of the things checked in the list
- Once the cleaner is complete, click on the ‘Registry’ tab
- Click on the ‘Scan for issues’ button – CCleaner will now scan your registry file to see if there are any broken ‘links’ or ‘keys’ – these are mostly left over from uninstalled programs or perhaps a broken installation of a program
- Once the scan is complete, click on the ‘Fix Selected Issues’ button – Ccleaner will now ask if you want to make a backup of your existing registry – IMPORTANT – you most definitely do want to make a backup of this, so if the clean-up operation breaks anything, you can revert to the backup to get things back to the way they used to be before (I’ve never had a problem with this, it’s just good practice to keep backups of things like the registry before making any changes) – save the backup of your registry somewhere you will be able to access it, I made a subfolder in my Documents for registry backups
- Once this is done, CCleaner presents you with the first ‘fix’ of the registry – this is usually just to delete the registry key
- Select ‘Fix All Selected Issues’ and CCleaner will finish off deleting all of the broken registry keys
- Click Close at the end and close down CCleaner (just press the X in the top right of the CCleaner windows)
Step5: Defragment your hard drive
Now that we’ve carried out all of that cleaning work, we’re probably best off defragmenting the hard drive. A Windows hard drive becomes ‘fragmented’ when programs and files are added and removed from the hard drive. Basically, the data may have been sandwiched in the middle of other data, and then removed. To speed up the addition of new data, that space on the hard drive is left alone by the operating system and new data is tagged onto the end. Eventually this leaves gaps in the data, and can cause a slow down when moving from one file to another, or even cause data to get lost. This just gets worse over time. ‘Defragmenting’ a hard drive is basically an operation to move all of that data back together and get it back into some kind of order. If a hard drive is badly fragmented, you can see quite a serious improvement in performance by doing this, here’s how:
- WARNING: You may want to leave this task until the end of your working day with the computer and leave it to run overnight, as this can take up to a few hours to complete, depending on the speed of the machine and how badly the hard drive is fragmented
- Right click on the Windows Hard Drive (in most cases, this is the C drive)
- Click on ‘Properties’
- Click on the ‘Tools’ tab in the dialogue box that appears
- Click on ‘Defragment’ or ‘Optimise’ (depending on what version of Windows you are running)
- If this is the first time you have run a ‘defrag’ on the hard drive, you will have to analyse the drive first – click on ‘Analyse’ and wait for it to complete
- Once the analysis is complete, you should then be able to run the ‘Defragment’ – click on the button and leave it to complete – an estimation of when this job will complete should show near the bottom after a minute or so, but be warned, like other Microsoft time estimates, it can be wildly inaccurate!
- Once complete, the hard drive should show a nice block of data, with the occasional parts which it simply cannot move
That’s it for now – I’m sure people may disagree with some of the above, or have better and further ideas on how to improve the performance of a Windows PC, but with the steps above completed you should definitely see any improvement in performance, unless you have a brand new system and haven’t installed anything yet!
Let me know your comments, thoughts or queries on this guide – it’d be great to hear from you!