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How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Does it seem like your computer takes forever to boot up? Waiting for your Windows based computer to boot can be quite frustrating. But there are a few things you can do. Here is how to speed up the boot time of your computer.

How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Check the drive for errors

If your computer has a Hard Disk Drive (HDD), this is the first thing you want to do. HDD's are notorious for not writing data back to the exact place where the data was read from. Little known fact, but Microsoft didn't invent the Disk Operating System (DOS). It actually bought Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) in the early '80's and renamed it MS-DOS. If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), you can bypass this step, as SSD's don't have moving parts.

Check for hardware issues first with the software provided by the manufacturer of your HDD. The Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) has all of the major drive manufacturer's diagnostics software built-in, so this is always a good place to start.

Diagnose computer hardware issues with the Ultimate Boot CD

Then check for software issues with Windows built-in CHKDSK.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows Vista
Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7
Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Uninstall any unwanted programs

This one is kind of a no-brainer. Allot of adware / junkware will load itself up at boot, causing an increase in boot time. It also takes away resources that could be used by programs you really want to run. First thing to do is to go the Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. Then go through the list of programs to see which ones can be uninstalled. Remember that you can change the way the programs are listed just by clicking on the column name. I like to see when a program was installed, because you can find allot of unwanted clutter installations that way.

Remove unwanted items from start up

MSCONFIG inside of Windows 8
MSCONFIG inside of Windows 8

You can temporarily disable programs and services that start up with Windows using MSCONFIG. MSCONFIG is a diagnostic tool built into Windows that allows you to troubleshoot boot issues. You can enable and disable various boot settings, including programs and services that start up with Windows. Just open an Administrator Command Prompt and type MSCONFIG.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows Vista and Windows 7
How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 8

Once you have your system fine-tuned with MSCONFIG, you could just leave your system running in diagnostic mode by having MSCONFIG not displayed at start up. To be honest, that's one of the first things I check for on systems I work on. It just too easy to let it go. But if you really want to permanently remove the items you have disabled in MSCONFIG, here's how to do it.

The Everything tab inside of Autoruns
The Everything tab inside of Autoruns

  1. Download and extract the latest version of Autoruns from Microsoft.
  2. Open MSCONFIG and make note of each item you have disabled.
  3. On the General tab of MSCONFIG, select Normal startup, then left-click Apply and OK. When prompted, just close MSCONFIG and do not restart the computer. Yes, this will enable all of the items you have disabled, but we are going to delete them next.
  4. Open the folder where you saved Autoruns.exe, right-click on it and select Run as Administrator.
  5. Once it is done scanning, you just need to find the items you had disabled with MSCONFIG. Check the Services and the Logon tabs first. Remember that you can check the logon items for each user with the User pull-down menu. Once you find your items you can 1) disable it with the checkbox on the left or 2) you can right-click on it and select Delete.

Clean up the drive

It's time to clean up some of the clutter that just seems to pile up. Using Windows built-in Disk Cleanup tool (cleanmgr.exe) will quickly clean out all sorts of crap, like user temp files and temporary Internet files. If you want to go a little further with cleaning your drive, download a copy of CCleaner.

Free up more disk space with Windows 7 Disk Cleanup (same for Vista)
Clean up your hard drive in Windows 8 with Disk Cleanup
Clean up and optimize your computer for free with CCleaner

Defragment your HDD

This is another step that only pertains to HDD's, since SSD's don't get fragmented. If your HDD is fragmented, is takes it longer to find and load files. Optimizing the HDD structure will always you give a little more speed. You can use Windows built-in Optimize and Defragment drive tool or another disk utility like Defraggler from Piriform.

Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows Vista
Using Disk Defragmenter in Windows 7
Defragment and Optimize your hard drive in Windows 8
Perform advanced disk defragmentation with Defraggler from Piriform

If you really want to go the extra mile with optimizing your HDD, just remove the swap file before you defrag and restore it after you're done. And when you restore it, go ahead and use the following calculations.

Minimum pagefile size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of memory. Maximum pagefile size is three (3) x the minimum pagefile size. Let's say you have 2 Gb (2,048 Mb) of memory. The minimum pagefile size would be 1.5 x 2,048 = 3,072 Mb and the maximum pagefile size would be 3 x 3,072 = 9,216 Mb.

Speed up your Windows 8 computer with ReadyBoost

Does your Windows 8 computer take a long time to boot up or open programs? Does it seem like the hard drive light is always on? Then you might be able to speed up your computer by using ReadyBoost inside of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

ReadyBoost testing a USB flash drive for capability in Windows 8
ReadyBoost testing a USB flash drive for capability in Windows 8

ReadyBoost is a disk caching software that allows you to use a compatible storage device (USB flash drive, SD card) as a hard drive cache for increasing the read access time to the hard drive. ReadyBoost will work with Hard Disk Drives (HDD's) and not Solid State Drives (SSD's), as SSD's already have fast read access times.

ReadyBoost options for a USB flash drive inside of Windows 8
ReadyBoost options for a USB flash drive inside of Windows 8

You can use USB flash drives, SD cards, flash memory or SSD's with ReadyBoost. Keep in mind that you will need to keep the storage device attached to the computer at all times. For desktops, think about using a spare USB port or two on the back of your system. ReadyBoost supports USB 2.0 or higher, so USB 3.0 port(s) would be the preferred choice. For laptops, think SD card (if you have an SD reader built-in).

You will also need to format your storage device in NTFS or exFAT to get a ReadyBoost cache file larger than 4GB. The maximum ReadyBoost cache size is 32GB and you can have up to eight (8) storage devices on one (1) system for a maximum total of 256GB. The recommended ratio of ReadyBoost memory to system memory is 1:1 to 2.5:1

Here are some tips for selecting a storage device from Microsoft's website:

The minimum amount of available space recommended for ReadyBoost to effectively speed up your computer is 1 GB.

For best results, use a flash drive or flash memory card with available space of at least double the amount of memory (RAM) in your computer, and preferably four times as much memory. For example, if your computer has 1 GB of RAM and you plug in a 4 GB USB flash drive, set aside at least 2 GB on the flash drive to get the best performance gain from ReadyBoost , and preferably the entire 4 GB. How much memory you need depends on how you use your computer. Keeping a lot of programs open at once uses more memory.

Give ReadyBoost 2 GB to 4 GB of space for best results on most computers. You can reserve more than 4 GB of space for ReadyBoost on most flash drives and flash memory cards. (Storage devices formatted with the older FAT32 file system can't store more than 4 GB.) You can use a maximum of 32 GB of available space on any single removable storage device with ReadyBoost and up to 256 GB total per computer (by inserting up to eight USB flash drives or flash memory cards into the same computer).

To work with ReadyBoost , a USB flash drive must support USB 2.0 or higher. Your computer must have at least one free USB 2.0 port where you can plug in the flash drive. ReadyBoost works best if you plug the flash drive into a USB port directly on the computer, rather than into an external USB hub shared with other USB devices.

If you want to be sure a USB flash drive works with ReadyBoost , look for a note from the manufacturer that the flash drive is "Enhanced for ReadyBoost ." Not all manufacturers list this on their packaging. If there is no mention of ReadyBoost compatibility, the flash drive still might work with ReadyBoost .

There are many different kinds of flash memory cards, such as CompactFlash and Secure Digital (SD) memory cards. Most memory cards work with ReadyBoost . Some SD memory cards don't work well with ReadyBoost due to issues with the SD card interface. ReadyBoost will display a warning message if you attempt to use one of these cards.

How to turn on ReadyBoost in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

  1. Insert the storage device.
  2. Open the File Explorer:
    A. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar and then tap or left-click Search. Enter File Explorer in the search box, and then tap or left-click Apps. Tap or left-click File Explorer in the search results.
    B. On the Desktop, left-click on the File Explorer (manila folder) icon on the Taskbar.
    C. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  3. Right-click on the storage device you want to use with ReadyBoost and select Properties.
  4. From the Properties dialog box select the ReadyBoost tab.
  5. Select your choice of options and click on Apply.

Creating panoramic images with Image Composite Editor 2

One of the things I like to do when I go on vacation is taking panoramic photos. Since my camera doesn't actually take panoramic photos, I have to use software to stitch images together. One of the best image stitchers I have found yet is Image Composite Editor 2 from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group.

Image Composite Editor 2

Image Composite Editor (ICE) can take photos taken from a single location that overlap and create stunning panoramic images from them. Using techniques from the field of computer vision, ICE scans the images for similarities to each other and then estimates the vantage point for each photo. ICE can even create panoramic photos from videos too.

Sample ICE 2 panoramic image without auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image without auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image with auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image with auto complete

Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group recently released a new version of ICE. The following is quote from the ICE website of changes included in ICE 2:

  • Redesigned user interface
    ICE has a new look that makes all the features more understandable and easier to use.
  • Automatic image completion
    ICE can now fill in any missing pixels around the edges of your panorama, making a smooth boundary even in cases where you missed a shot.
  • Improved workflow
    ICE now guides you through the steps required to make a great panorama. And you can back up a step to change settings, then see the effects of those changes without having to start over from scratch.
  • Full-resolution preview
    Panorama previews are no longer limited by your screen resolution. ICE now allows you to zoom in to see every detail of your stitched panorama, no matter how big, before you export.
  • Built-in Photosynth uploader
    ICE no longer requires the installation of a separate application to upload a panorama to the Photosynth web site. You can now upload and share your panorama directly from within ICE.


Panoramic image of Jasper Forest inside of the Petrified Forest National Park

ICE will work on 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. For more information on Image Composite Editor from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group, just follow the links below:

ICE Homepage
ICE Support Forums

How to create a custom power plan in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

One of the biggest complaints I hear from customers is how their computers go into sleep mode when at the most inconvenient times. It happens mostly with laptop computers that are stationary and are using the ac power charger. The best way to deal with this issue is to change the power options inside of Windows. Here is how to create a custom power plan inside of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1.

How to create a custom power plan inside of Windows 8 / 8.1

Right out of the box Windows does a pretty good job of matching its' power options to the hardware inside of your computer. But for some of us, those settings just won't work. I personally don't like my system to go to sleep or hibernate. One of the biggest problems I have encountered is having my computer go to sleep as I'm charging my smartphone via USB port. When the system goes to sleep, so does the USB port. In fact, I have disabled hibernation completely on my system. I just have the display turn off after a certain amount of time.

How to create a custom power plan inside of Windows 8 / 8.1

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 1
1. Go to the Control Panel and left-click on Hardware and Sound.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 2
2. Left-click on Power Options.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 3
3. In the left-side column select Create a power plan.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 4
4. Select an existing plan to start with; give it a name and left-click on Next.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 5
5. Make any changes to you may want for the display and when the computer goes to sleep, then left-click on Create.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 6
6. Now you should see your power plan set as default. To change the advanced power settings, left-click on the Change plan settings on the right side of your power plan name.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 7
7. Left-click on Change advanced power settings.

How to create a Windows 8 custom power plan 8
8. On the Advanced settings dialog box that appears, left-click on Change settings that are currently unavailable. Now you can modify every aspect of the power settings for your computer.

Toughen your computer security with EMET 5.1

Keeping your computer secure has always been tough. It seems like every week there is another exploit making the rounds. Nobody can predict what kind of attack hackers will use next. But you can protect your computer from the most common actions and techniques used with the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 5.1 (EMET).

The main screen inside of EMET 5.1
The main screen inside of EMET 5.1

What is EMET? It monitors selected programs (Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office programs, etc.) for known attack actions and techniques. When one of the several pseudo mitigation technologies is triggered, EMET can block or even terminate the program in question. It will also validate digitally signed SSL certificates inside of Internet Explorer. Here's is the current list of mitigations EMET currently looks for.

  • Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP)
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • Heapspray allocation
  • Null page allocation
  • Mandatory Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering (EAF)
  • Export Address Table Access Filtering Plus (EAF+)
  • Bottom-up randomization
  • Return Oriented Programming (ROP)
  • Attack Surface Reduction (ASR)

The about screen inside of EMET 5.1
The about screen inside of EMET 5.1

EMET 5.1 includes the following improvements:

  • Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) has been updated to limit the attack surface of applications and reduce attacks.
  • Export Address Table Filtering Plus (EAF+) has been updated to improve and extend the current EAF mitigation.
  • 64-bit ROP mitigations have been improved to anticipate future exploitation techniques.
  • Several security, compatibility and performance improvements.

EMET can also be customized via the registry (see EMET manual for instructions). Here are a few of the items that can be modified:

  • Enable unsafe configurations.
  • Configuring custom message for user reporting.
  • Configuring certificate trust feature for third party browsers.
  • Configuring local telemetry for troubleshooting
  • Configuring EMET Agent icon visibility.

Here's a quote from Microsoft's website:

The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) helps raise the bar against attackers gaining access to computer systems. EMET anticipates the most common actions and techniques adversaries might use in compromising a computer, and helps protect by diverting, terminating, blocking, and invalidating those actions and techniques. EMET helps protect your computer systems even before new and undiscovered threats are formally addressed by security updates and antimalware software. EMET benefits enterprises and all computer users by helping to protect against security threats and breaches that can disrupt businesses and daily lives.

EMET should never monitor anti-malware and intrusion prevention or detection software, debuggers, software that handles digital rights management (DRM) technologies or software that uses anti-debugging, obfuscation, or hooking technologies. Click here for the EMET 5.1 application compatibility list.

For more information on EMET, just follow the links below,

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit
Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit download

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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