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How to speed up the boot time of your computer

Updated August 31, 2020

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. Little known fact, but Microsoft didn't invent the Disk Operating System (DOS). It bought Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) in the early '80s 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 significant drive manufacturer's diagnostics software built-in, so this is always the right 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 / Windows 7

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 10

Uninstall any unwanted programs

This one is 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 want to run. The first thing to do is to go to 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 know when a program was installed because you can find many unwanted clutter installations that way.

Remove unwanted items from startup

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 startup 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

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

Once you have your system fine-tuned with MSCONFIG, you could leave your system running in diagnostic mode by having MSCONFIG not displayed at startup. 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 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 a 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, close MSCONFIG and do not restart the computer. Yes, this will enable all of the items you have disabled, but we will 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 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 things, 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 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 Vista / Windows 7 Disk Cleanup

Clean up your hard drive in Windows 8 with Disk Cleanup

Clean up Windows 10 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, it takes it longer to find and load files. Optimizing the HDD structure will always give you 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

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10

Perform advanced disk defragmentation with Defraggler from Piriform

If you want to go the extra mile with optimizing your HDD, 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.

The minimum pagefile size is one and a half (1.5) x the amount of memory. The 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.

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 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 images from videos too.

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

Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group recently released a new version of ICE. The following is a 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.

ICE will work on 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. For more information on Image Composite Editor from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group, follow the links below:

ICE Homepage
ICE Support Forums

How to safely remove external drives

External storage devices like flash drives or hard drives are so convenient for carrying data between computers. Just plug and play, as they say. But did you know it's not the same for when you unplug your drives? Here's how to safely remove external drives from your Windows computer.

How to safely remove external drives

Recently I was at a customer's location repairing her computer and needed some files from one of my USB flash drives. When I was done, I went through the process of ejecting the USB drive from her computer. She was surprised that I didn't just pull the flash drive out. You can, most of the time, unplug a USB device like a mouse or printer without having to do anything to your Windows-based computer. It's only when you have a storage device, like a flash drive or external hard drive, that you have to take an extra step to remove the device safely.

What is write caching?

By default, Windows enables write caching on storage devices for better performance, whether internal or external. Write caching allows programs to write to the device and continue without waiting for the data to be written. By properly ejecting a storage device, you ensure that the cache is getting written to the device before you disconnect it.

How to safely remove external drives

  1. Left-click on the Safely Remove Hardware icon on the Taskbar.
    Safely Remove Hardware icon on the Windows 8 Taskbar
  2. Left-click on the device you want to disconnect.
    List of removable drives ready to be ejected

or

  1. Open File Explorer (Windows logo key Windows logo key + E).
  2. Under This PC / Computer, right-click the drive you want to disconnect and select Eject.

Windows will display a notification when it's safe to disconnect the drive.

Inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Note: the Windows 10 Technical Preview program expired on 4/15/15 and is no longer available.

Coming on the heels of the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft recently released the Windows 10 Technical Preview. With this new Windows version, Microsoft combines elements from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to enhance the keyboard/mouse user experience better. Let's take a look at what's new in the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

With this Windows version, we see a shift in the focus from touch-based devices to keyboard/mouse systems. The most significant change by far is the return of the Start menu. And it is a hybrid now, with elements from Windows 7 (Start menu (left-side)) and Windows 8.1 (Start screen Tiles (right-side)). But if you like using the Start screen, it's still there too. It's just a checkbox and a restart away.

You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

But let's be honest, the Start screen concept might work on a tablet or phone, but it fails miserably on a laptop or desktop computer without a touch screen. Customers have even told me that they had returned brand new Windows 8 systems because they could not stand the Start screen.

Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview
Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Along with the Start menu's return, Microsoft has also built-in the ability to run multiple instances of the Desktop called Task view. With Task view, you can have different sets of programs running in separate desktops. This feature is kind of cool if you're using a single display.

The Windows RT / Metro apps from Windows 8 / 8.1 also have undergone some changes. Their name has been changed to Universal apps, and they now run in completely re-sizable windows. You need to use the Store to install universal apps and can sync them across multiple devices using a Microsoft account.

There is a small change here and there too. One difference is with the way you copy and paste with the Command Prompt. You can now use the Windows keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + C for copy, Ctrl + V for paste) for these tasks.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview is available for anyone who wants to give it a try. Remember; do not install the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a production system. Use only a system that can be reformatted after the preview expires (4/15/15). For this article, I used an Oracle VirtualBox virtual machine.

The correct ways to shut down your Windows based computer

Updated September 13, 2020

Doing computer repair, I see a lot of different issues. But there is one problem I see over and over again, start-up corruption. This most commonly occurs when the computer is not turned off properly. And it appears that laptops are more prone to this issue than desktops are. So here's how to properly shutdown your Windows-based computer.

Which power button do you use to shut down your computer?

Logic dictates that if you use a button to turn on a device, you should also use it to turn it off (button on / button off). You use a button to turn on and off your TV, audio/video components, and smartphone. But this is not necessarily the case when it comes to your computer. It is always recommended that you allow the operating system to close down all applications and turn the computer off itself.

Using the Start menu / Start screen to shut down Windows

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many people don't use this method. It's mainly laptop users who instinctively reach for the power button. But if you don't watch how long you hold the power button down, you could perform a hard shut down. It's simpler and recommended to use the shut down button on the Start menu / Start screen.

Windows Vista

Shut down button location in Windows Vista
Start button > Power button > Shut down

Windows 7

Shut down button location in Windows 7
Start button > Shut down

Windows 8

Sign out button location in Windows 8
1. Start screen > Sign out
Shut down button location in Windows 8
2. Sign in screen > Power button > Shut down

Windows 8.1

Shut down button location in Windows 8.1
Start screen > Power button > Shut down

Or

Power users shut down button location in Windows 8.1
Power users menu (Windows logo key + X) > Shut down or sign out > Shut down

Windows 10

Shut down button location in Windows 10
Start button > Power button > Shut down

Or

Power users shut down button location in Windows 10
Power users menu (Windows logo key + X) > Shut down or sign out > Shut down

Using the power button on the computer to shut down Windows

This method is acceptable for turning off your computer, as it performs the same command as the shut down button on the Start menu / Start screen. But you have to check and make sure that the power options inside the operating system are configured to shut down the system when the power button is pressed.

Power button options inside of Windows 8.1
Power button options inside of Windows 8.1 / Windows 10

The power button can be configured to put the system into sleep or hibernate. And if your system loses power while it's asleep, you will get an error when you restart it. This happens quite often with laptops when they are not using the ac adapter the battery runs out.

Using the power button on the computer to force it to shut down

How do you turn off your computer when it freezes up and doesn't have a reset button? This is where the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) specification comes into play. This spec has been built into every computer for well over a decade now. It mandates that when the power button is held down for 10 seconds or more, the system performs a hard shut down, turning off power to all components. This will most likely cause an error upon restart.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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