Windows Vista : Trim the Fat (part 2) - Start Windows in Less Time

6/8/2012 11:45:51 AM

2. Make Menus More Mindful

Ever noticed the half-second or so delay between the instant you move the mouse over a menu item and the moment the menu is opened? By default, Vista waits 400 milliseconds (just under a half-second) before opening menus, but if you eliminate the delay, menus will open instantaneously, and your PC will feel a little more alert.

  1. Open the Registry Editor .

  2. Expand the branches to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop.

  3. Double-click the MenuShowDelay value. If it's not there, go to Edit → New → String Value, and type MenuShowDelay for the name of the new value.

  4. The numeric value you enter here is the number of milliseconds (thousandths of a second) Windows will wait before opening a menu. Enter 0 (zero) here to eliminate the delay completely.

    If you ever have trouble holding your mouse perfectly still, you've probably found it frustrating to navigate menus—particularly those in the Start menu—in Windows Vista. Try typing a very large value (65534 is the maximum) here to stop menus from automatically opening altogether, which should make them easier to use.

  5. Click OK and close the Registry Editor when you're finished. Log off and then log back in or restart Windows for this change to take effect.

Note that another way to navigate touchy menus is to use the keyboard. In any application, press the Alt key by itself to jump to the menu bar (or press Ctrl-Esc or the Windows logo key to open the Start menu), and then use the arrow keys to navigate.

3. Start Windows in Less Time

One of the sure signs of a PC that's been used for more than a few weeks is that it takes a lot longer to start up than when it was new. The longer load time isn't fatigue, nor is it a sign that the PC needs a faster processor; it's a casualty of all the junk that Windows accumulates on a day-to-day basis.

One of the best ways to shorten startup times is to not shut down. Rather, if you put your PC to sleep,  you can power it back up in just a few seconds.

Several factors can impact the amount of time it takes for your computer to load Windows and display the desktop so you can start working, not the least of which is anything left over from the previous version of Windows. If you installed Vista over, say, Windows XP, then you potentially have years of drivers, add-on services, startup programs, and other stuff clogging up your PC. An upgraded PC can take two to four times as long to start as one on which Vista has been installed clean.  Unfortunately, wiping your hard disk and reinstalling is a whole lot easier said than done, so here are some other things you can do to reduce Windows' boot time.

3.1. Eliminate unnecessary autostart programs

Probably the most common thing that slows down Windows' loading time is all of the programs that are configured to load at boot time. Not only do they take a while to load, but they commonly eat up processor cycles while they're running, which in turn causes other programs to load more slowly.

There's more running on your PC than the handful of icons in the notification area (tray) suggests, and there are several places where startup programs are specified in addition to the Startup folder in your Start menu. 

3.2. Make more free disk space

You may not have enough free disk space for your virtual memory (swap file) to operate comfortably. Windows uses part of your hard disk to store portions of memory; the more disk space you devote to your swap file, the easier it will be for Windows to store data there. 

The easiest way to create more free disk space is to delete the files on your hard disk that you no longer need.

Lastly, a new hard disk will give you dramatically more disk space, and a faster hard disk can improve boot time considerably. If you're on the fence about replacing that older drive, consider the performance boost as well as the sorely needed space.
3.3. Clean out your Temp folder

Sometimes having too many files in Windows' Temp folder can not only slow Windows startup, but in extreme cases, can prevent Windows from loading at all. Windows and your applications use this folder to temporarily store data while you're working with documents. When those applications and documents are closed (or when the applications just crash), they often leave the temporary files behind, and they accumulate fast.

By default, Vista has two Temp folders:


although the first is used almost exclusively by Windows and your applications. To clear out your old temporary files, open Windows Explorer, navigate to the Temp folder, and delete anything more than a day old. (Windows won't let you delete any files that are still in use.)

Another way to clear out the Temp folder is to use the Disk Cleanup tool (cleanmgr.exe); after selecting your Windows drive from the Drives list (usually C:), select Temporary files in the Files to delete list, and click OK. Or, if you want your Temp folder cleaned automatically, use the Clear out the Temp folder tool in Creative Element Power Tools (

You can change the location of your Temp folder, making it easier to locate and clean out by hand. In Control Panel, open System, click the Advanced system settings link, and under the Advanced tab, click Environment Variables. Underneath the upper box, click New. Type TEMP for the Variable name, put the full path of the folder you'd like to use in the Variable value field, and click OK. Do the same thing for the TMP variable (no "E" this time), and then click OK when you're done. Restart Windows for the change to take effect.

3.4. Thin out your fonts

If you have more than 600 fonts installed on your system, it may be negatively impacting on the time it takes to load Windows. If you can survive without 400 different decorative fonts (especially if all you ever use is Times Roman), try temporarily removing them.

If you periodically need a lot of fonts, you might want to try font management software that lets you organize your collection and add or remove fonts easily, such as:

3.5. Tame antivirus software

Antivirus programs  are typically set up to not only load automatically whenever you start Windows, but to check for updates, too. For instance, the otherwise excellent (and free) Avast! Home Edition can completely halt a Vista system for 15–20 seconds while it downloads and installs necessary updates.

While you may not want to stop loading your antivirus software automatically, you can delay it by writing a simple startup script  that loads the software after waiting, say, 45 seconds. This way, you can start working while your antivirus program loads in the background.

3.6. Add more memory

Vista really isn't happy with less than a gigabyte of memory; 2 GB is better.

Memory prices are always dropping, typically making it remarkably inexpensive to add more RAM to your system, and doing so will significantly improve performance across the board. 

3.7. Networking

Windows polls each active wired network connection on your system while it boots your system, and then polls your wireless adapter (if you have one) for any networks in range. Each of these steps takes time, so if there are any network adapters on your PC you don't use, you can disable them to speed things up. In the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel, click Manage network connections, and then right-click on each network connection you're not using and select Disable.

Next, if you have any permanent mapped network drives you're not using, open Windows Explorer, right-click any unneeded mapped drives, and select Disconnect.

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