The other day I noticed my PC was taking a while to start itself up. I pushed the power button, went to the kitchen, came back, and it had only made it to the Windows log-on screen. If this were a couple of years ago, that would have been normal but since I upgraded to an SSD, slow start up times was the last thing I expected. In this post, I will explain how I cut my start up time in half and how you can improve start times too (even without a fast SSD).
The first step is figuring out why your PC is taking so long to start up - it isn't doing it just to spite you (or maybe it is; treat your PC with care, folks!). My major issue was way too many programs loading on start up. For you, it could be an extremely old hard drive, a PC that needs dusting/cleaning, too many start up programs, or all of the above.
Once you figure that out, you can work on fixing the problem. For old HDDs, the simple answer is buying a new one. Space these days is getting cheaper and cheaper (here is a $40 500 GB brand new HDD), so a new one wouldn't be a bad investment. Plus, old drives will begin to be unreliable and I'm sure the last thing you want is one dying on you and losing all of your data. Maybe I'm crazy for HDDs, but it is nice to have a ton of space.
If you've never opened your PC case, then that means it needs dusting. No matter what PC you have, it will accumulate dust and should be dusted periodically in order to ensure smooth PC operations. It's really not that hard - most cases have screws that can be removed by hand, and then you just need to use compressed air to blow away the dust. If you are so cheap that you don't want to buy a $6 can of air, then using a feather duster should be fine, just as long as you are careful.
The issue that I'm sure plagues most people (and you might not even know it) is too many programs loading at start up. If you are someone who speeds through program installations (frantically pressing next, not reading what the prompt asks), then chances are you have a ton of programs that you don't even need, many of which runs as soon as Windows starts.
I was fixing this problem manually by tweaking some msconfig settings, but I found a really great program that makes things so much easier - Soluto. Download it for free using the link provided, install, and restart your PC. Soluto will then pop up telling you exactly how long your restart took, plus it will list every single program that Windows started.
It conveniently groups everything into three categories - No-brainer, Potentially removable, and Cannot be removed (as seen above).
"No-brainer" are programs that you can definitely remove from start up without any problems. Click on one of the green programs listed and you'll get detailed information on what the program is, what it does, and what you can do with it.
Clicking on "In boot" leaves it alone (I use Windows 7's Sticky Notes program extensively and it only takes 0.1 seconds to load, so this was my choice for this particular program).
"Delay" makes sure the program doesn't run when your PC first starts up, but it will still run shortly thereafter. This is good for programs that you don't need as soon as your turn your PC on, but will use eventually.
"Pause" will ensure that the program will not run at all, unless you physically open it yourself.
After you go through the "No-brainer" category, move on to the "Potentially removable" category, click through each program, and either delay or pause programs you don't need.
Once you are done, restart your PC and smile at your results. Originally my PC took about a minute and a half (I don't have a screenshot, unfortunately), but now a warm boot (a warm boot is restarting your PC) takes:
Yes, 32 seconds.
A cold boot (that is, starting up your PC from a powered down/off state) takes 52 seconds.
Remember, I have a SSD, so even if you delay or pause a bunch of programs, a normal HDD will not come close to that speed. Still, using Soluto to make some modifications to the way your PC starts can help out greatly.
A final solution to slow start up times is to simply never turn your PC off. That's perfectly okay (and some argue it's actually harmful to shutdown your PC constantly).
Even if you don't want it running at full power 24/7 (consumes a ton of energy), there are two options built into Windows that can help. When you go to shutdown your PC, you may have noticed options that says "hibernate" and "sleep" - choosing either will put your PC in a powered down state that is in-between being shut down and being 100% full power. Choosing either of those options will make your PC seem like it's off, but a simple touch of the mouse or keyboard will spring it back to life much faster than starting it up would.
PS, since I don't post about PC related things often, I'll go ahead and mention this here. I finally bought the last part to complete my custom built PC, and my WEI score is at an all time high for any of my PCs:
My WEI score in February looked like this:
A huge, huge difference.
As you can see in the screenshots (click on them for fullsize), the scale only goes up to 7.9, so most of my components got a near perfect score. My SSD is the weak point in my system, which is a very, very good "problem" to have.