Windows Takes Too Long to Boot

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Jmdraft complained to the Utilities forum that Windows boots too slowly and needs to be cleaned out.

I'm guessing that your computer has too many autoloaders--programs that load automatically every time you boot. This is a common problem. Most PCs leave the factory with too many autoloaders, and gain more as you install new programs.

Slowing the boot process is only one of the problems that autoloaders can cause. They can also slow Windows while you're using it, and possibly make it less stable.

I'm not talking about programs that you don't want on your computer--a whole other issue. I'm talking about programs that you want and use, but don't need running at all times.

For instance, I have Sandboxie installed. I use it occasionally, and definitely want it when I need it. But I see no reason to have it running when I don't want it. So I turned off the autoloader.

Which programs should be autoloaders? Just these:

  • Your anti-virus program
  • Your firewall, which if you're using a security suite, will be the same as your anti-virus program.
  • If you have a laptop, consider letting the battery-monitoring program autoload.
  • Programs that you feel have a legitimate reason to always be there. Dropbox, for instance, can't do its job otherwise. And Skype must autoload if you want to get incoming calls.

But before you can remove unwanted autoloaders, you have to find them. Click Start, type msconfig, and press ENTER. (If you're using XP, you'll have to click Start>Run before typing.) Once the program is up, click the Startup tab.

Now you've got a list of your autoloaders. If you can't figure out what one of them is, search the Web for its file name.

How do you remove the ones you don't want? The obvious answer is to uncheck them in msconfig, but that's not really the best answer. Autoloaders unchecked in msconfig have a way of getting checked again down the road. At some point you'll load the program for legitimate purposes, and it will see that it's no longer loading automatically, and will correct your "error."

So instead of telling Windows not to autoload the program, tell the program itself. Somewhere, it's bound to have a Setup or Options dialog box--or even just a menu. For instance, for Sandboxie, go to the Sandboxie Control window, select Configure>Windows Shell Integration, and uncheck When Windows starts.

If no such option is available, uncheck the program in msconfig. And if it comes back, complain to the vendor and consider switching to a competitor.

Although Jmdraft started out with another question in the original forum discussion, as the discussion progressed it became clear that slow boots and autoloaders were the core of his problem.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

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