So the Sony Vaio Z can boot up faster than a speeding photon. Well, bully for those people who are happy to shell out 2000-odd pounds for a laptop and a further 2000 even ones too. The rest of us may not be able to fire up the old Microsoft Windows at quite that same 15 seconds straight out of the box, but with a little careful tinkering and some vigilant maintenance you can give those Vaio flash Harry's a run for their money. Here's how:
1) Remove applications from your start up
All the software companies seem to want a piece of you machine and in many cases they even want to make sure they're opening and running as soon as you boot up. On the one hand, that's very thoughtful but in reality, it's a total pain in the bum. If you're going to have to wait for 20 different programs to get going before you can, then you're in for a long wait.
Hold down the Windows key + R, type "msconfig" and then navigate to the startup/boot tab where you'll see a list of applications wishing to load and uncheck just about all of them. This is probably the most effective way to get the ball rolling quicker. It's one of the number one offenders of a slow boot and why we put it at the top of the list. Fix your start up.
2) Clean up your desktop
Another barrier between you and getting your PC rolling toute de suite is all that nonsense you insist on keeping strewn across your desktop. There's three good reasons to do a little virtual spring cleaning. First is that each time you computer boots it has to make sure all these shortcuts are connected to valid files and applications and that takes some time. The second is that it looks quite horrific and the third is that a tidy desktop is a tidy mind. So, clean up your act.
3) Defragment your disk
These things don't tend to take so epically long if you do them on a semi-regular basis, ie more than once a year. What the process does is consolidate all your fragmented files and make space for large chunks of contiguous memory for new saved files to sit in in their entirety rather than being split up across your disk. In this way, it's much easier and quicker for your machine to pick each one up when it needs it, thus improving your boot speed and indeed your general operational speed as well. Either defrag when you remember too or set your PC to do it once every 2 or 3 months automatically.
4) Check for malware
Most people would probably have some inkling if a major piece of malware was grinding their machine to a halt and if they didn't, there's a good chance that it's such a good piece of code that you'll never notice it's there in the first place. That said,occasionally you might pick up a wadge of spyware if you happen to be running Windows XP, so a scan with something like Spybot and whatever your resident anti-virus program is will often speed up your boot.
5) Update your BIOS
If your computer were a brain, then the BIOS would be the mid-brain, the primitive part, but most importantly in terms of computing, its primary function is as boot firmware. It's what gets you machine running even before Windows can get a sniff. So, naturally, tinkering with the BIOS can give you all sorts of good results in terms of boot speed. It's also an excellent way to burn out your hardware, but we'll save all the overclocking talk for another feature.
One very simple thing you can do is to look for an update for your BIOS. A newer BIOS, as offered by your computer/motherboard manufacturer, is going to give you much better results. So, search the net for one, install it and you'll have a quicker loading PC. Simple.
6) Trim your boot sequence
This is another thing you can do from the BIOS and it will shave a few seconds off your boot, particularly if you're running an old machine. Most systems are automatically set to search for optical disks and removable ones before attempting to start from your main hard drive. The number of times you actually need this to happen are absolutely minimal, so cut the nonsense and just set you BIOS to go straight to your main disk.
7) Remove removable media & peripherals
While we're at it, make sure you haven't got any removable bits and pieces in your machine anyway. When Windows does boot up, one of the first things it will do before relinquishing complete access to you is try to make sense of whatever printers, USB sticks,CDs, external drives and memory cards and whatever else you've got jammed inside it. Take them out, remove the problem and start up will be quicker.
8) Disable unused ports
Back in the BIOS, you can take the peripherals one step further by actually disabling some of your computer's ports in the first place. No need to get carried away and start ditching your USBs, but if you've a parallel, serial or even an eSata slot that you simply don't use, then save your PC the time of having to prepare them in the first place. Disable them in the BIOS and shave a few more moments off your boot time.
9) No fancy wallpapers, themes or sounds
They may seem cute but all these little things need to be loaded before your machine will let you play. More hurdles to jump means a slower boot time and you'll probably get bored of your Star Trek desktop within a matter of 3 days anyway, so ditch the nonsense and lose the live wallpapers, themes and start up sounds.
10) Turn of Windows visual effects
The Windows Aero system is a very nice GUI but it's not exactly a necessity and it does have to be loaded like every other preference. Many people would rather not lose the transparent framed windows and smoother looks and feel that Windows 7 and Vista offer, but if boot speed is what you're after, then head into the control panel and navigate to performance and visual effects where you'll be able to streamline your experience.
11) Upgrade to Windows 7
One way to get a massive jump in boot speed is to get yourself a copy of Windows 7. One of the major features of the latest Microsoft OS is its speed in both starting up and shutting down. So, if you're not on it already, then step to it. It also happens to be much better than both Vista and XP.
12) Don't ever shut down
This isn't quite the cheat that it seems but if you never turn your computer off, then boot up is going to be a lot quicker than normal. Using hibernate mode instead will save plenty of power, but means that your PC is already a few steps closer to full life than a machine starting from off. Probably a better tip for desktops in general though, unless your hibernate mode runs particularly efficiently on your laptop, otherwise you might find there's no battery life left when you finally open it up for use.
13) Clean you machine
Yes, actually physical clean it. Desktops are particularly good at collecting dust inside, but laptops aren't too shabby at it either. A spray can of compressed air and a screw driver is probably the correct way to go about the job, but a good blow through the fan and a careful finger here or there will probably help some too. A dusty machine means that more power is being diverted to keep the computer cool and, with the fan harder to turn when it's all clogged up, it means that power drain is larger and that the machine stays hotter and therefore not at optimum performance. Clean your machine and it'll be faster to boot and faster in general. Proper job for a Sunday afternoon, that one.
14) Check for a quick start mode
A lot of laptops these days have some kind of quick start mode. They'll often boot up a different operating system that gives you access to things you might need in a hurry such as e-mail or indeed it could be a start up to your normal Windows OS but with a scaled down configuration. Either way, read your manual or look out for a button on your machine you never press and you might well open the door to a whole new world of speedy booting.
15) Add more RAM
Now, this isn't always the answer. Often your computer could be bottle-necking elsewhere - perhaps a painfully slow hard drive - but more memory is usually a good bet. Naturally, it's a lot easier to open up and add more to a desktop computer, but with the right guide it's quite doable on a notebook too. Whatever you do though, make sure you buy the right RAM modules or it won't work at all.
Some of these tips are going to help more than others but all of them will shorten the time it takes to boot up your PC to some degree. The brave can also try overclocking their machines or cleaning up the registry but both are good ways to land you in trouble if you're not sure what you're doing. Another good tip might be to ditch your anti-virus program but, again, potential trouble there too.
Of course, if your PC still isn't fast enough for you, then you can shell out for one of the new ones like the Vaio Z that pride themselves on boot speed or, better still, drop Windows and install Linux. Happy tinkering and do tell us about your hot tips for getting PCs to boot quicker.