As i had promised in “Hi-Tech ‘Ta Bai!” radio program, here’s a copy of the article on how to speed up your PC boot. This is from the Chapter 8 of the ExtremeTech book Hacking Windows XP, published by Wiley.
I am sharing this with you after i had tested it on myself. It works and hopefully it will also work on your PC and laptops.
Hacking Windows XP: Speed Up Your Boot
Working with the BIOS
Every personal computer has a system basic input/output system, or BIOS, which is what takes control of your computer the moment that you turn it on. The screen that you first see when you turn on your computer is called the power on self test screen, better known as the POST screen. If you purchased your computer from one of the major computer manufacturers, this screen is often hidden by the manufacturer’s logo. To get rid of this logo from the screen, just press the ESC button on your keyboard; you’ll then see what is going on in the background. At this stage in the system boot, the BIOS is probing the hardware to test the system memory and other device connections. Once the POST is completed, the BIOS proceeds to look for a device to boot from. Once it finds your hard drive, it will begin to load Windows.
The BIOS also acts as a main system component control panel, where low-level settings for all of your hardware devices are made. The device boot order, port addresses, and feature setttings such as plug and play are all found in the BIOS setup screens. For example, if you want to change the order of the drives that your computer checks to boot from, then you will want to modify the device boot order. I have to modify this setting almost every time that I install Windows because I want my computer to boot off of the CD-ROM to launch the Windows XP setup application instead booting off of the operating system on my hard drive.
BIOSs on each and every PC may be made by different companies or accessed in different ways ways. Nevertheless, the most common way to access the setup screen is to press F2 or the Delete key when the POST screen is displayed. Some computers even tell you which key to push to enter setup, as my notebook does. If your PC doesn’t allow you to access the setup screen in this way, consult your computer documentation or contact your computer manufacturer for instructions.
While you are making changes in the system BIOS, make sure you do not accidentally change any other settings. If you accidentally change a value of a setting and do not know what to change it back to, simply exit the BIOS setup screen as the on screen directions indicate and select Do NOT Save Changes. Then just reboot and re-enter the setup screen and continue hacking away at your system. Continued…
Hacking Windows XP: Speed Up Your Boot
Changing the Boot Order of Your Drives
Most computers are set up so that when you first turn on your computer it will check to see if you want to boot from other drives besides your hard drive. It will automatically check to see if you have a bootable CD in your CD drive. If you computer has a floppy drive, it will check to see if your have a boot disk in the floppy drive. Then once it has checked all possible locations for a boot disk, the system will default to your hard drive and start booting Windows.
What are the benefits of changing the boot order of your system devices? If you modify the order of the boot devices so that the hard disk is placed at the top of the list, the system does not have to waste time checking other devices for boot records. Just by changing the order of the devices, you can shave anywhere from one to several seconds off of your boot time, depending on the speed of your hardware.
To change the boot order (or sequence, as some call it), you will have to enter the system BIOS setup screen that was mentioned earlier.
- Press F2, delete, or the correct key for your specific system on the POST screen (or the screen that displays the computer manufacturer’s logo) to enter the BIOS setup screen.
Working in the BIOS setup screens will allow you to change many critical values that could affect the performance and the stability of your computer. Be careful which settings you decide to change because they may cause device resource conflicts as well as render your hardware unusable. However, there are very few settings in the BIOS that if set incorrectly, will lead to physical hardware damage. The only feature that my BIOS has that can do that is the CPU overclocking functions. If I set those values too high, my CPU could burn up. Changing basic feature settings such as the boot order will only result in a minor inconvenience if it was set incorrectly. To fix a problem, you will just have to go back into the bios and set the right value and everything will be back to normal.
- Then look for where it says Boot and enter the sub menu.
- Select Boot Sequence, and press Enter. Figure 8-1 shows an example of the boot sequence screen.
- If you screen looks similar to Figure 8-1, then you are in the right place. Next, navigate to where it states “first device” and cycle through the list to where it states “Hard Disk Drive” or “IDE0” (assuming that your hard drive is connected to IDE0). If your setup screen does not specifically state “first device” but rather just a list of all of the devices, then all you have to do is select the hard disk and move it to the top of the list. That can be done by using the change values keys, which for my BIOS that is made by Phoenix, is the spacebar to move an item up, and the minus symbol key to move an item down. The specific keys are different on almost every system but the basic concepts are the same. You want to get your hard disk to the top of the list or listed as the first device from which to try to boot.
- Once you have made the changes, exit the system BIOS by pressing the Escape key and make sure that you select to save your changes upon exit. Once you reboot, the new settings will be in effect.
What are the consequences of changing the boot order? Changing the boot order will not hurt your system in any way if you do it correctly. If by accident you remove your hard drive from the list and save the BIOS settings, you will get a pleasant surprise when your computer reboots—a statement that the computer cannot find any operating system. If you happen to get that message, then just reboot by pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE at the same time and go back into the BIOS settings and make sure that you select your hard drive as a boot device. Once you have done that, your system will be back to normal.
Another possible issue that you may encounter is simply a matter of inconvenience. Once you change the boot order of the system devices so that the hard drive is listed first, you will no longer be able to use system restore CDs or floppy boot disks. If something has happened to your computer and you need to boot off of those drives to restore your system or run diagnostics, just go back to the system BIOS and lower or remove the hard disk from the first boot device. Continued…
Hacking Windows XP: Speed Up Your Boot
Using the Quick Boot Feature of the BIOS
All systems initialize in more or less the same way. During the power on self test mentioned earlier, the BIOS checks the hardware devices and counts the system memory. Out of all of the different types of system memory, the random access memory, better known as RAM, takes the longest to be counted. Counting the RAM takes time, and on a machine that has large amounts of RAM, this calculation can take several seconds. For example, a machine that has 512MB of RAM may take up to 3 seconds just to count the memory. On top of the RAM counting, a few other tests need to be done because your computer wants to make sure that all of the hardware in your computer is working properly.
All of these system tests are not needed every time that you boot, and can be turned off to save time. Most system BIOS’s offer a feature called quick boot. This feature will allow the user to turn off these test. Other BIOSs only allow you to turn off the memory check, which will still cut down on a lot of time.
To turn on the quick boot feature or turn off the memory check, just do the following:
- Enter the system BIOS again by pressing F2 or the correct system setup Enter key upon the POST screen.
- Once you are in the BIOS setup, locate where it states Quick Book or Memory Check as shown in Figure 8-2. Navigate with the arrow keys until the option is highlighted.
click on image for full view
- Use the Change Value keys to cycle through the options and select enable for the quick boot feature or disable if your systems BIOS has the memory check feature.
- Once you have made the change to the setting, exit the system BIOS by pressing the Escape key and make sure the save the changes upon exit.
Use of the quick boot feature or the disabling of the memory check will not do any harm your system. In fact, there are even some computer manufactures that ship their computers with these settings already optimized for performance. The only downside to disabling the tests is in the rare situation in which your RAM self-destructs; the BIOS will not catch it and you may receive errors from the operating system or your system could become unstable. If you notice that your system becomes unstable and crashes frequently or will not even boot, try going back into the BIOS and re-enable the tests to find out if your system’s memory is causing the problems. Continued…
Hacking Windows XP: Speed Up Your Boot
Modifying the Operating System Boot
Other hacking methods are still available that will shave a few more seconds off of the boot time. For example, you can such as cut timeout values and slim down the system to get rid of all of the extra features and services that you do not use or need. Check out the following ways to do so.
Lowering OS Timeout Values
If you have more than one operating system installed on your computer, you’ll have to deal with the OS Selector that the Microsoft installer configures during installation of another operating system. By default, the OS Selector gives you 30 seconds to select an operating system before it reverts to the default operating system. The only way not to wait 30 seconds is to select the operating system you want to use right away. If you use one operating system the majority of your time, you would definitely save time if you set that operating system as the default and lowered the timeout value to 1 or 2 seconds. That way, you would not have to select an operating system every time you turned on your system or wait 30 seconds before doing so.
With Windows XP, both Professional and Home, changing the timeout value is simple if the operating system that you use primarily is already the default. If it is, just follow these directions:
- From the Start menu, select Run and type MSCONFIG and press OK. This will load the System Configuration utility.
- Once the System Configuration utility has loaded, click on the tab labeled BOOT.INI, as Figure 8-3 shows.
click on image for full view
- Locate the Timeout text box and replace 30 seconds with 1 or 2 seconds—or any number that gives you enough time to select the other operating systems on your system. The amount of time that you select to be your timeout value is not the amount of time that you have to select the operating system. Rather, it is the amount of time that you have to hit any key and then select the operating system. So don’t be afraid of setting this timeout value too low.
- Once you have made the change, click the OK button, and you are finished.
If after testing out your change you feel that you gave yourself too much or too little time to select the other operating system, repeat the directions above to fine-tune your timeout time.
If you don’t have your primary operating system as your default timeout operating system and you want to do so, load Notepad from the Accessories menu in the All Programs section of the Start menu. Once Notepad is loaded, do the following to set the default:
- Select File from the menu bar and select Open, and navigate to your root system drive. Type Boot.ini into the File Name text box and click the Open button.
- Under the [operating systems] heading, you will see your operating systems listed. You will notice some disk and partition information that has an equal sign after it that then has the title of the operating system in quotes. Copy all of the disk and partition information to the left of the equal sign such as “multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS” to the clipboard by highlighting the text with the mouse and then pressing CTRL+C.
- Then locate where it states default in the boot configuration file. Paste the new disk and partition information over the old information to the right of the equal sign by highlighting the old information and then pressing CTRL+V.
- Save the file and close Notepad. That’s it!
You can also change the default timeout value editing the boot.ini file in Notepad. But using the System Configuration Tool is much easier for doing so. The System Configuration Tool has a lot of other useful features, I’ll go into more detail about them in Chapter 9. Continued…
Removing Extra Fonts for Speed
Windows XP has over 250 different font variations that it loads for use when the system boots up. Of these 250 variations, only a handful are used on a regular basis. Most likely, you really own use the core Windows fonts such as Tahoma, Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet, and MS Sans Serif. All of the other fonts can be removed from the fonts folder. As you can imagine, loading over 250 fonts is something that will take the system more time to do. Users who have installed a fonts CD, which usually has hundreds of fonts, on their systems are increasing the amount of work their computer has to do during startup. Simply put, loading a lot of fonts will take more time, since the system has to load and index each font. Thankfully there is a very simple answer to this: Just remove the fonts that you do not use from your font directory.
You can go about removing the unneeded fronts from your font directory in a number of different ways. The best way is to move the unused fonts to a separate folder on your system so that in the event that you ever want to use one of those extra fonts again, you just have to copy it back to the fonts folder.
When you remove fonts from your computer you will no longer be able to use them in any software application, including Microsoft Word and Excel.
Before you start removing fonts from your fonts folder, take at look at Table 8-1. These fonts are commonly used, for reasons that the table explains. Be careful not to remove any fonts on which the system normally depends.
Table 8-1 – Recommended Fonts to Keep
Often used on web pages and applications.
Often used within applications such as Outlook.
Used in the Windows interface on the Title Bar.
Used in the Windows interface on the Menu Bar as well as in many applications and web pages.
Times New Roman
The default font for web pages as well as applications such as Word.
MS Sans Serif
Used in some applications and web pages.
Now that you know which fonts you should not remove, you also need to be aware of one more thing before starting your adventure in the fonts folder. Inside the fonts folder there are several fonts with similar names. The fonts are broken up not only by font name but also by the type style. For example, there is an Arial Bold, Arial Bold Italic, Arial Italic, etc. When sorting through the fonts to delete, you also can choose to delete only specific types of fonts.
Deleting fonts is fairly easy. But removing the fonts is a little more tricky since the fonts folder is not like a normal folder. In order to remove the fonts, you need to start off by creating folder to put the old fonts in.
- Open up My Computer through the icon in your Start panel or from the icon on your Desktop. Navigate to the C: drive or whatever drive on which you have Windows installed.
- Next, navigate to the Windows folder (or WINNT folder for some). If along the way you are prompted with a screen telling you that “this folder contains file that keep your system working properly; you should not modify its contents,” ignore this message and click the text that says “show the contents of this folder.”
- Now that you are inside the Windows root folder, create a folder to store the fonts that you are going to remove from the fonts folder. Right-click on the white space that lists the folder and files and select New and then select Folder. Call your folder Fonts Backup or something similar, so that you will be able to identify that this is the place that your old fonts are.
- Once you have created the new folder, open it.
- Next, go back to the My Computer icon in your Start panel or Desktop and open another window. Navigate to the drive you have Windows installed on and then navigate to the windows folder. Once you are inside the Windows folder, navigate to the Fonts folder.
- Now that you have both the Fonts folder open and your backup folder open, arrange the two windows on your screen so that they look like the two windows in Figure 8-5.
click on image for full view
- Now that the two font folders are side by side, to remove a font from the system, all you have to do is click on the icon in the Fonts folder that you do not want installed any more, and drag the icon over to the backup folder. This will automatically uninstall the font and will copy it to your backup folder.
In the event that you was to reinstall a font, all you have to do is drag the font file from the backup folder back to the Fonts folder. You will see an installation dialog that will flash just for a second as it adds the font back to the library. Once you drag the file back to the Fonts folder, the file will still remain in the backup directory because it just copies it there. After you have confirmed that it was actually installed again, feel free to delete the font file from the backup folder. Continued…