My Computer Takes Forever to Boot Up!

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A friend calls -- did you get my email? Did you see that hilarious video? Have you heard that new song? You turn your computer on, eager to see what the fuss is all about … and wait. The little hourglass taunts you, tempts you, but you know clicking won't help. The hard drive grinds away. Speaking of grinding, maybe it's time to get a cup of coffee. Sigh.

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One of the most common complaints we hear is how long it takes to start up a computer. In some cases it can take as long as 20-30 minutes before a PC is really ready to go. Some choose to get around that problem by leaving their computers on all the time, but that's a waste of electricity, and it may not be good for the overall health of a home computer to be left running 24/7. Isn't there a better way?

Older computers are, of course, more likely to suffer from these symptoms. But simply buying a new computer isn't a feasible solution for everyone, especially when times are tough. Nor is cracking open your PC's case to add memory. Rather, there are steps one can take without spending a lot of money -- and without using a screwdriver -- that can help reduce the time it takes to start up.

A Word About Anti-Virus Software

Before we begin, we would be remiss if we didn't mention anti-virus software. It's true that running anti-virus software will cause some delay in startup. But we do NOT recommend removing anti-virus software to improve startup speed -- such protections are a crucial defense against online threats. Rather, we recommend that you ensure you're running updated security software -- newer versions tend to be better about hogging system resources. For more information, go to AOL Internet Security Central.

Startup Slowdown

One of the primary culprits on a slow-starting PC is the array of junk that has been placed on the machine by the programs we use (and don't use). Many of the programs installed on our computers require the PC to do something at startup so they'll load more quickly when you want to use them. But often there are programs we no longer use, or use rarely, that are bogging down boot-up.

You can see what programs are on your computer's startup list by clicking the Start button, then Run, then typing MSCONFIG, then pressing Enter. The System Configuration Utility appears -- click the Startup tab. This displays everything that loads in the background when you start your computer. If it's a very long list, it's probably slowing you down.

Look through the list and see if you recognize anything you don't or rarely use. Be careful -- you don't want to remove everything! We recommend leaving any drivers for your graphics/video controller and other peripherals, as well as any antivirus or firewall software. But if you look closely you can probably spot unnecessary extras that could be eliminated.

A process library site (which you can find in Search) can help explain what individual startup items do and if they are needed. If you find a program you can live without, uncheck it on the list; when you're done, click OK and you will be prompted to reboot.

Font Fog

Another little-known trick is to remove fonts. Each time Windows starts up, it loads every font on your machine. The more fonts you have, the longer it takes. Most of us tend to use the same few fonts for almost everything we do, so if you find your computer has more than a few hundred installed, you may want to consider cleaning out the list.

The steps for removing fonts varies by the version of Windows you're using, but here are instructions for Windows XP from Microsoft Support. One thing to consider before you remove any fonts is whether you might want them back one day. If that's the case, you can remove fonts from the Fonts Folder and copy them elsewhere on your hard drive; doing so will prevent the fonts from loading at startup, but make it easier for you to restore them if you change your mind down the road.

Other Ideas

A little "spring cleaning" on your computer often helps improve performance. Getting rid of old files, cleaning and defragmenting your hard drive, removing viruses and spyware, and uninstalling software you no longer use helps your machine run more efficiently. For tips and tricks to help speed up your PC, click here.

Finally, if you're not sure about making these kinds of changes on your own, there's software that can help do it for you. AOL offers System Mechanic and PerfectSpeed, both of which help speed up a struggling PC by removing unnecessary startup items, cleaning your hard drive, updating your Windows registry and more.

Downloads From AOL

PC Tuneup

If you'd rather leave PC tuning to the experts, Provided by AOL offers a top-to-bottom reconditioning for your computer -- optimizing its performance and making it run like new. So there's no need to figure it out on your own, unplug your computer to take it in for service, or wait for a technician to come to your home.


PerfectSpeed® gets the clutter and waste off your computer by quickly removing unnecessary and temporary files, helping you recover valuable disk space in seconds. By optimizing your computer's hard drive, repairing errors and clearing free space, your PC will run more efficiently.

McAfee® Internet Security

McAfee's powerful safety tools provide comprehensive protection that's automatically on guard and up-to-date. This easy-to-use security bundle helps keep your family and your PCs safe from viruses, spyware, hackers, online scammers, identity thieves and other cybercriminals.

Also See...

Easy Steps to Improve Your PC's Performance

Unless your computer is fresh out of the box, it's probably not running as fast as it used to. Much like oil changes for your car, a little periodic maintenance can help extend your computer's lifespan.

Extending Your Computer's Lifespan

The average lifespan of a desktop computer is only 2-5 years. How do you make it last longer? Easy tips like clearing dust and watching its temperature can help a lot.

How to Speed Up Windows

Is your computer running very slooooow? If you feel like you've tried everything to make it run faster, here are some simple tweaks and changes you may not have tried that can make your system not only more efficient, but also faster.

How to Clear Your Cache (And Why You'd Want to)

Clearing away temporary Internet files, otherwise known as a "cache," is a good tip for speeding up your browser and protecting your privacy.

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