Throughout the years, all Windows versions have shared a common problem: they degrade in performance over time and boot more slowly the longer the computer is used. Microsoft addressed this gradual sludgification somewhat in Windows Vista, and even more in Windows 7. Compared to Windows XP there are certainly some improvements. For example, unlike XP, it's actually possible to take an aging Windows 7 install, clean some things up, and get it back in tip-top shape. With XP, you'd eventually be forced to reinstall the entire OS in order to regain lost performance.
Boot-up speed, of course, is a primary concern. In order to speed up the time it takes for your PC to return to life each time you sit down in front of it, you can take a number of steps:
♦ Remove unwanted startup items: Over time, as you install more and more software on your computer, the number of small utilities, application launchers, and, most annoyingly, application prelaunchers (which essentially make it seem like those applications start more quickly later because large chunks of them are already preloaded) that are configured to run at startup multiply dramatically. There are several ways you can cull this list, but the best one is to use Autoruns, a Microsoft Sysinternals freebie (technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/ bb963902.aspx).
To cull the list of startup applications, download and open Autoruns (Start Menu Search, and enter http://live.sysinternals.com/autoruns.exe) and click Run. You'll be presented with the scary-looking window shown in Figure 6-13.
Before attempting to make any systemwide changes, click File O Run as Administrator. This will restart the application under administrative credentials to give you full access to startup entries on the system. After dealing with the User Account Control prompt that appears, click the Logon tab to view a list of programs that execute right after you log in. By clicking Hide Microsoft and Windows Entries in the Options menu, you can narrow the list down to just third-party gunk. Finally, if you'd rather disable than delete, simply uncheck the entries you wish to disable and you're set. Later, when you feel comfortable without the gunk, you can return to Autoruns and delete it once and for all.
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