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How to Fix Slow Computer Startup

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Authored by Dave Mallisk in Computer Software
Published on 08-13-2009

If your computer takes too long to start or restart, this article can help you fix the problem. Although this article applies primarily to Windows XP computers, its general concepts also apply to fixing slow computer startup problems on Windows Vista, Mac, and Linux computers.

Backing Up Your Data Files

Before you start troubleshooting your computer’s slow startup, you should back up all your data. Copy your personal data files (including text, music, photos, and videos) to either a separate hard drive (internal or external) or to removable media (such as CD or DVD discs, or USB flash drives (thumb drives).

A slow starting computer is sometimes signaling its imminent death. Therefore, if you have backed up your data files, you still have your data after your computer dies. You can reload your data files after reinstalling your computer’s operating system and applications.

Note: You should back up your data files frequently because any computer can fail completely at any time.

Slow Computer Startup Troubleshooting Procedure

To troubleshoot slow computer startup, do the following:

  1. Remove all applications (programs) you do not use. If you have had your computer for more than one year, you have probably installed new applications that you now use in place of some older applications. One or more of your old applications might have portions that try to run at startup and thereby cause your computer to start slowly. On your computer, display your existing installed applications, and then remove any you are not using. For example, in Windows XP, you would click on Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs to display your currently-installed applications. For each application you do not use, select it, and then click on Remove.
  2. Remove all viruses and spyware programs. To remove viruses, run a virus scanner. To remove spyware, run a spyware-removal tool. You can probably obtain a free security suite, which includes both a virus scanner and a spyware-removal tool, from your internet provider. If you do not already have these tools, you can download them from the web. To compare various security suites, see: PC Magazine Windows Security Suites. To compare other utilities, see: PC Magazine Windows Utilities
  3. Run a computer-cleaning utility to remove old, unnecessary files and clean the register. Here’s an example cleaning utility: CCleaner In this particular utility, you run the register cleaner separately.
  4. Determine whether your computer is running too many unnecessary programs at startup. Part of CCleaner (above) lets you disable startup programs separately. Be careful to disable only unnecessary programs. Do not disable any program about which you are unsure.
  5. Verify that your computer’s power supply voltages are correct. A failing power supply can cause many problems, including slow startup. For more information, see: Power Supplies 101
  6. If none of the preceding steps help solve your slow computer startup, reinstall all software on your computer, including its operating system. Install the operating system onto a clean hard drive, and then install your applications one at time. After installing each application, make sure that your slow computer startup problem has not returned.
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