Have you ever logged in to your computer and gone for lunch while it logs in? Do you use suspend or hibernate instead of shutting down, just so you won't have to wait through the login process? You might be able to cut down what your system does when you log in. The less you're trying to make it do, the faster it'll start!
The first place to look is your system tray. The system tray is usually in the lower right hand corner of your screen, unless you've moved your task bar. It contains the clock, and icons for various programs that are running in the background. Most of these programs are launched when you log in. If you have more than a half dozen icons in your system tray, you can probably speed up your login by shutting some of these down.
There are some programs you probably really want to have running as soon as you login. In particular, you should not attempt to remove your antivirus or any other security related software. Additionally, if you are trying to speed up a computer at work, you should not disable any programs that are required by your employer. As tempting as it may be to kick Big Brother off your system, it's not REALLY your system. Just don't do anything that will get yourself into trouble.
Each application is different, so you may have to do some hunting to find out how to get it to NOT start up automatically. Some programs won't let you disable the automatic start from inside the program. We'll deal with those in a moment. Some common startup apps I get rid of are the "quick launchers" for programs I don't use often. Some examples are WinZip or other archival programs, QuickTime, and Java. I use Java quite a bit, so keeping the java quick start loaded might be something I want. Ultimately, it's up to you which quick launcher you keep around.
The other things I like to get rid of are the sound and video card system trays. I use the default Windows volume control, but I disable the others. If you use them, you may want to keep them, but if you don't use it more than once a week, get rid of it.
So, you've trimmed out what you can from the system tray, but you still have some you can't seem to get rid of. The next place to check is the startup menu. Click Start, then click the All Programs link. When your program menu comes up, look for "startup". Open it up, but don't click on anything. If you have programs listed in the Startup menu that you don't want to start, right click on them, and delete them. If you're not sure if you should remove a program or not, do some homework. Find out what it is, and what it does, before you remove it. If you decide you want it or need it, leave it be.
The next two places we'll be checking are buried in the system registry. As such, I think I should warn you. Changing things in the registry can be dangerous to the stability of your computer. If you change the wrong things, you will probably break something. With that said, if you don't change anything, you can't break anything. So even if you're not comfortable changing things, you can at least take a look at what's there.
Start the registry editor by running "regedit.exe" (Start->Run, type regedit.exe, click ok). First off, we'll check the programs that are set to start when you specifically log in. There's another section that is for every user. Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. You will see a list of the programs that are set to run when you log in. It's important that you do your homework at this point. If you accidentally remove the wrong program, there is no "undo" to save you. DON'T REMOVE IT unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure of what you are doing.
The registry key for the all users startup list is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. Removing programs here disables them at startup for everyone who uses this computer, so be careful.
Finally, you can trim your system startup time by disabling services you don't really need. You need to be careful here, too, because just because you don't think you need a particular service doesn't mean you don't actually use it. For example, the Server service may seem like something you don't need on your personal laptop, but without it, you won't even be able to log in. To control which services are started, right click on My Computer and select "Manage". Open the "Services and Applications" section, the open "Services". To disable a service, you should right click on the service in the service list, then select Properties. From there, you can select the startup type. Set it to Disabled to prevent it from ever starting, and set it to Manual to prevent it from starting unless some other program requests it to start. Some services you can disable without killing your system:
- Computer Browser - sometimes. You need Computer Browser running on at least one system in your workgroup, or you won't be able to browse the network. If you have a domain controller, it should be running Computer Browser, and nothing else should.
- Indexing Service
- Java Quick Starter
- Machine Debug Manager
- NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing
- Routing and Remote Access - unless you're using the system to share your internet connection, or similar routing situations.
- SNMP Service - unless your network admin wants this running.
- SNMP Trap Service - unless you use this machine to manage other systems using SNMP
- Telnet - in fact, unless you know exactly what you're doing, you should make sure this is disabled.
I cannot stress enough that you really need to be careful when you're cutting programs out of your startup. I have had situations where trying to clean up my start up list broke my system so badly that I had to reinstall the system completely.