Everyone wants their HTPC media centre or PC to perform like a games console and be ready for use from the moment it is switched on. With many older Windows systems with slower disks you would often switch the machine on and then go and make a cup of tea whilst you wait for it to boot. The boot time was one of the biggest improvements Microsoft made with Windows 8 but there are still ways in which we can improve it further for our media centres. Below I have produced a guide showing simple steps you can take to improve your Windows 8 boot time and significantly reduce the number of seconds it takes to hit your desktop. This guide will also show you how to make Windows 8.1 boot faster.
Buy a Solid State Hard Disk SSD
Without doubt the best way to improve your Windows 8 boot time is to purchase a solid state hard drive. This is the only part of this guide that comes with a cost but it has been mentioned because it is this that will make the most significant impact. As solid state disks are falling in price we can now consider them for our media centres. The average Windows 8 boot time for a SATA hard drive is around 16 seconds where as a solid state disk can achieve this is just 6! The only downside to solid state disks is the cost per MB is significantly higher and we cannot yet get the capacity’s that SATA disks offer us.
Turn on Fast Start-up
Windows 8 comes with a built in feature to improve the boot times of your system. When this is enabled the system does not shut down in the usual way and follows some of the steps used when you tell it to hibernate. Certain parts of the session are copied to the hiberfil.sys file. The Kernel and device drivers are some of the items it stores here. After you enable this feature this process will take place when you shut the system down. On the following boot the data in the hiberfil.sys file is quickly accessed and requires less processing than loading these elements from scratch resulting in a faster Windows 8 boot time.
To enable the feature simply type the words “Change what the power buttons do” on the main Windows 8 screen. On the right hand side of your screen an icon will appear called Change what the power buttons do. Select this and then the “Turn on fast start-up (recommended)” tick box will be shown at the bottom of the next screen under Shut-down settings. Ensure that this is ticked to enable the feature.
Remove Any Unused Applications
Generally the more applications you install into a system the slower your boot time will be. Many applications will start a Windows service on boot up and this will increase the time taken before your desktop is presented to you. The tidier your system the faster Windows will boot. At the Windows 8 main screen type the words “Uninstall a program”. Select the Uninstall a program option that appears on the right hand side of your screen. This will now display all of the applications installed on your system. Run through your list of programs and remove any that you do not require by simple selecting the application and clicking Uninstall. Word of warning, if you do not know what an application is then do not uninstall it!
Reduce the Volume of Files on your Media Centre
One of the problems with HTPC media centre builds is that they tend to store large media collections. We keep thousands of movies or music albums on our systems or even huge rom sets for use with system emulators. The problem with this is that you will often find that as your media libraries increase the the slower your boot time becomes. The best way to combat this is to move large quantities of smaller files to a separate storage area to your operating system. For example if you have a 500 music albums on the same disk as your OS move these to another HDD or onto a NAS. Generally the reduction in boot performance is caused by large numbers of files and not the disk capacity they use. We recommend that you user solid state for your OS and a higher capacity SATA drive for your media.
Disable Start-up Applications
With Windows 8 it is relatively easy to disable start-up applications. From the Windows desktop right click on the task bar at the bottom of the screen and select the “Start-up” tab. On this tab you will see a list of all of the applications that are launched as part of the Windows 8 boot process. If any applications you see in your list are not required on boot right click on the application and click on disable. The application will still be available to you but if you need to use it you will need to launch it manually once you are at your desktop.
Disable Start-up Services
Start-up Services are all of the background applications that Windows launches on boot up and these run behind the scenes with no visibility to the user. Some of these may no longer be required or they control features that you can do without. To view your Start-up services type “msconfig.exe” at the main Windows 8 screen. Select msconfig.exe on the right hand side of the screen. Next select the “Services” tab and all of the start-up services that are running on your machine will be displayed. To disable any that you do not need simply untick the check box next to the service. As before if you do not know what a service does then do not disable it!
So to conclude:
- Buy a solid state hard drive for your OS
- Turn on fast start-up
- Remove any unused applications
- Reduce the volume of files on your OS disk
- Disable start-up applications
- Disable start-up services
The Windows 8 operating system already has a faster boot time that its predecessors but by following these simple steps you can make your windows 8 boot time even faster. Improve the feel and experience of your HTPC media centre by improving its performance. You have to remember that every system and every boot-up is different and it will vary as to which of the above steps best improves your media centre. This process is trial and error. Complete each step and test your Windows 8 boot time after each and you will see the results as you progress.