Archive for August 27, 2009

Each user uses (or May not use) devices differently depending on the system setup. Nonetheless, some classes of devices are more commonly disabled than others. Knowing which ones will help you make your decision as to which devices you should disable. The following classes of devices are frequently disabled:

  • Network adapters: Especially on notebook computers, there is often more than one network device. Disabling the network devices that you do not use will definitely save you some booting time.
  • FireWire: If you have 1394 connections, otherwise known as FireWire, you might consider disabling them. Unless you are using your FireWire port to connect your digital video recorder to your computer, or have other external FireWire devices, you have no need to have this device enabled.
  • Biometrics: Some of the latest computer hardware includes biometric sensor equipment such as a fingerprint scanner. If you do not use these security features, you can save time by disabling these devices, too.
  • Modems: Do you have a broadband connection? If so, consider disabling your modem. If you rarely use it, why not disable it? If you ever need to use it again, just re-enable it.
  • TPM security chips: Does your computer have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)? These chips are typically used as a secure place to store an encryption key that would be used for something such as hard drive encryption. If you are not using any of these advanced security features of Windows Vista, disable these devices, too.
  • Multimedia devices: Your computer has lots of multimedia devices. Take a look at the “Sound, video, and game controllers” section in Device Manager. You will find a lot of device drivers that are loaded during your boot. Some are used by all users, but you will find a few that you do not use. For example, I do not use my game port or my MIDI device, so I disabled both of those.
  • PCMCIA cards: If you are a laptop user, consider disabling your PCMCIA card controller located under “PCMCIA adapters.” The PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) slot is a special expansion slot that is rarely used today on laptops except for wireless and wired network cards and card reader attachments for compact flash and other solid-state memory cards. Most laptops now have built-in network adapters, and some even have built-in wireless adapters. If you do not use your PCMCIA adapter, it is yet another device you can safely disable.

Important

Do not disable any hardware devices located under the Disk Drives, Computer, Display Adapters, IDE Disk Controllers, and the System sections (except for the system speaker). These hardware devices are critical to the operation of your system.

In the preceding section, I set a new Timeout value that will cut down on the amount of time that is wasted before the operating system starts to load. That works great when your primary operating system is the default; but if it is not, you must remember to press a key at the right moment on every single boot. There is a much better way to handle the situation. Just make your primary operating system the default operating system in the Windows Boot Manager. This will allow you to benefit from the lower Timeout value and speed up the overall boot time.

Setting the default operating system is a little more difficult because you need to use the command-line Boot Configuration Editor, bcdedit.exe. The Boot Configuration Editor is part of Windows Vista, but it requires an account with administrative rights to run. Even if you are logged in with an account that has administrator rights but have user account control enabled, by default the tool will not run as administrator. Follow these steps to use the Boot Configuration Editor to set the default operating system:

  1. Click the Start button and navigate through All Programs and Accessories.
  2. Locate the Command Prompt shortcut and right-click it to bring up the context menu.
  3. Select Run as administrator from the context menu.
  4. When the command prompt has loaded, you are ready to use the bcdedit.exe command. First, you need to get the ID of the operating system that you want to set as the default. To do this, type bcdedit /enum all in the open command prompt window. Scroll through the list of different entries and look for the one with the description matching “Microsoft Windows” for Windows Vista.
  5. After you have found the correct entry, note its identifier. That is used in the next step.
  6. While still at the command prompt, run bcdedit /default (entry identifier). For example, I ran bcdedit /default {}.

The default operating system on the Window Boot Manager is now set. The next time you reboot, your changes will be in use.

Tip The Boot Configuration Editor is a powerful utility that you can also use to change many other settings of the Windows Boot Manager. Experiment with bcdedit.exe by running bcdedit /? from command prompt. This will show you all the other available options and flags that you can use with the Boot Configuration Editor.

All systems initialize in more or less the same way. During the POST mentioned earlier, the BIOS checks the hardware devices and counts the system memory. Out of all the different types of system memory, the random access memory, better known as RAM, takes the longest to be checked. Checking the RAM takes time, and on a machine that has large amounts of RAM, this calculation can take several seconds. For example, a machine that has 512MB of RAM may take up to 3 seconds just to check the memory. On top of the RAM counting, a few other tests need to be done because your computer wants to make sure that all the hardware in your computer is working properly.

The complete version of these tests is not needed every time that you boot and can be turned off to save time. Most system BIOSs offer a feature called Quick Boot. This feature enables the user to turn off the full version of the test and sometimes enables you to run a shorter quick check test instead. Other BIOSs allow you to turn off the Memory Check only, which will still cut down on a lot of time.

To turn on the Quick Boot feature or to turn off the Memory Check, just do the following:

  1. Enter the system BIOS again by pressing F2 or the correct system setup Enter key on the POST screen for your system.
  2. After you are in the BIOS setup, locate the text “Quick Boot” or “Memory Check,”. Navigate with the arrow keys until the option is highlighted.
    Use the Change Value keys to cycle through the options and select Enable for the Quick Boot feature or Disable if your system’s BIOS has the Memory Check feature.
  3. After you have made the change to the setting, exit the system BIOS by pressing the Escape key. Make sure you save the changes upon exit.

Use of the Quick Boot feature or the disabling of the Memory Check will not do any harm your system. In fact, some computer manufacturers even ship their computers with these settings already optimized for performance. The only downside to disabling the tests is in the rare situation in which your RAM self-destructs; the BIOS will not catch it, and you might receive errors from the operating system or your system could become unstable. If you notice that your system becomes unstable and crashes frequently or will not even boot, go back into the BIOS and re-enable the tests to find out whether your system’s memory is causing the problems.


Now that you have all your performance counters set up and displaying data, you need to select the interval time of how often the data will be updated. How often you want the counters to be updated depends on your purpose for monitoring your hardware. For example, if you are trying to track how much data your computer is sending through your network adapter every day or hour, it is not necessary to have that counter update every second. You will just be wasting CPU cycles because you are making the computer constantly update that performance counter. However, if you are interested in current memory or CPU utilization, you will want a much faster update time.

To change the update interval, perform the following steps:

  1. While in the Performance Monitor section of the Reliability and Performance Monitor, click the Properties button, which looks like a hand pointing to a notebook. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+Q.
  2. After the System Monitor Properties window loads, click the General tab.
  3. Locate the Graph elements section and update the Sample Every text box. This number is in seconds.
  4. Click OK to close the window and save your changes.

Now Performance Monitor will poll the data sources at your specified interval.