Windows 8 start-up speed forces USB boot workaround

Windows 8 start-up speed forces USB boot workaround

Summary: Microsoft has had to come up with a new way for Windows 8 users to boot from USB drives because the operating system's start-up time is too quick for the old method, the company has said.Since Windows 95, users have been able to press a function key such as F8 or F12 during start-up, to access advanced boot menus, debugging options and other features.

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TOPICS: Telcos
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Microsoft has had to come up with a new way for Windows 8 users to boot from USB drives because the operating system's start-up time is too quick for the old method, the company has said.

Since Windows 95, users have been able to press a function key such as F8 or F12 during start-up, to access advanced boot menus, debugging options and other features. This makes it possible to, for example, boot from a USB stick rather than the main Windows installation.

However, Windows 8 simply boots up too quickly for this to be feasible anymore, user experience programme manager Chris Clark said in a blog post on Wednesday. As a result, he explained, users who want to boot from a USB stick will have to turn their Windows 8 PC on, then restart it in a special mode.

"If the entire length of boot passes in just seven seconds, the individual portions that comprise the boot sequence go by almost too quickly to notice (much less, interrupt)," Clark said. "Most of the decisions about what will happen in boot are over in the first two to three seconds — after that, booting is just about getting to Windows as quickly as possible."

The first solution to the problem was to pull all the options for which one might want to interrupt a boot into a single menu. This new boot options menu includes troubleshooting tools, developer-focused options, BIOS setup access and "a straightforward method for booting to alternate devices such as USB drives", Clark wrote.

The simplest way of accessing Windows 8's boot options menu is to hold down the shift key while clicking 'Restart'.

"The reason that we added this Shift+Restart option to the shutdown menu was because the boot options need to be available even when no one has signed in to the PC," Clark wrote. "In the old hardware model that allowed keystrokes in boot, anyone with physical access to the PC could press a key to interrupt boot and use the available boot options. To preserve those scenarios, we needed a way for someone who hasn't signed in (but is still physically using the PC) to use the boot options menu."

Another method is to go into 'PC settings', then the 'General' tab, then 'Advanced startup'. There the user will find a 'Restart now' button that begins the normal restart process, but pauses it after the shutdown part. The 'boot options' menu then fades into view.

"You can even use this menu to quickly boot into a second Windows installation if you want to," Clark wrote. "Since Windows pauses the restart sequence to show the boot options menu, this is one of the fastest ways to boot to a second OS."

For those happy using the command prompt, Microsoft has also added a new flag to shutdown.exe, namely '/o', which only works alongside the '/r' restart flag.

"We added this new flag to shutdown.exe because we wanted to keep this part of Windows consistent and predictable. Not everyone uses Shutdown.exe, but those who do, depend on it for the full set of shutdown-related tasks," Clark wrote.

Topic: Telcos

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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3 comments
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  • So what do you do when you can't boot into windows? Why can't I just hold Shift while I power up instead of having to boot into windows and click a special restart? I think they are overthinking this process.
    Mispam
  • I don't understand why there cannot be a slight pause during the boot process so the user can press a key. Many operating systems do this, even if it means a 3-5 second pause waiting for the user to press a key. Or at least allow the user to adjust this, similar to Grub/Grub2 in Linux where a timeout value can be specified.
    Chris_Clay
  • How does this impact on dual or multi booting? Seems to me to more or less prohibit this, from Windows 8 anyway. Will Grub 2 recognise Windows 8, or not?

    I guess many of us using GNU/Linux will not be using Windows 8 anyway, regardless of the Microsoft tax.

    I did try the developer and consumer previews and I did quite like the developer preview since one could still opt for the Windows 7 desktop with a small change to the registry. There was still the opportunity to use Tiles by setting up two user profiles. That opportunity has been removed from the consumer preview, so one is stuck with the Tiles. Yes, I know about ViStart and others but they are not fully functional yet.

    I response to the original point, it will presumably be possible to set the boot order to USB first and DVD second ..... That's what I always do on all my computers.
    The Former Moley