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Troubleshoot slow starts with Vista's Event Viewer

Is Windows Vista really slow to start up? Microsoft has already measured startup times for you, but they haven't documented the settings. Here's an exclusive look at how to use Vista's Event Viewer to track down performance problems.
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Is Windows Vista really slow to start up? Microsoft has already measured startup times for you, but they haven't documented the settings. Here's an exclusive look at how to use Vista's Event Viewer to track down performance problems.
This graph shows the performance of four separate Windows Vista systems, as measured by Microsoft's own hidden performance monitoring tools. The results bear out the conclusion that roughly 80 percent of the time, Vista systems boot in 60 seconds or less.
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Microsoft's Diagnostics-Performance log is well hidden, even buried. But once you find it, you'll unearth a treasure trove of information about startup, shutdown, and other performance issues. To get to this log, expand categories in the left-hand tree until you reach the Diagnostic-Performance\Operational entry.
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The sheer volume of information in the Diagnostics-performance log can be overwhelming. To zero in on startup problems, click Filter Current Log in the Actions pane on the right. Then adjust the settings as I've done here. Events 100-199 are specifically related to Boot Performance.
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The banner at the top of this window makes it clear that this log has been filtered to include only events in the Boot Performance Monitoring category. The item selected in the top section is rated Critical. The details pane below documents a startup time of more than 105 seconds.
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Double-clicking any item in the Event Viewer opens it in its own window, where you can view all the details. This General view provides only a summary. To get more information, you have to dig a little deeper.
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Clicking the Details tab displays this view of raw XML code that only a spreadsheet could love. (Seriously. You can save this information and load it directly into Excel in all its XML glory.) For casual troubleshooting, look a little further.
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Clicking the Friendly View option translates the XML display into this human-readable equivalent. Zero in on three values here: BootTime is the total time it takes for every system startup activity to complete. The MainPathBootTime is a more relevant measure, calculating how long it takes for you to get to a usable desktop. (BootPostBootTime represents the remainder of the boot process, during which processes and services load in the background and you can do stuff with the desktop.)
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All measurements are in milliseconds, so chop off the last three digits to get a reading in seconds. In this example, the full boot time was nearly two minutes? What's happening during that time? One way to find clues is to look for other events with the same time stamp...
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The event log documents this possible problem - a service that should take 5 seconds to start took an extra 22 seconds. If this is a one-time incident, it's no big deal, but if it happens again, it's a clue to look for problems in the Services console.
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For this startup cycle, Internet Explorer took much longer than normal to start. This could be (and probably is) related to the balky service shows in the previous screen. But it still bears watching in future startups.
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Vista's new, improved prefetch routine, called SuperFetch, tries to optimize performance consistently. If you see this sort of event in the logs, it might represent a one-time optimization run after installing a new software program. Still, it bears watching.
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I've used the View menu here to group and sort the filtered list of results. You can save a custom view and filter together to make it easier to return to the same tightly focused display for later troubleshooting.
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