I am very thankful to be alive now, as opposed to fifty or a hundred (or five hundred) years ago.  I need glasses or contacts, and those wouldn’t have been available a half a millennium ago.  A car a hundred years ago might have been steam powered.  In order to rush out the door, you’d have to add wood or coal to the boiler, wait for the steam pressure to build up, and then finally drive away.  We’re not at the point of having teleportation booths, but we’re a lot closer to instantaneous travel than we used to be.

A lot of that has to do with how quickly the car starts up.  One of the frustrations in winter driving is having to wait while the car warms up.  Same for computers – when I want my computer to work, I want it to work now, not in five minutes.  The idea of “instant on” is an ideal rather than an actuality.

But we’re getting closer.  Faster computer speeds and better operating system engineering have brought us closer to that goal.  And you can do your part to help.  Part of the reason your computer is slow is the junk it is being asked to do when it starts up.  Instead of letting that gasoline engine roar into life, we’re asking it to wait for the load of coal, which is arriving on Bessie the mule.

Huh?  From faster-booting PCs to mules?  Well, let’s look at what might make your computer as obstinate as a mule.

And let’s do it with Autoruns.  Originally developed by Sysinternals before that company was bought out by Microsoft, Autoruns will show you everything that starts up automatically when your PC starts.  And there’s a lot of junk – but don’t start up that flamethrower just yet.  Download the program, install it, and run it.  Accept the license agreement.  And watch Autoruns find stuff that you didn’t even know you had running.

Interesting format – the Everything tab gives you (as you may have guessed, you intelligent reader you!) all the stuff that was found on one page.  Intimidating – too much information?  It’s all broken down in the other tabs.  Here’s the logon tab for the above, identical as far as it goes.

Much more of a bite-sized chunk than the first one.  And what to do with that bite-sized chunk?  Let’s chew on it some and see what we get.

First up is the Adobe Reader and Acrobat Manager.  Nope – I don’t do that many PDF files, so I’m willing to do without this guy, whatever he does.  I uncheck the box, meaning that he won’t run the next time the computer is booted.  Two things to note: 1) there is no immediate effect.  This takes a reboot to make happen.  And 2)  be careful what you turn off.  Because the effects are not immediate, you might not realize that in your chase for the Roadrunner you ran off the cliff and are standing on thin air.  If you disable something critical, you could be falling to the desert floor before you know it.  I don’t put Adobe into that category, though.

Adobe Reader Speedlauncher?  Same category.  I’m willing to give up a few seconds when I open a PDF, in order to have more system memory and CPU cycles available right now.

Client Access has to do with getting to systems at work.  Ignore him – he’s okay.

But then we come into some old friends.  Cobian Backup from last week, and Everything from a week of Tuesdays ago.  Useful things, and ones that were added intentionally.  Leave them be.

Google desktop?  Sure.  MS Security Essentials?  Yes.  I blogged about it, in passing, but haven’t featured it as a cool tool.  Yet.

Ands then what is this next thing passing into our gunsights?  The Java Update Scheduler?  I bet they add the word “Task” to the end of that name and make jokes about it being JUST in time . . .  Well, no more, bucko.  I’ll decide when Java needs to be updated, not you.  I subscribe to the @Risk newsletter from SANS, and I scan it to see what programs have had vulnerabilities reported.  While that one  is pretty geeky, the monthly Ouch! is more user-friendly while still helping cultivate a security consciousness.  Whether you subscribe to these or not, JUS is not going to be running.

In the next section, we have Google Updater (nope, same reasoning as the Java thingie above), and the Windows Sidebar.  Yep – I like having that stuff, and I’m willing to pay that cost in CPU cycles.

Anyway, your computer will look different than mine.  I have told you how I think, but I can’t (as I write this) advise you in your circumstances.  For your area of work, having that latest release of Java might be critical.  If you work with PDF files often, the speedlauncher might be a good investment.  Be careful about removing things you don’t know about.  Turning off your video driver could be difficult to recover from.

This one’s a power tool.