Most users and administrators are familiar with the Startup folder in Windows, which holds shortcuts for programs to be launched when a user logs in. On systems that don't receive much fine-tuning, the Startup folder is often very crowded. In such cases, multiple programs in the Startup group will try to load at the same time, and the system can slow down drastically for several minutes after login.
This situation is not usually as profound on a server, since most of the slowdown is very noticeable to a user trying to work on the desktop. It isn't as noticeable to a remote user, although if the server has a user stationed at its console, they will definitely notice. In extreme cases, though, it will affect the availability of the server; some services may take minutes to come back up after a reboot—or, more precisely, seem to take minutes to come up since they are very slow to respond at first.
Administrators have several strategies for fighting this kind of slowdown. One is to use MSCONFIG or a similar tool to disable programs that don't really need to be running at startup. Another is to use a program like StartRight, to keep all the programs in the Startup group from attempting to load at the same time. StartRight provides a pause between each program load, to give each program time to finish starting before the next one kicks in, thus speeding up startup.
Note that if you use these programs or techniques to moderate the order in which programs load, keep an eye as to which programs need to be loaded first, such as firewalls or network proxying tools.
Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators – please share your thoughts as well!
This was first published in August 2004