An Unusual Way to Reduce Windows Boot Time


Hello to my fellow readers of Gizmo’s Freeware. This is my first contribution to a new section of Gizmo’s Freeware called Tech Tips.

I have been a long-time admirer and consumer of the very useful information that Gizmo and his editors provide. I am very honored to be joining the team to edit this new feature that will provide tips on how to use your computer faster, better and safer. I will be passing along things I have learned over the years but the ultimate success of this feature will depend on your active participation. The visitors to this site constitute a big laboratory for software testing and a collective treasure trove of experience. I hope that you will join me in this new section and share your knowledge by sending your tips and suggestions.

My first tip: Clearing the Recent Documents folder to reduce Windows boot time

There are lots of different ways you can reduce Windows boot time but this technique is less well known and on certain PCs can be surprisingly effective.

Windows keeps a list of all the recent documents that you have opened or used and over time the list can grow quite large. Since Windows checks the list at startup, a very large list can increase boot time. Also, you may not always want to have an easily available record of all the documents you have been opening for others to read.

The recent documents folder is handled differently in different versions of Windows but in each case the easiest way to access this folder is from the Start Menu. Here’s the procedure for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7:

Windows XP

As you probably know, Windows XP has a section of the Start menu called “My Recent Documents”, which displays the last 15 documents that have been opened. However, the number of documents that Windows XP actually keeps track of is usually much larger. The list that is kept is comprised of shortcuts that are stored in the folder \Documents and Settings\{User}\Recent\. (Confusingly, the folder Recent appears as My Recent Documents in Windows Explorer.)

1. Click the Start button
2. Click Run
3. Type “recent” into the box (without the quotes) and click the OK button
4. When the folder opens, you can delete as many items as you wish.

Windows Vista

In Vista, the relevant section of the Start Menu is called Recent Items and the Run line is no longer displayed by default. The folder containing the Recent Items shortcuts is at \Users\{user}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\ Recent\. It can be accessed from the Start Menu in this way:

1. Click the Start button
2. Enter “shell:recent” into the Start Search box (without quotes and with no spaces)
3. In the listing that appears, click shell:recent
4. In the folder that opens, delete as many items as you wish.

Windows 7

In Windows 7, the recently used items have effectively been moved to Jumplists. There is still a folder with all the shortcuts and it is accessed in the same way as for Vista except that the Start Search box is now labeled “Search programs and files.”

1. Click the Start button
2. Enter “shell:recent” into the Search programs and files box (without quotes and with no spaces)
3. In the listing that appears, click shell:recent
4. In the folder that opens, delete as many items as you wish

Other cleaning options

The popular freeware program CCleaner will also completely clear out the Recent folder or allow you to exclude items from deletion.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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