After using Windows 7 (this observation applies to previous versions as well) for over a year, I notice that the start-up time (the time after entering my login password before my computer becomes fully responsive) becomes progressively longer over time.
If left unchecked, it is typical for it to take 10-15 minutes for the login to complete. During this time, the computer is unresponsive, often freezes for periods of a few seconds, and constantly reads/writes from the disk.
I know the common "sanity checks" for this problem: Spyware, viruses, unnecessary programs, etc. I don't install unneeded crapware on my system, I don't have spyware, my drivers aren't buggy. The problem isn't a simple newbie mistake. My hardware is sufficiently powerful.
I have made two more observations regarding this problem:
A Windows XP virtual machine that I was using for Skype conversations only is prone to the same problem, even though I installed only Skype, drivers, a few utility programs (when I first made the VM) and installed nothing, nor browsed the web, over the course of its lifetime. Over time, it started taking longer and longer to login (but not boot).
If I format the system drive of a machine that takes, say, ~5 minutes to login, and then reinstall practically all the software that was installed previously, the login time is much shorter (~30 seconds) even though the computer is still doing the same resource-intensive startup sequence.
I have tried using various startup sequence analysis programs, but they have failed to reveal any specific process that takes a very long time. For the most part, it seems that:
- Most user applications (ie. ones which I have installed) take slightly longer than they should.
- Monolithic Windows system processes take much longer than they should.
- The computer is far less responsive than it should ever be, even at 100% CPU and HDD usage (mouse pointer gets stuck, pressing keys on the keyboard simply results in a "system busy" beep from the case, display stops updating).
It seems like there is a very high priority Windows process(es) that becomes much slower, and blocks the start-up sequence. How can I figure out the cause of this issue?