This question appeared between two computer technicians that are friends of mine.

  • One was saying that the user profile's size (mainly regarding desktop content) would affect boot time and even general performance.

  • The other said that it was irrelevant. User profile size and desktop content does not affect boot time or performance.

The specific problem was discussed when one of their clients was having boot time issues.

  • The 1st technician said that moving the desktop content to an "internal" folder, having only the folder shortcut on the desktop would solve the issue. It did work (boot time became acceptable), so he believes he is correct.

  • The 2nd technician says that moving the desktop content broke any links to files that might be slowing the system, therefore he didn't correct the real problem, but only solved the issue with the wrong solution.

So the question is: Does user profile size and desktop content affect boot time in Windows 7?

Edit: Clarification from the comments follows.

The boot time:

The boot time we considered stands between pressing the power button and the load of the google logo on IE. IE is opened by pressing the shortcut on the taskbar as soon as it loads.

The desktop and user profile:

"Desktop content" regards files stored on the desktop. "User profile size" is determined by the control panel's options to view the user profile's size.

  • 2
    What two events, according to you and your two technicians, delineate the start and end of "boot time"? It seems that the three of you share an idiosyncratic definition that is not the conventional one. What, exactly, is "working", in this context? Indeed, what was the actual problem? You've not told us the real problem, not told us how you measure things, not provided any meaningful data, and yet you expect us to explain to you what is going on on your systems and how ways of addressing your real problem might or might not work. The world is not clairvoyant. – JdeBP Jan 28 '12 at 14:05
  • 1
    Have a -1 for an outright refusal to provide details in your question when asked multiple real questions about it, then. You've outright refused to explain "working", outright refused to give the measurements used, and yet you most definitely are asking the world to clairvoyantly explain to you what's going on with your systems and why unspecified changes have unspecified effects on unspecified measurements on your machines, while idiosyncratically redefining "boot time" to include browsing the WWW. – JdeBP Jan 29 '12 at 17:59
  • What is "desktop content"? What do you mean by "user profile size"? With any normal interpretation of the terms, the question is nonsense. – kreemoweet Jan 29 '12 at 23:38
  • @kreemoweet "Desktop content" regards files stored on the desktop. "User profile size" i think stands for the size of the ´C:/Users/_username_/´ folder. I'll check with the technicians just in case im a bit off on what they consider "user profile", I'll talk to them tomorrow. – Fernando Silva Jan 30 '12 at 0:01
  • @kreemoweet So apparently i was wrong about the user profile. The value was determined by the control panel's options to view the user profile's size. – Fernando Silva Jan 30 '12 at 13:29

User profiles are not loaded while Windows is booting. The only time your profile is touched is when you are logging in to your account.

  • 1
    +1 If you are measuring the time until the user sees their desktop after logon, user profile can have a negative impact – Dave M Jan 28 '12 at 14:40
  • The boot time we considered stands between pressing the power button and the load of the google logo on IE. IE is opened by pressing the shortcut on the taskbar as soon as it loads. No login typing is made to minimize user interaction. From what the both of you stated you have the opinion of the 1st technician? – Fernando Silva Jan 29 '12 at 15:59
  • Yes, the first technician is right. – ZippyV Jan 29 '12 at 19:02

Since the 1st technician had his problem solved he didn't "need" to prove his theory, on the other hand the 2nd technician thought out a way to try and prove it.

He developed a series of 6 test runs on an old machine (in order to get visible results) with diferent content in the user profile and desktop, starting with a fresh install of windows 7.

Each test was run 7 times and the average values are what im going to display here.

The boot time definition used in this case comprehends the time between clicking the power button, clicking IE after the taskbar loads until google logo (default homepage) shows up.

The machine specs are these:

  • P4 3.0Ghz
  • 1GB RAM
  • 500GB Caviar Blue
  • Windows 7


  • User profile size
  • Number of files
  • Boot time average

Test 1:

  • 4.2 MB
  • Minimum files after windows install
  • 86.45 s

Test 2:

  • 81.9 GB
  • 1518 files
  • 68.9 s

Test 3:

  • 21.0 GB
  • 17325 files
  • 71.5 s

Test 4:

  • 102.9 GB
  • 18843 files
  • 79.5 s

Test 5:

  • 231 GB
  • 25557 files
  • 72.8 s

Test 6:

  • 231 GB
  • 25557 files on desktop
  • 70.9 s

Conclusion: Considering the absolute values, we could even say that a small user profile would harm boot time, but considering the low diferences i would agree with the second technician that user profile has no impact on boot time.

  • 1
    Boot time is not only about files count or files size, I think he should also consider files type when running these tests. Say you have a bunch of PDF, images, CAD files which windows will try to resolve their thumbnails when they first shows on the desktop. that's means loading different shell extensions which is more processing time, more hit on memory and can cause performance issues. – user8228 Jan 30 '12 at 5:58
  • Ok, i'll let him know so we can add a few more tests, thanks. – Fernando Silva Jan 30 '12 at 8:11
  • 1
    @FernandoSilva: While this is nice testing; realize that you could have done boot logging with Process Monitor or the Windows Performance Toolkit which simply allows you to see whether the user profile is touched, when it is touched and how it influences the boot... – Tamara Wijsman Jan 30 '12 at 16:45
  • 1
    @TomWijsman Thanks, I didn't know those tools, I'll see if we can get a hand on a machine that can be formated to re-run the tests. But since one of the two technicians would be doing the tests (I don't have extra PC's for the job) I'm not sure they're willing, but I'll ask anyway. Thanks for the edit, I was going to get to it tonight, but looks like I got here too late. – Fernando Silva Jan 30 '12 at 19:03
  • @TomWijsman: I took a peek at the WPT you mentioned. I saw this site and this question and it doesn't really seem that the boot-time will be represented in a way that I could figure out what parts of the user profile are loaded. So I'm going to accept the test-runs as proof that "user profile size" per si doesn't affect boot times, but I'm willing to change that if a better answer is given. Thanks for the help though. – Fernando Silva Jan 31 '12 at 0:05

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