How to make your laptop boot faster

Whether you have a MacBook or Windows 10 laptop, we can help you cut down its startup time.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read

If your laptop takes its sweet time booting up, then here are some things you can do to put a little pep back in its startup step.

Get an SSD

You can breathe new life and faster boot times into old laptops by replacing spinning hard drives (HDD) with a new solid-state drive (SSD).

Without needing to physically spin a disk to locate the data you've requested, SSDs are substantially faster than traditional HDDs. After installing an SSD, the first thing you'll notice is the speed improvement it causes when you boot up your laptop.

You'll have to open your laptop and perform a bit of surgery, but it's a basic procedure. In a nutshell, you will need to gather a few tools, clone your hard drive to the new drive, open your laptop, remove its old hard drive and then add in a SSD in its place. Here's how to upgrade your MacBook Pro with an SSD.

Note: Be sure to check with your laptop vendor or in laptop forums to make sure the SSD you choose is compatible with your laptop model. You may sacrifice some storage capacity when you move to an SSD, but prices have dropped precipitously in recent years so you may be able to afford a larger SSD than you think.

Reduce startup items

Sometimes the applications you install go ahead and include themselves among the applications that your laptop loads when it starts up. The longer that list of applications, the longer it takes to start up. Thankfully, both Windows and OS X both let you choose which applications make this list.

If you are unwilling to purchase or install an SSD, then you'll like this move because its free and easy. And if your laptop already has an SSD, then you can further shorten its boot time.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

On OS X El Capitan, open System Preferences and select Users & Groups. Click on your username in the left panel and then click the Login Items tab in the right panel. To remove a program from this list, click on it and the click the "-" button.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

On Windows 10, search for Task Manager and open it. Click the Startup tab and you'll see a list of programs that start automatically when Windows 10 boots. Look for programs you don't need at startup, particularly if they are listed as having a high startup impact in the right column. To stop a program from automatically running when you start Windows 10, right-click it and click Disable.

Windows: Fast startup

For Windows 10 laptops, there's a setting called fast startup. It cuts down on startup time by creating a state between shutdown and hibernation where your system state is saved as a hibernation file, which is then loaded when you start up your laptop again. It saves Windows the trouble of reloading the kernel, drivers, and your settings. Unlike hibernation mode though, your open folders and applications are not saved with fast startup.

Fast startup is enabled by default on Windows 10, but it's worth checking to make sure it's on.

  • Go to Control Panel > Hardware & Sound > Power Options.
  • Click Choose what the power buttons do from the left panel.
  • Click Change settings that are currently unavailable at the top of the window and scroll down to the bottom and make sure the box is checked for Turn on fast startup (recommended).

For more, read what is Window 10's fast startup?

OS X: Automatic login

This last tip is for Mac owners who have more than one user account set up. With automatic login, you bypass the login screen and log right into one of your accounts to speed the startup process along. Because this setting lets you log into OS X without needing to enter your password, automatic login is not advisable if you carry your laptop with you everywhere you go and are prone to leaving it unattended in public places. If your laptop spends most of the time safely at home, here's how to enable it.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET
  • Open System Preferences and click Users & Groups.
  • Click the lock button in the lower-left corner and enter your account password.
  • Click Login Options in the left panel.
  • Choose an account from from the Automatic login pull-down menu and enter the password for that account.

For more, here are 5 tips to speed up your Mac and 6 easy ways to speed up Windows 10.