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15 January, 2009

Modifying the Vista Operating System Boot

You can use several different tricks to shave a few more seconds off the boot time. For example, you can reduce Timeout values and slim down the system to get rid of all the extra features and services that you do not use or need. Check out the following ways to do so.

Windows Boot Manager

If you have more than one operating system installed on your computer, you’ll have to deal with the Windows Boot Manager installed by Windows Vista. By default, the Windows Boot Manager gives you 30 seconds to select an operating system before it reverts to the default operating system. The only way not to wait 30 seconds is to select the operating system you want to use right away. If you use one operating system the majority of your time, you will definitely save time if you set that operating system as the default and lower the Timeout value to 1 or 2 seconds. That way, you will not have to select an operating system every time you turn on your system or wait 30 seconds before your computer actually starts to load the operating system.


Before you make any changes to the Windows Boot Manager (WBM), it is a good idea to back it up using the Boot Configuration Data Editor (bcdedit.exe) so that you can easily revert back to an earlier version should you have any problems. At a command prompt running under an administrator account, type bcdedit /export “C:\Backup File”. This will save the WBM to a file that you can use to import using the /import flag.

Lowering OS Timeout values

As mentioned earlier, if you have multiple operating systems installed on your computer and the Windows Boot Manager is installed, the default selection timeout is often way too high. It is much better to set a lower timeout so that if you do not make a selection, it quickly reverts to the default OS, making your boot time much faster.

Changing the Timeout value is simple with the System Configuration utility. Follow the steps here to use the System Configuration utility to lower the OS Timeout value:

  1. Click the Start button, type msconfig in the Search box, and press Enter.

  2. When the System Configuration utility loads, click the Boot tab.

  3. Locate the Timeout box and replace 30 with a much lower value. I recommend you use between 2 and 5. I use 2 because that gives me just the right amount of time to press a key on my keyboard when the Windows Boot Manager is displayed on the screen.

  4. After the value has been updated, click OK to exit.

Now that the Timeout value has been updated, the Boot menu will no longer increase your system startup time. Even though this is a simple tip, it really helps a lot on systems that have multiple operating systems installed. Now let’s look at setting the default operating system on the Windows Boot Manager.

Setting the default OS

In the preceding section, I set a new Timeout value that will cut down on the amount of time that is wasted before the operating system starts to load. That works great when your primary operating system is the default; but if it is not, you must remember to press a key at the right moment on every single boot. There is a much better way to handle the situation. Just make your primary operating system the default operating system in the Windows Boot Manager. This will allow you to benefit from the lower Timeout value and speed up the overall boot time.

Setting the default operating system is a little more difficult because you need to use the command-line Boot Configuration Editor, bcdedit.exe. The Boot Configuration Editor is part of Windows Vista, but it requires an account with administrative rights to run. Even if you are logged in with an account that has administrator rights but have user account control enabled, by default the tool will not run as administrator. Follow these steps to use the Boot Configuration Editor to set the default operating system:

  1. Click the Start button and navigate through All Programs and Accessories.

  2. Locate the Command Prompt shortcut and right-click it to bring up the context menu.

  3. Select Run as administrator from the context menu.

  4. When the command prompt has loaded, you are ready to use the bcdedit.exe command. First, you need to get the ID of the operating system that you want to set as the default. To do this, type bcdedit /enum all in the open command prompt window. Scroll through the list of different entries and look for the one with the description matching “Microsoft Windows” for Windows Vista.

  5. After you have found the correct entry, note its identifier. That is used in the next step.

  6. While still at the command prompt, run bcdedit /default (entry identifier). For example, I ran bcdedit /default {}.

The default operating system on the Window Boot Manager is now set. The next time you reboot, your changes will be in use.


The Boot Configuration Editor is a powerful utility that you can also use to change many other settings of the Windows Boot Manager. Experiment with bcdedit.exe by running bcdedit /? from command prompt. This will show you all the other available options and flags that you can use with the Boot Configuration Editor.

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