Updated: September 22, 2010
If you're running Windows, you may be perfectly satisfied with your choice. Then again, you may not. You may be annoyed by the slow machine startup or sluggish performance. You may not like the default palette of colors. Or maybe the buttons are too big for you. What do you do?
There are many programs designed to help you smooth, soften or eradicate your usage problems in Windows. The choices range from simple user interface tweaks to pagefile and registry defragmentation. For most people, these tools are too difficult to use, too complex and just too technical. Messing up with the system is just so boring. However, one tool really impressed me with its simplicity and usefulness. It's called Soluto, and it's a program designed to make your Windows boot faster and more elegantly.
In layman's terms, Soluto will profile your system boot and recommend fixes, some trivial, some more advanced. Soluto can also perform a frustration analysis of your system, offering solutions to everyday annoyances. On paper, it sounds just like any other optimization software. However, this is where Soluto stands out. It's simple and fun to use. Let's take a look.
Download and install, fairly simple. Once installed, Soluto will ask you whether you want to reboot. If you're in the middle of some important work, Soluto will patiently wait until you reboot the machine to make its first run.
After the first boot, Soluto will take a few moments profiling the system.
And now the real fun begins.
Soluto looks and feels modern. The interface reminds me very much of Moblin, with the liberal use of big, shiny colors and symbolic icons that deviate from the conventional guidelines. This turns a potentially geeky tool, a boot time analysis and optimization software, into something even a common user might contemplate.
There are three categories of startup programs: no-brainers, potentially removable and required. The last of the three are core Windows components that cannot be removed without crippling the system. Potentially removable programs might go, but only if you really know what you're doing. No brainers are truly unneeded components that you can ditch in favor of a few extra seconds during boot.
In my case, the system is already fairly optimized, with just 39 processes.
Soluto did offer one no-brainer, a Windows Media Player sharing service. Yes, it can go. Expanding the bootup sequence ribbon, you get a handful of information, which should help you decide what to do, including usage statistics collected worldwide from Soluto users. Sort of a democracy vote, if you will.
This category is not so easy. You can remove programs listed here, but only if you fully understand the implications. For instance, in my case, the programs listed included VMware Tools, Rohos Logon Key software and VMLite service, a total of four seconds.
Removing these would leave the machine in a perfectly sane state, but some of the advanced features provided would not work. This is a tradeoff hardly worth the loss of functionality, especially since the net gain is less than 5% of total boot time.
Be careful and do not be greedy. Slicing the boot time has to be handled with moderation. What more, starting the services manually later will take far longer than the handful of seconds you save on boot.
As the title says - these cannot be removed.
Instead of seeing the boot time graph, you can review the boot history for your machine. The icon for that function is available in the left bottom corner. Most importantly, you can compare pre-Soluto and post-Soluto boot times, so you can clearly see the direction and magnitude of the effect the software has on your machine's performance.
When working casually, you may suddenly get angry at your operating system. It may turn sluggish and unresponsive. You would probably want to know what program may have caused the slowdown. To examine what plays nasty tricks with you in the background, Soluto has the so-called Frustration mode available. Right-click on the Soluto icon in the system tray and choose My PC Just Frustrated Me.
For this to work, Ongoing Frustration Research function will have to be enabled.
After a few moments, you will get a report with potential culprits, programs that Soluto thinks may be the cause of your frustration. This is only a guess, not exact science, so you should take the results with some reservation. And most importantly, if you do not understand the implications of tampering with these processes, avoid killing them or disabling them. You may harm your machine beyond mere frustration - permanently.
And that would be all.
Soluto is a very handsome program. While it is definitely not the only one, it's one of the easier and more visually pleasing boot profilers. The user interface is sexy, elegant and non-intimidating. The tool data is simple to interpret and use. Soluto is helpful and avoids the pitfalls of geekiness that are so typical for this kind of software.
You should definitely take Soluto for a spin, bearing in mind the consequences of dabbling with your system. But in a sort of a fun and innocent way, you may actually learn new things about your machine and optimize its performance. Definitely worth checking.
For those in need of an adventure, you may want to check the Sysinternals toolbox, too. On Windows XP, there is a handy utility called Bootvis. And if you're dabbling in Linux, take a look at bootchart. Well, have fun exploring!
Many thanks to Ocky, Software Explorer Extraordinaire, for discovering this tool!