Computers: Boot Time & Shut-Down Length Compared

While the time it takes a computer to boot up or shut down isn’t likely to be a major factor in your computer buying decision, it should be given at least minor consideration. If the computer can boot up and shut down quickly, this will save time and electricity, as well as letting you complete tasks when there is little time available. It is also helpful to have a fast boot time if you make a change which requires the computer to be re-started, or if you need to re-start the computer repeatedly in the process of fixing a problem.

When testing the five computers used for this article, the boot time was defined as the time from when the power button was pressed until the operating system desktop appeared and the hour-glass symbol was gone. The shut down time was defined as the amount of time between clicking “Shut Down” or “Turn Off The Computer” (at the desktop, with no programs open) and the computer indicating that it is ready to be turned off, or turning itself off. The computers are listed in order of newest to oldest.


Computer: Dell Dimension 3000 Pentium 4
Operating System: Windows XP
Time To Boot: 38 Seconds
To Shut Down: 25 Seconds*

Computer: Sony Vaio Laptop Pentium II
Operating System: Windows 98
Time To Boot: 112 Seconds
To Shut Down: 4 Seconds

Computer: Generic 200 MHz Desktop
Operating System: Windows 95
Time To Boot: 48 Seconds
To Shut Down: 3 Seconds

Computer: Tandy 1000 HX
Operating System: DOS w\ Deskmate
Time To Boot: 8 Seconds
To Shut Down: 2 Seconds

Computer: Commodore VIC-20
Operating System: Commodore BASIC
Time To Boot: 1 Second
To Shut Down: Immediate

The Commodore VIC-20, a computer from the early 1980s, has its operating system contained on internal ROM (Read Only Memory), and so did the Tandy 1000 HX (late ’80s), while the other three computers have their operating systems on hard drives. ROM can be accessed very quickly, and the Commodore operating system was less complex (although it did incorporate a programming language), so it could boot up almost instantly. It did not have a hard drive, so it could be turned off at any time, much like video game systems which use ROM cartridges. Most computers with their operating systems on ROM were made before 1994; a few were IBM-compatible and had MS-DOS in ROM like the Tandy 1000 HX.

Boot and shut down time can vary slightly, but varies more with some computers than others. The generic desktop and the Sony laptop almost always shut down in less than five seconds, regardless of how they are used. On the other hand, the Dell with Windows XP may take as long as forty* seconds to shut down after it has been used for internet access, rather than shutting it down immediately after booting it (25 seconds).

Some measures can be taken to speed up the booting of a computer, such as removing unnecessary steps from the autoexec.bat start-up file (only do this carefully) in DOS or Windows 1.0-98, or removing programs from the “Startup” menu in Windows 95-XP so that they don’t have to start up every time the operating system is used. However, any computer with Windows is probably not going to boot as quickly as a computer using only DOS, and computers with their OS on a hard drive or diskette generally won’t boot as fast as computers with it on ROM.

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