Why is there a long delay after I login to Windows?
You log in, the computer accepts your password, it begins to do whatever
it does at login time, and then … nothing. You sit and wait while the
computer appears to be doing nothing at all. After as much as a full minute
(which of course feels like much longer) things start happening
again and the login completes.
What the heck is it doing?
As usual, “it depends”. On many things, actually, but
there are definitely several things worth looking at, and some resources to
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Even I’m getting tired of saying it, but check for viruses and
spyware. Login time is when a
number of programs start up and is where many viruses and spyware
applications place themselves.
Along those same lines, check what you
have running at startup. When you log in many (and I do mean
many) programs often start up including background tasks,
application helpers, applets that appear in the notification area of the
taskbar, and more. And that’s not counting the viruses and spyware I
just mentioned. These should load quickly, but if they have a
problem it can manifest as a delay at login.
Once we’re past applications that launch at startup the most common
cause of unexpected login delays are issues related to networking.
The delay may be caused by problems attempting to get an IP address.
This is especially true if you’re logging in right after a reboot. The
most common cause is a misconfigured TCP/IP protocol, but this will also
manifest if the entity responsible for handing out your IP address is
having problems (your NAT router, your ISP, or some other device). If you
can, while the delay is happening open up a command prompt and type
“ipconfig”. If you’re connected to a network but your IP address is
“0.0.0.0” or if it begins with “169” then this is likely
the problem. Somewhat related articles include an Experts
Exchange thread on DHCP Delay at Boot Time, a
Microsoft Knowledgebase article You Experience a Long
Delay When You Log On a Guest PC in an Active Directory Domain, and
this article at TweakXP on Slow Domain Login.
The delay may be caused by attempting to reconnect to a network resource
that no longer exists. Depending on how the resource was connected to
originally Windows may pop up a message box indicating that the it’s
is unavailable, but not all connections use this mechanism. A good example
might be a startup program that attempts to connect to an internet resource
that is off-line.
The RPC service – the subject of much discussion as a target of viruses –
could be involved as implied by this Knowledgebase article Slow Response Executing Start Menu or Control Panel
Now, after first suggesting that you make sure to run a virus scan
there have also been reports of virus scanning software actually
contributing to this problem. Specifically, when the real-time scanning
option is enabled some versions of some packages might interfere with the
startup process. Make sure your software is up to date and try rebooting
with the realtime option off. If that’s the issue contact the
anti-virus software manufacturer for workarounds.
As you’ve already discovered investigating this problem can be
difficult. Another resource that might help here is the event viewer.
I’ll discuss it in more detail in a future article, but in the mean
time, Start, Run,
“eventvwr“, and look at the system and
application logs for anything that might indicate a problem at login
And finally, my previous article Why is
my machine slowing down? also includes several steps that can help
identify or resolve general speed issues.