Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Sometimes logging into Windows can take a while. There are many reasons why this might happen, and often there are steps you can take to speed it up.
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 help diagnose.
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 Applets.
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 time.
And finally, my previous article Why is my machine slowing down? also includes several steps that can help identify or resolve general speed issues.
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