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What causes desktop login and boot times to spiral out of control?

If it takes a long time for users to login and boot their desktops they won't be happy and they will let IT know about it. Find out what enterprise tools slow down desktop logins the most.

BOSTON -- Essential enterprise resources such as Group Policy settings, user environment management and monitoring tools can really make desktops crawl and end-user experience suffer.

When a desktop opens an application in 0.1 seconds, users believe the system works instantaneously, according to research from the Nielsen Norman Group cited in a BriForum session. Up the number to just one second, and the users notice a delay but do not lose their attention. If it takes 10 or more seconds, users move on to other tasks. Clearly, speed is crucial when it comes to user productivity and satisfaction.

Session speakers Helge Klein, the founder of systems monitoring vendor vast limits, and Aaron Parker, a solutions architect at IT services provider Insentra, detailed the effects of "enterprise-ifying" a desktop on login and boot times. The pair started with a clean Windows 10 install, which booted in 3.7 seconds.

Little to no effect on desktop login and boot times

When you add a new desktop to your domain, create a domain user account and local profile, login times increase by less than a second, Parker said. Likewise, security products, such as Norton Security Deluxe or Endpoint Protector Basic, don't affect login times much at all. These tools can slow down other functions, however. Line of business apps, such as Adobe Reader and Microsoft Office 2016, also caused almost no delays.

On the fence

If a desktop's Input/Output Operations Per Second drop below 2,000 or lower, the boot time can grow by a factor of 10.

Things start to get a little more complicated when you enable Group Policy settings, which wait for the network at startup to make sure all the policies are applied correctly. Group Policy settings increase the startup time by more than three seconds, Klein and Parker said. And the more extensive the settings are, the longer the delays. For every client-side extension Group Policy Preference you add, desktop boot time increases by five to 10 seconds, the speakers estimated.

Roaming profiles can go both ways. A roaming profile that the operating system does not delete at logoff shouldn't have an effect on boot times, but if the profile is deleted at logoff, delays can arise. And if the roaming profile's target file server is unavailable, the desktop login time can increase to more than two minutes.

Heavy desktop login and boot delays

If a desktop's Input/Output Operations Per Second drop below 2,000 or lower, the boot time can grow by a factor of 10. Client applications and runtimes, such as Adobe Flash Player, Citrix Receiver or Java, all increase the IO count, which makes the desktop boot process take longer as well. And when a company throws a desktop virtualization suite, such as Citrix XenDesktop, into the mix, the disk IO goes up even more -- as do the boot and login times.

How to minimize desktop login delays

To combat slow login times, size your network for peaks rather than averages, Parker said. This approach prepares the network for any sudden explosions in resource usage and ensures strong performance during periods of average usage.

Parker also suggested using flash for virtual desktop infrastructure, session border controllers and physical desktops to minimize desktop login times. Never overcommit a CPU to any specific area of the desktop and use monitoring tools to track login times.

Next Steps

The role of IOPS in virtual desktop performance

Prevent VDI boot storms from hurting desktop performance

Explore tools for monitoring end-user app experience

This was last published in August 2016

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