Soluto: A community-based solution to the my-computer-boots-very-slowly problem

It be an over used statement, but it is true: When we get new computers, they are blazing fast (or, they seem to be blazing fast); however as we use our computers more and more, they seem to get slower and slower. One of the most noticeable aspects where a was-new-now-old computer’s performance degrades is boot time. It seems like where it took 30 seconds to boot when you first ran the computer, it now takes 5 minutes. Why? Has Steve Jobs eternally cursed Windows users for not buying a Mac? Maybe, but that really isn’t the reason for performance degradation. As is the case with the right-click context menu, many programs – justified or not – like to make themselves automatically turn on during Windows boot. As more and more programs start to automatically boot at Windows boot, the longer your boot time becomes (duh =P).

There are many programs out there available to help users control what runs automatically on Windows boot – Autoruns, WinPatrol, and AnVir Task Manager just to name a few. However, Soluto tackles the my-computer-boots-very-slowly problem in a way that differs from all the other programs.

At its core Soluto is nothing unique – it allows users to remove or delay boot time programs/processes. What makes Soluto unique is its community-based solution to the my-computer-boots-very-slowly problem. Here is a short introduction video to Soluto:

The idea behind Soluto is as follows: Build a community-powered knowledge database (“PC Genome”) on programs; then, use that database to help individual users determine if a boot time program/process should be paused, delayed, or left as-is. (Right now the PC Genome is only for boot time programs/processes but, as the video mentioned, the developer seems to have big plans for this knowledge database.) Potential privacy issues aside, this is actually quite a brilliant idea considering most non-techies find it difficult to understand what program/process should be allowed to run at boot and which ones should not. However, ideas may look great on paper (or, in this case, may look good on a computer screen), but it is really the implementation that makes or breaks a project. While Soluto has received glowing reviews from many popular tech blogs and websites, lets do a dotTech analysis to see if Soluto really is cut out to be as good as it looks.

Before Soluto is able to provide you with advice on what to do, Soluto needs to analyze the programs/processes that run at boot. So, to do that, after Soluto is installed you need to restart your computer…

…and let Soluto do its thing. On the reboot after installation of Soluto, Soluto starts to monitor the programs/processes that run at boot for you:

Once the monitoring has finished, Soluto gathers the relevant data from the PC Genome database (regarding the programs it found to be running at boot)…

…and displays suggestions for you regarding what you should pause, delay, or leave as-is:

Soluto splits up programs/processes into three categories:

  • “No-brainer” – Programs/processes marked in green are highly recommended to either be removed from boot or at least paused. According to Soluto, removing or pausing these programs shouldn’t cause any problems on your computer:

  • “Potentially removable” – Programs/processes marked in orange may or may not be removed from boot or paused without causing problems on your computer; hence only “advanced” users are suggested to look at the programs/processes marked in orange and decide if they are necessary or not.:

  • “Required” – Programs/processes marked in gray are ones that Soluto considers to be critical to your computer and removing or pausing any could cause problems. Soluto won’t even let you pause or remove any required ones:

As programs/processes are paused or delayed, they are neatly ordered and color coded to reflect their new status:

Users always have the option to go back and undo the changes they made to each individual program/process:

Soluto automatically gathers data about which programs you allow, pause, or delay. However, Soluto has a “wiki mode” that allows users to directly give input to the Soluto team (i.e. if you think their data or recommendation is wrong or incomplete):

Access to the wiki for each program is available via the pencil icons you see attached to each program/process when you scroll for them.

Now, the features of Soluto looks fairly solid, but what about the performance? Well, Soluto is a new product; its performance relies heavily on how much data is present in the PC Genome database. Since Soluto is a new product, the database right now is very skimpy. For example, in one of my screenshots about you will notice Soluto has no data on avast! (aside from what other users did with it), a very popular free anti-virus program. (As a side note, it seems like any program Soluto does not have enough data about [i.e. it does not know what it is] is thrown into the “Potentially removable” category.) Then, some of the data it does have is inaccurate. For example, when I ran Soluto on one of my computers, it listed Digsby (a multiplatform instant messaging client) and Google Chrome (a web browser) as being “required” when they clearly are not. Not to mention my personal experience with Soluto has been rather shameful.

You see I am one of those people that like to keep a tight grip on what runs at boot for my computer; so I did not expect Soluto to worth any magic on my computer since my boot was fairly clean to begin with. However, I did not expect Soluto to make my boot slower either. With Soluto I was able to delay a few minor programs and make my boot 4 seconds faster (not surprising because, as I said, my boot is fairly clean already); but Soluto itself slowed my boot by 9 seconds, coming out to a net gain of 5 seconds (gain as in increased boot time).

The net gain would not have been so bad if Soluto had a feature to turn off the boot analysis it conducts (the boot analysis is the primary cause of the boot slowdown caused by Soluto). Sadly, the developer of Soluto seems to there is a need to run the boot analysis every freaking time the freaking computer is booted. Now in regards to building the PC Genome project, the more data collected, the better, so running a boot analysis on every boot makes sense. However, in regards to user friendliness and common sense, running a boot analysis on every boot is uncalled for… especially when the boot analysis contradicts the main purpose of Soluto by making boot slower. What makes the situation even worse is if you decide you don’t want to put up with Soluto running every time you boot your computer, the only option you have is to uninstall Soluto (there is no way to disable the boot analysis) in which case all the programs you paused or delayed are reverted back to their original state. Bummer, isn’t it?

Other areas where Soluto can be improved are allowing the user to control exactly how long to delay a program (currently there is no feature to do this as far as I can tell – programs are just “delayed for a short time”) and allowing delayed programs to run minimized (they all run maximized currently). Of course a bigger and more accurate PC Genome database is the best area of improvement but that is something that is mostly out of the developer’s control and depends on community involvement. (Although, since the PC Genome database is so critical to Soluto, the developer may want to consider paying PC users as an incentive to run Soluto and allow the PC Genome database to be fed.)

That said, what about privacy? Clearly Soluto collects data from every users’ computer… so isn’t Soluto a privacy hazard? Well, according to Soluto’s developer the answer is no (meaning Soluto is not a privacy risk). In many places on their website the developer states Soluto collects anonymous usage data…

  • …Every action executed by every user of the boot feature is gathered anonymously into the PCGenome database…
  • …Soluto’s software application collects anonymous technical information from your PC so that we may provide actionable recommendations to our users. The information collected is not related to your Personal Information. The information collected includes, for example, the behavior of software applications on your PC and your installation and uninstallation of applications on your PC…

…and Soluto has a fairly clear privacy policy and ethical code. In fact, I am fairly impressed by their ethical code which once again states only anonymous data is collected but, more importantly, claims “Soluto will make this dataset [the PC Genome] freely available, for the public to analyze and deduce conclusions regarding software and hardware performance.”

Now, don’t drink all of Soluto’s kool-aid. Soluto is not a non-profit and they are backed by venture capitalists, so they surely have a business plan in place to turn a profit. How they will turn a profit and if they will stick to their ethical code will be the interesting part. My guess is they will try to make money by either consulting with hardware and software vendors (using the PC Genome database as a guide on how to improve those products) or selling commercial licenses to hardware and software vendors to gain access to the PC Genome database. After all, knowledge is power. (What, you didn’t think Facebook is valued over $11 billion just because of Farmville… did you?) Of course those are just my guesstimates… only time will tell what really happens.

In the end, the amount of success users will currently have with Soluto – in regards to improving boot time – will vary greatly because of the not-so-large PC Genome database. However, Soluto has laid a solid foundation and the framework for a great product has already been set (with a few minor tweaks needed here and there as I mentioned in my article above). Now the success or failure of Soluto depends on how many people decide to use it. Soluto is a fairly new product and currently is in Beta, so it may not work magic for you yet but it surely is an interesting concept worth keeping an eye on. (In the worst case scenario that Soluto does not help you lower boot time at all, you won’t walk away empty handed. After using Soluto you will at least know how long it takes to boot your computer, which in of itself is handy to know.) You can access Soluto from the following links:

Version reviewed: Beta (exact version number not given)

Supported OS: Windows XP/Vista/Win7

Special note: .NET Framework 3.5 is required to run Soluto

Download size: The installer is only about 900 KB but about during installation Soluto (and .NET Framework if you don’t have it) is downloaded. I am not sure how large these downloads are.

Soluto homepage [direct download]

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33 comments

  1. mygoodness

    The solutoinstaller.exe installs a program from the cloud at soluto.com that starts in safe mode, stops some antivirus programs from scanning, can’t be detected by any AV’s and does not uninstall. I changed folder permissions in safe mode to erase it.

    What is it really up to?

  2. CompleteCircle

    I was interested to see what the Genome looked like at this point, since it has had a couple months to evolve.  Unfortunately, at Soluto’s site, the Genome page is still listed as “Coming Soon” so there is no way to know.

  3. chinaguy

    It has been three months since this review. What would people say about it? Has the genome database been significantly improved or is it about the same? Also does anyone know if the program has been made faster so that it doesn’t take as long at boot. Although I would doubt it that would be a nice improvement.

  4. Roland

    There was an update yesterday so now it works fine in System 7, 64 bit. I have no issues with her other than it not working when there was an update 2 week ago. Love the product, it shave almost 30 seconds. It makes it more friendly to turn off applications at start up, and to watch if she helps..if not, there is an undo. Thanks for the review on this.

  5. Brian

    @RobCr: Could you explain the comment about Microsoft giving Windows 7 to Vista owners for free? I would sure like to get rid of all of my Vista machines & convert them to 7!!!!

    thanks
    Brian

    p.s. please send me an email if possible (brianstovall@windstream.net), I don’t get to visit the site as often as I would like to!!!

  6. Old Codger

    Tried it – but was disappointed.  Ran it and took all the suggested fixes.  Increased my boot time by 7 seconds.  Went in and manually checked the start up processes and improved the boot time considerably – over and above what the program could do.  Thought I was a novice – but maybe not.  LOL

  7. MikeR

    Not sure why there’s this need-for-speed. I’m on Vista with a boot-up time of around two and a half minutes (maybe a bit less) and that’s fine with me, seeing as how on start-up ERUNT AUTOBACKUP does its thing. Yup, I could go supersonic, but to what purpose? Losing ERUNT in exchange for maybe 30 seconds’ boot-up gain isn’t any kind of gain at all — it could actually be suicidally stupid. 

    As to apps like Soluto, it’s a sad day when computer users can’t be bothered to Google around themselves and learn what’s essential and / or desirable at start-up and what isn’t. (And then use simple stuff like CCleaner’s start-up manager or freeware with the ability to delay as well as disable.) 

    As for Soluto itself: something which identifies an unnecessary brake on a system by applying an unnecessary brake to that system seems hardly an example of Joined Up Thinking.

    Thanks, but I’ll pass.

  8. Thomas Sounness

    Hi Asharif – I have used Soluto to examine the benefits of changing from McCaffe’s suite of antivirus and firewall products (the licence was about to expire) and see how the boot processes worked with Pandasofts cloud computing antivirus and one of your recommended firewall products. With DotNet 1.1, Silverlight, Javascript upgrades and who knows what … anyway the graphics of what has changed is very interesting and seeing what has slowed things down when installed or removed is facinating. Google’s updater is getting in the mix it seems and is continually being removed for reasons that bemuse me.
     
    http://img838.imageshack.us/img838/9644/clipboard01pa.jpg
     
    yes it’s heavy, the speed gains from moving from McCaffe to Pandasoft are only just met by the losses of Soluto but the info I have, leaves me content.
     
    Thomas

  9. Jojo

    One point I did not see mentioned in the review or previous comments is that IF you uninstall Soluto, it reverts all changes you have made.  Sort of a penalty, I guess.  And very disingenuous, IMO.

  10. Jyo

    Hey Ashraf, do you think you could do an article on the ethics/conduct of Magic Jack’s EULA (the infamous spying controversy)? I recently got it, and it works fine for its cheap price. But I was just wondering how the dotTech community would react to this.
     
    But careful though, Boing Boing got into a lawsuit for apparently “defaming” Magic Jack, which they won, but nevertheless not something you’d wanna be involved in.

  11. John

    Hi,
    I have been running Soluto for about the last two months with no problems at all. I’m running XP SP3 and before Soluto had a boot time of just on 8 mins with 55 apps at start up. This mornings start up took 2.16, so for me Soluto has saved me heaps at boot up.
    I agree that the Genome database sure didn’t know what a lot of my  programmes were, but being in beta I assume things will only get better.
    So all up for me things have only been positive with Soluto.
    Cheers
    John

  12. jivadas

    This was offered on Gizmo a while back.
    It is the easiest way to identify startup files, and clear the trash.
    It is an elegant design, maybe the best I have ever seen.
    After you have cleaned your startup (and seen how many precious seconds you have saved–I’m 72, and can tell you how precious they are!), SOLUTO is not much use; and becomes itself part of your startup.
    I’d say, try it once; and then disable it, but keep it on call whenever you think you have a stowaway in your Start file.
    xØx
    jd

  13. Jeffinprov

    Very thoughtful review, Ashraf.  I installed this when the NY Times ran a brief article about it, and I find it to be more rather than less useful, and will keep it around with the hope that a New and Improved version with Enzyme Action for Advanced Stain Removal will be making its way soon.

  14. gpc111

    Let me add a follow up to my previous comment. Saluto did not work for me. I installed it and restarted my computer. It analyzed my system but I had to restart a few times because it hung up. My computer would not  start. I had to just turn off the power and restart it and hope for the best. I just hope now my system is back to normal. Thank goodness I could uninstall and reboot to my normal boot.  I will pass on this. LOL as if I had a choice

  15. Samuel

    @Gioneo: It defines “booting” as your OS booting, you logging in, and all your startup programs finish starting up.

    I gave this a try about a month ago. The data it found was interesting (though like Ashraf there wasn’t much I could do) but my problem with it was that it made my computer freeze about 10 minutes after boot. So it’s gone.

  16. gpc111

    Thank you Ashraf for your review on this program. Like others I was waiting for your review. I used Rollback RX before. I wrote the publisher and he advised me not to use Soluto with Rollback RX. I have since uninstalled Rollback RX and I am anxious to try this see what it will do for me. My system is an XP SP2. It takes my computer about 8 minutes to boot. I know that sounds like a lot of time and it is. I start my computer and do other things until it is ready. Currently I am waiting for my Norton to finish imaging my drive before I try this. I might as well be safe right? I t seems to me that Saluto  wants to make your computer boot faster by eliminating start up programs that start with your computer, As you said in your review, Autorun, Winpatrol, Anver does have a start up control option. I think it might depend on how much hand holding you want. The above shows what starts on your computer and offers to eliminate it… but doesn’t show why it should be eliminated. I hope this program will show what starts and accurately shows what can be safely eliminated from my startup. I will find out. Thank you for your reviews, tips, and offers. Everyone that comes here greatly appreciates your efforts. Most people have subscribed to your site. If not they need to. It’s easy to do so don’t waste time. Register NOW…………..

  17. Darthyoda

    Another problem is if you use a program that only loads up once a while, like Windows 7 sticky notes, when you don’t need it anymore it won’t start next time, but if you modify the setting in Soluto, it will always run it, whether you need it or not.

  18. Mr.Dave

    Great review of this.  I too am very tired of programs that offer significant value but insist they be running all the time.  Lavasoft’s AdAware is a prime example.  I uninstalled it for this very reason, and will not be installing Soluto for this reason.  I also tend to uninstall programs that call home to check for updates every time they’re run, even multiple times per day, or that run a scheduled check for updates every day when I only use them once a month or less.  Programmers seem to be an arrogant lot (and yes, I’ve done my share of programming).  When will they learn that users might possibly have more than one program running, and some of them may be time-critical (music recording/mixing for example).

  19. thebluejay

    I tried Soluto and also found that it increased my boot time, maybe because (like most of Ashraf’s friends I guess) my computer was already sleek and well tuned.
    The big problem that I had, though, was that after trying to uninstall Soluto my computer was totally screwed and would not even boot at all! Fortunately, I was able to get going again in a few minutes by copying a saved image (Thx Acronis!).
    BTW, Ashraf, your work is phenomenal! Keep it up. :)

  20. Dr Nitin

    Dear Ashraf
    i must say I was waiting for your review on this one. I am not able install Soluto on my Dell Inspiron 1525 on Vista home Premium no matter what. What’s wrong ?
     
    Dr Nitin

  21. Yochanan

    Nice review! You caught all the same things I did that I might have mentioned had you not. It amused me for a few days, but then (as you did) I realized it defeats the purpose by making your boot time longer to do it’s job. Once the Genome database is larger it might be useful for less advanced users.

  22. Gioneo

    Well at first Soluto BSOD during install. On the second attempt it apologized and told me it could not be installed. Since I’m stubborn, I gave it a 3rd try and it went ok.
    After analysis and reboot, and another analysis, Soluto told me my boot was 1:02… And I smiled. I know my boot is much less than 1:02.
    So I already know Soluto is inaccurate… By how much, not sure. Also that’s absolutely true that it adds it’s own lag to the boot time (huh?) Yep, it’s in the review up there.
    Question: I use the logon screen, does it start then or after you log on? I mean when we say boot, most of the time it refers to the time the system takes to load after the post… Which time frame is Soluto analyzing? I’m trying to figure out where it got that 1:02 (not considering it’s own time).

  23. RobCr

    I would prefer this -
    Two web pages. One for XP and another for Win7.
    (No need for one for Vista, as Vista was the Beta for Win7, and MS will give all Vista owners a free copy of Win7, plus an apology.)

    In each page, we list the essential Programs and Processes that must be allowed to run at start up.
    We do not list other non MS Programs and Processes, but do advise that each user should analyze their other installed programs to work out if their ‘startups’ should be allowed. We could give a general example that anti-virus programs, and firewalls, probably have some Programs or Processes, that need to start up.

    And that is all that we need, apart from general advice as to where you can view ‘start ups’ – EG msconfig, Windows Button’s Startup folder, etc.
    I haven’t tried the other programs you mentioned, but it may do no harm to mention them ?
    We could also discuss the Prefetch folder. And could preface that with a question for each user -
    a) Do you like any program you start, to jump quickly into your face,
    OR
    b) Would you tolerate some delay.

    We could then mention that MS and a lot of program authors go for choice ‘a’
    Which they do by loading all sorts of crap, at boot time, just so programs appear to start quickly.

    Rob
    (PS Ashraf, you may notice that this is another topic that ‘hit a nerve’)