Instant-On: Take the Express Lane to the Internet

By Joseph Moran | Posted September 18, 2009

You just sat down in a coffee shop with a few minutes to spare before your next appointment, which makes it a good opportunity to jump online and check e-mail or take care of other business. So you turn on your laptop and wait for Windows to start up ...

... and wait, and wait, and wait.

From a cold start, it can easily be five minutes or more before Windows loads, you've logged in and have network connectivity, and the system has settled down enough for you to start using it. That's a long time to wait in any scenario, but when you have a limited window of opportunity to get online, the delay can seem excruciating.

Of course, you can knock down Windows start up time considerably by using either hibernate or standby mode, but the former can still take a minute or more to produce a connected, usable system, and the latter, while quicker, will drain your battery (albeit slowly) even when your notebook's not in use.

An alternate way to minimize the time it takes to get your system online is to use a lightweight operating system that emphasizes connectivity and is designed for quick start up (and shut down). Commonly based on some version of Linux and referred to as "instant-on" operating systems, they can be used alongside Windows rather than in lieu of it, so you don't have to give up familiarity or application compatibility. (The "instant-on" label is actually a bit of a misnomer since they don't usually fire up quite instantly, but the time they take is typically measured in seconds rather than minutes.

If you'd like to put an instant-on OS on an existing notebook, you have a couple of options.

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