Windows XP – “Loading your personal settings” slow

I have two non-administrative accounts and one administrative account. All accounts log in very slow after I reinstalled some sound card drivers.

During the course of troubleshooting, I did find out that the problem is limited to the first account I log into. If I log out of it and into another account, the second one loads lightning-quick.

The culprit turned out to be ZoneAlarm. In the spirit of the scientific method, below are the steps I attempted.

  • Looked through Event Viewer; no relevant errors.
  • Renamed non-administrative user’s profile folder (C:Documents and Settingsalex > C:Documents and Settingsalexbackup) and had Windows create a new one automatically when I logged in as the user. Even on a fresh profile, login is still slow. Deleted the new profile and renamed “alexbackup” back to “alex.”
  • Uninstalled Adobe Reader 9. I don’t like it anyway. Installed FoxIt to replace.
  • From MSCONFIG, selected Normal startup and opened the floodgates for every stupid applet and tray daemon to load. Did not correct, so I went back to the Startup tab and disabled all the crap I don’t want loading at boot.
  • Created a new account with User permissions. Also created a second new account with Administrator permissions. Both accounts were slow. Deleted both.
  • Enabled Verbose messages through Group Policy (Start > Run > gpedit.msc > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Verbose vs normal status messages) and rebooted to see if that would tell me anything new.
  • Verbose messages reveal login is hanging on “Executing wgalogon.dll.” Much as I am inclined to blame WGA for the slowdown, if this is anything like the mup.sys disaster (where everybody blames mup.sys for being problematic when the problem is really the unstated process that comes after it) then WGA is not the problem. WGA’s been on here since day 1 so I don’t see why that would be spontaneously causing the problem. This post suggests ZoneAlarm may be the problem.
  • Uninstalled ZoneAlarm; cause of problem confirmed. After uninstall and reboot, computer logged in as quickly as it should. Reinstalled newer version.
  • Reinstall of newer ZoneAlarm version ( makes bootup slow again, though it is noticeably better than it was with the previous build I had installed. Users will have to make do until I find a better solution.

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