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June 29, 2009

Speed Up Windows Programs By Replacing Acrobat Reader


A few weeks ago I talked about Adobe Acrobat replacement along with 7 other must have Windows utilities.

Last week I showed you how to use CCleaner to improve Windows performance. Today I’m going to show you how to speed up your Windows by replacing Acrobat Reader.

What started out as a tiny little utility to allow anyone to view a file the same way it looked on the creator’s computer has turned into a massive piece of bloatware complete with unasked for add-ons, always-on services taking up system resources, and a start time that would make turtles laugh out loud.

Of course, we’re talking about Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Adobe Acrobat — Bigger But Not Better

The current version of Adobe Acrobat Reader weighs in a 32 MB (though you can get a lighter weight version if you pay close attention when selecting your download) and takes up over 130 MB when installed. That seems like an awful lot for a program that most people just need to display PDF files on their computer screen. But, it gets even worse.

Acrobat Reader is now so huge and bloated that loading the reader takes an unacceptable amount of time. So, did Adobe go back to the drawing board and streamline their PDF reader? Of course not!

Instead, Adobe Reader loads a startup process that chews up to 50 MB of RAM while doing NOTHING! All it does is pre-load some of Acrobat so that when you actually need the functions that Adobe Reader provides, it won’t take so long to load the rest of the program!

To put it another way, Adobe loads around 2/3 of the Acrobat Reader program at startup when it seems like Windows is still loading. In other words, Adobe sneaks in part of the program startup during boot up so that you will blame Microsoft Windows for the delay that it takes to launch Reader. Then, it sits there and wastes up to 50 MB of memory just so that it can pretend to load faster.

The worst part is that is still takes forever to load, especially if you click on a link that happens to be for a large PDF file. In that case, prepare to sit and wait while wondering what is wrong with your computer for several minutes before your PDF file finally loads.

Acrobat Reader Alternatives

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to Adobe Reader that are much smaller and faster, and don’t come with a large memory hogging startup process to go with them.

To be completely clear, there are some items that may not work 100% correctly with these readers. However, most of these features are not used and never encountered by the majority of users. In many cases even if there is an error, its impact is not noticeable to the end-user.

One of the most popular alternatives to Adobe Reader is Foxit Reader.

Compared with Adobe’s 32 MB download, Foxit Reader checks in at under 4 MB, and uses no memory when it is not running. With a single page PDF file loaded, it takes less than 11 MB of RAM, which is less than Adobe’s pre-start process uses constantly in the background.

Foxit Reader

Once installed, Foxit Reader has an intuitive interface and allows you do bookmark, highlight, and quickly read PDF files, which is more than enough for most users who don’t make PDF files themselves.

Replacing Acrobat Reader

The most important thing to know about using an alternative PDF reader is that just installing it isn’t enough. You have to uninstall Adobe Reader or it will keep running its startup process every time you start your computer, even if you never use it.

Also, you need to change which program to use in your Internet browser to view PDF files to your new alternative reader, or it will just keep trying to launch Adobe Reader.

Foxit Reader does come with a couple of annoyances that need to be watched for during setup to avoid them. Make sure you uncheck the option to install the Foxit Toolbar and then on the next screen make sure to uncheck the eBay links. If you catch both of those, you’ll get a pretty smooth install.

The second annoyance is the Update Utility. There isn’t any real problem other than it isn’t very clear what it is asking, or what you are supposed to do. The red items, and only the red items have updates. To get the update you highlight it and then click Add which selects the update. Since you probably don’t need anything other than the basic reader, all you need to do is watch for the Reader Update item to be red. Otherwise, just skip it.

Foxit Reader Updates

There are other Acrobat Reader alternatives as well and almost all of them are free. Check them out and install your favorite. You’ll get better PDF reader performance, and a faster Windows startup time as well.

About the Author

(MCSE, CNA) is a professional freelance writer and small business owner with the freelance writing business ArcticLlama, LLC. Brian’s experience includes network and systems administration, financial planning and advising, and he even has a degree in Biochemistry. Brian specializes in several areas of highly technical writing for ArcticLlama including technology, science and medical. He is also a freelance financial writer specialist. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Brian contributes articles on Windows Server 2008 and other related topics.

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