Friday, August 04, 2006

Tunning Windows for better performance...

Tips to tune up Windows

Have you ever compared your system’s performance to that of your friend’s and worried that what makes your friend’s old Pentium 233 MMX system gives better performance than your latest Pentium III 500 MHz system? The problem may lie in bad tuning of your system’s hardware and software settings. This happens especially when you purchase your assembled system from a local assembler. Because, some system setting and fine tuning are normally never done by local assemblers since they are ignorant about such issues and they don’t have expertise in tuning up system settings and in some cases, even if they have some expertise, then they do not bother to do so. But don’t loose your heart. You can yourself fine tune your system’s setting with a few precaution and get optimum performance even from an old, obsolete system. Here are few simple tips to fine-tune your system that may work wonders in Windows95 and above versions.

Start from BIOS setting

A great performance boost can be obtained from proper BIOS setting, especially during system boot up. To change BIOS setting, press and hold ‘Delete’ key when you switch on your PC. After a while, BIOS setup utility will start. It may prompt you for a password if a password has been set earlier. Enter password if necessary, and navigate to Dialog box that appear there after. Note that the dialog box may differ as per your version of BIOS chip, whether it is AWARD or AMI, but the settings may remain more or less same. For example, if you never use floppy except in emergency situation as your boot media, then in case of AWARD BIOS, go to BIOS Features Setup, and choose boot sequence as C, A, SCSI and disable boot up Floppy Seek. Now your system will not waste precious time in searching floppy disk each time during its boot up process. Further, make sure that Quick Power On Self Test is enabled and Boot Up System Speed is set to High. Now your system is BIOSICALLY tuned up to perform optimally. However, it is recommended that you write down your default setting before making any change, since fiddling with BIOS may some time make your system go haywire and may not boot at all. So, make a single change at a time and test the result. If you feel satisfied, then make another change and so on. You can always come to default setting later if anything goes wrong, so don’t panic even if your system become un bootable after a certain BIOS setting change, and simply remove the battery and reinsert after a few second or press the switch or set the jumper on Mother Board to restore default BIOS settings.

Configuring system through utilities

Among host of Utilities capable to provide you various system settings, there is a nice, built in utility in Windows called msconfig , through which you can fine tune your windows setting for better performance. Note that some of default settings are made to fail safe operation meant for normal performance. Here, you need to change these settings for good, better or customized performance as per your need. To customize system settings through msconfig, click start button, select RUN and type msconfig in dialog box that appears and click OK button. System Configuration Utility will open up in which you can change numerous settings. Click general tab and create a backup before making any changes by clicking ‘Create Backup’ button so that you can always comeback to your previous setting if anything goes wrong and not satisfied with results of changes. When you finished backing up, you can disable processing of Autoexec.bat and config.sys files during system startup if you think that you need not want dos drivers to load. You can also edit these files as well as System.ini and Win.ini files through this utility. You can put @REM statement in selected lines of autoexec.bat file if you are sure that you normally do not need those DOS drivers during Windows session. Now click ‘Startup’ tab and remove checkmarks from unnecessary yet memory-hogging programs. Some programs like WinampAgent, Microsoft find fast etc. do practically nothing while running in background, and is recommended to be removed from startup. Some anti virus program also run constantly in background, but if your PC is not connected to network or Internet or if you are not working on any downloaded, suspected third party file, then there is no point that your AV program runs constantly in background. You can safely disable these by removing checkmarks against these programs. And when you need them, you can always run from their respective program icon groups in desktop or program folder. Confirm that, in ideal situation, when you do not run any application, when you press ctrl+del+alt keys simultaneously the close program dialog box that appears, display only ‘Explorer’ and ‘Systray’.



Tuning with Tweak UI

Another nice, useful system tweaking utility is Tweak UI. You can find it on your Windows installer CD or alternatively, you can find latest version of this free program in magazine CDs such as i.t. CD. To install Tweak UI, you have to unzip distribution program in to your local hard drive and right click ‘tweakui.inf’ file and choose install. After installation, go to control panel, and double click Tweak UI icon. You are given various options to change and modify right from Mouse sensitivity to Explorer and Network settings, but since we are dealing here exclusively with system performance, go to boot tab and clear check mark from ‘Display splash screen while booting’ option. Next time when you restart your system, your graphic card and eventually your system will take less time to boot since they skip loading windows startup picture file. You can check X-Mouse button which automatically send your mouse pointer to activated window and activated button, but at times you may find it inconvenient and need some time to get used to this auto feature.

Manage your memory

A system’s sure shot performance booster is its memory. If you fine-tune your system’s memory settings, your system will perform optimally. Present day program are more and more feature rich, complex and big and hence need more memory than ever. It is a saying now that you upgrade memory before your system’s upgrade. Today’s minimum Memory requirement is 64 MB of SDRAM, even for simple task like word processing. If you use graphics and multimedia, then more RAM is essential, as well as good graphic card having equally more quantity of VRAM. Though, upgrading to RAM only will not give you proper results unless you set your system to use Swap file judiciously. Set swap file to approximately double the size of your Physical RAM even if you have big Hard Disk and ample free space. You can increase the swap size if you use graphics manipulation programs that require even more memory. When Windows run, it places its currently used data as swap files to the place if empty, where its read write head is resting. This way, the program appears running faster initially, but in long run, due to scattering of chunks of data all around the disk, your system goes slow and need frequent de-fragmentation of Hard Disk. Linux uses fixed swap file system and the word de-fragmentation is unheard here. To avoid frequent de-fragmentation, it is advisable to set fixed swap file, that too in first sector of second partition or second hard disk if available. If swap is set in same hard disk in same partition, then it is recommended to set it immediately after fresh installation of Windows and before installation of any other program. To set swap file, right click My Computer icon in desktop, select Property, go to performance tab, click it, and then click General tab and click Virtual Memory button. Now in Virtual Memory dialog box, select ‘Let me specify my own virtual memory settings’. Select the appropriate hard disk and set the minimum and maximum size equal. For example, for a system with 64 MB RAM, you can set both values to 120 MB. Click OK and ignore the warning messages that appear and again click OK on main dialog box to restart your system to take effect the changes.

Run your PC as Server

When you set your PC to run as Network Server, it appears to run a bit faster, simply because the cache file size that windows hold in its memory increases. To set your PC as Network Server, right click My Computer icon in desktop and select property. Click Performance tab and click File System button. Click Hard Disk tab and in settings window, select Network Server in dropdown list of ‘Typical role of this computer’ field. Click OK. Now click Floppy Disk tab and clear check mark against ‘Search for new Floppy Disk each time your computer starts’. Now your system will run faster and boot faster.

Now despite all these settings and tweaking, if you are still not satisfied with your system’s speed and performance, then it is high time to speed to Computer Market for either upgrading your system or buying a new, latest one.

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