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Part 2  See how-to-tweak-xp-computer-part1 if you missed the first part of our two part series on How to Tweak XP!

8.Defragment your page file:
Download PageDefrag at Microsoft TechNet -> Open the .zip and run PageDefrag -> Click ‘Accept’ -> Select ‘Defragment at next boot’ -> Click ‘OK’

Just like the Microsoft TechNet website said one of the problems of Windows XP/2000/NT is that files that are in use cannot be defragged, and that includes the pagefile. This program will defrag your pagefile at the next boot to ensure it’s working to it’s maximum efficiency.

Set Your Virtual Memory To 1.5-3.0 Times Your Computer’s Memory:

  1. Start Menu -> Classic Control Panel -> System -> Advanced Tab -> Performance Settings -> Advanced Tab -> Change -> Select Custom Size -> Set the Initial size to 1.5 x amount of memory installed in your computer (I have 1024mb, 1GB of RAM installed so I’d set it to 1.5 x 1024 = 1536 MB) -> Set the Maximum Size to 3 x amount of memory installed in your computer (I have 1024mb, 1GB of RAM installed so I’d set it to 3.0 x 1024 = 3072 MB). -> Click ‘Set’ -> Click ‘OKThis makes sure the paging file stays [level-premier-free]put, by doing this it will perform better, and it is optimized for the amount of memory you have so Windows XP doesn’t have to keep adjusting the paging file automatically. It also helps prevent the paging file from becoming fragmented.
  1. Disable Windows Error Reporting:
    Start Menu -> Classic Control Panel -> System -> Advanced Tab -> Error Reporting -> Select ‘Disable error reporting’ -> Check ‘But notify me when critical errors occur’ -> Click ‘OK’

By disabling error reporting you will no longer get those annoying messages that your program has encountered an error, and asks to send information to Microsoft, this saves memory by getting rid of the feature. I think it’s a good trade-off to get rid of those critical error messages. You’ll still be notified when a bad error occurs.

  1. Turn off Windows Visual Effects:
    Start Menu -> Classic Control Panel -> System -> Advanced Tab -> Performance Settings -> Click ‘Custom’Uncheck:
    Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
    Fade of slide menus into view
    Fade or slide ToolTips into view
    Fade out menu items after click
    Show window contents while dragging
    Slide open combo boxes
    Slide taskbar buttons
    Use a background image for each folder type
    Use common tasks in folder

This gets rid of certain visual effects. You won’t hardly notice any of the visual effects that have disappeared, but this saves lots of memory and processing power by disabling these visual effects. The only one that you’ll most likely notice missing is the Common Tasks in folder, if you want to you can go back and enable that one, but you don’t need it for anything.

  1. Delete unused fonts in the fonts folder:
    Start Menu -> Classic Control Panel -> Fonts Folder

Delete any unnecessary or fonts that you will never ever use. As a precaution first move the unused fonts to a different folder so you make sure there are no side-effects, because you could move a system font that’s needed for Windows by accident. Feel free to delete Wingdings and Symbol and all those Eastern/Western fonts that you’re never going to use. Windows checks this folder each time it loads, and then it loads the fonts into Windows memory so they’re easily accessible with the click of a button, by deleting these fonts you save system memory and increase start up time.

  1. Disable unused Windows sounds:
    Start Menu -> Classic Control Panel -> Sound and Audio Devices -> Sounds Tab

Set all the unused Windows/Application sounds to ‘None’. I just go through each sound and listen to it, and if I don’t need it’s disabled, some sounds you hear all the time, those are the ones I don’t disable, but the ones that are for Net meetings or Windows startup I disable, the more you disable the greater the performance boost.  Here’s a list of the sounds I didn’t disable:

  • Critical Stop
  • Default Beep
  • Exclamation
  1. Uninstall unused Windows Components/Programs
    Start Menu -> Add/Remove Programs -> Add/Remove Windows Components

Uncheck the Windows Components that you don’t use. I uncheck Fax Services, Indexing Service, Internet Information Services, Management and Monitoring Tools, Message Queuing, Other Network File and Printer Services, Windows Messenger, Outlook Express, and MSN Explorer. They’re probably handy tools and services for businesses, but I will never need Message Queuing and Fax services. Also while you’re in the Add/Remove Programs menu look for any programs that you don’t use and uninstall them as well, it’ll save disk space and increase performance.

  1. Set all of your ATAPI drives to DMA:
    Start Menu -> Right Click ‘My Computer’ -> Click ‘Manage’ -> Click ‘Device Manager’ -> Click ‘IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers’ -> Right Click on each individual IDE Channel -> Click ‘Properties’ -> Advanced Settings Tab -> Select ‘DMA if available’ for ‘Transfer Mode’

This setting changes your IDE device’s transfer mode to DMA. Switching all of your IDE devices over to DMA provides a significant performance boost compared to PIO only transfer mode, DMA is much faster.

  1. Disable unused devices in Device Manager:
    Start Menu -> Right Click ‘My Computer -> Click ‘Manage’ -> Click ‘Device Manager’ -> Right Click unused devices -> Click ‘Disable’

Be careful when disabling unused devices that you don’t disable something that may be important to the necessary functions of your computer. Only disable something if you have an onboard sound card, or an onboard ethernet adapter that you’re not using because you have PCI slots filled with a sound card or network adapter.

  1. Use MSConfig to disable any unnecessary startup items:
    Start Menu -> Run -> Type ‘MsConfig’ -> Startup Tab -> Uncheck unnecessary startup items

Extra startup items are one of the main things that slows down a computer. The startup items are the programs that are loaded into memory when a computer starts up, like AIM, Antivirus programs, all of the little programs sitting in your task bar, and some programs you can’t see. Go through the list and look for any familiar programs and disable those first, then go back and look at the unfamiliar programs and try to find out what application they belong to, google the process name like ctfmon.exe and it should come up with a detailed use for the program in the listings and if it’s harmful or just a system program.

  1. Download TCP/IP Optimizer to enhance the internet connection:
    Download TCP/IP Optimizer at SpeedGuide.net -> Open TCPOptimizer -> Click ‘Optimal Settings’ -> Click ‘Apply changes’ -> Check ‘Backup’ -> Click ‘OK’

TCP/IP Optimizer is a program that changes your Windows XP Network settings to optimize your network and internet performance, it change the amount of bytes it transfers among other things for your network by modifying some registry keys. It gives you a nice boost with your internet connection that Windows XP otherwise limits, and it makes backups that you can restore just in case something goes awry.

  1. Download and Install Cacheman to maximize performance of the caches:
    Download ‘Cacheman’, not CachemanXP -> Install Cacheman -> Run Cacheman -> Click ‘Show wizard’ Menu -> Click ‘All’ -> Go through the wizard and leave everything at the default settings, Cacheman will optimize everything -> Go to ‘Options’ -> Uncheck ‘Load Cacheman on Windows startup’

Cache man goes through your cache and optimizes them for maximum performance. It also changes a few other settings that help with memory throughput, performance, and lower the time it takes for Windows to shutdown an application, speeds up the start menu and speeds up Windows XP shutdown.

  1. Disable unused Windows XP services:
    Start Menu -> Run -> Type ‘Services.msc’

It’s important to always save the best for last. This last tweak is going to provide the most performance out of all other tweaks, and it takes the longest to implement. After you’ve opened up the Services windows you’re going to go down the list and look for services that you don’t need, then right click on them, go to ‘Properties’, pull down the ‘Startup type:’ menu and click ‘Disabled, then click ‘OK’. It’s not hard but you have to go through the list of services and figure out what’s needed and what’s not. Actually, someone else has already done that. Head over to Black Viper’s Windows XP Service Configurations. He has a table built that tells you what safe to disable and what you should leave alone, but if you don’t want to take time deciphering his table I’ll just tell you which ones you can go ahead and disable with no problems.Disable These Services:

Application Management
Computer Browser
Error Reporting Service
HID Input Service (Note: This service will disable the multimedia functions on many multimedia keyboards, so if you have a multimedia keyboard it is recommended that you do not disable this service)
Indexing Service
Net Logon
NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing
Network Location Awareness (NLA)
Network Provisioning Service
Portable Media Serial Number Service
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
Remote Registry
Secondary Logon (If you only have one user on your computer)
TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service
Uninterruptable Power Supply
Windows Time
WMI Performance Adapter

There you have it, the Ultimate Windows XP Optimization Tweak Guide has come to an end. These tweaks have been hand-tested, hand-proven, and took the contributions of many people over the years to discover all of these optimizations to Windows XP. I’d like to thank you all for making this OS faster than ever. If any reader has a major tweak that I may have missed somewhere that offers signicant performance boosts please be sure to drop me a comment or send me an email about it, and I’d be glad to add it to the guide if it is worth it.

Windows Prefetcher

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ Session Manager \ Memory Management \ PrefetchParameters]

Under this key there is a setting called EnablePrefetcher, the default setting of which is 3. Increasing this number to 5 gives the prefetcher system more system resources to prefetch application data for faster load times. Depending on the number of boot processes you run on your computer, you may get benefits from settings up to 9. However, I do not have any substantive research data on settings above 5 so I cannot verify the benefits of a higher setting. This setting also may effect the loading times of your most frequently launched applications. This setting will not take effect until after you reboot your system.

Master File Table Zone Reservation

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ FileSystem]

Under this key there is a setting called NtfsMftZoneReservation, the default setting of which is 1. The range of this value is from 1 to 4. The default setting reserves one-eighth of the volume for the MFT. A setting of 2 reserves one-quarter of the volume for the MFT. A setting of 3 for NtfsMftZoneReservation reserves three-eighths of the volume for the MFT and setting it to 4 reserves half of the volume for the MFT. Most users will never exceed one-quarter of the volume. I recommend a setting of 2 for most users. This allows for a “moderate number of files” commensurate with the number of small files included in most computer games and applications. Reboot after applying this tweak.

Optimize Boot Files

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Dfrg \ BootOptimizeFunction]

Under this key is a text value named Enable. A value of Y for this setting enables the boot files defragmenter. This setting defragments the boot files and may move the boot files to the beginning (fastest) part of the partition, but that last statement is unverified. Reboot after applying this tweak.

Optimizing Startup Programs [msconfig]

MSConfig, similar to the application included in Win9x of the same name, allows the user to fine tune the applications that are launched at startup without forcing the user to delve deep into the registry. To disable some of the applications launched, load msconfig.exe from the run command line, and go to the Startup tab. From there, un-ticking the checkbox next to a startup item will stop it from launching. There are a few application that you will never want to disable (ctfmon comes to mind), but for the most part the best settings vary greatly from system to system.

As a good rule of thumb, though, it is unlikely that you will want to disable anything in the Windows directory (unless it’s a third-party program that was incorrectly installed into the Windows directory), nor will you want to disable anything directly relating to your system hardware. The only exception to this is when you are dealing with software, which does not give you any added benefits (some OEM dealers load your system up with software you do not need). The nice part of msconfig is that it does not delete any of the settings, it simply disables them, and so you can go back and restart a startup application if you find that you need it. This optimization won’t take effect until after a reboot.

Bootvis Application

The program was designed by Microsoft to enable Windows XP to cold boot in 30 seconds, return from hibernation in 20 seconds, and return from standby in 10 seconds. Bootvis has two extremely useful features. First, it can be used to optimize the boot process on your computer automatically. Second, it can be used to analyze the boot process for specific subsystems that are having difficulty loading. The first process specifically targets the prefetching subsystem, as well as the layout of boot files on the disk. When both of these systems are optimized, it can result in a significant reduction in the time it takes for the computer to boot.

Before attempting to use Bootvis to analyze or optimize the boot performance of your system, make sure that the task scheduler service has been enabled – the program requires the service to run properly. Also, close all open programs as well – using the software requires a reboot.

To use the software to optimize your system startup, first start with a full analysis of a fresh boot. Start Bootvis, go to the Tools menu, and select next boot. Set the Trace Repetition Settings to 2 repetitions, Start at 1, and Reboot automatically. Then set the trace into motion. The system will fully reboot twice, and then reopen bootvis and open the second trace file (should have _2 in the name). Analyze the graphs and make any changes that you think are necessary (this is a great tool for determining which startup programs you want to kill using msconfig). Once you have made your optimizations go to the Trace menu, and select the Optimize System item. This will cause the system to reboot and will then make some changes to the file structure on the hard drive (this includes a defragmentation of boot files and a shifting of their location to the fastest portion of the hard disk, as well as some other optimizations). After this is done, once again run a Trace analysis as above, except change the starting number to 3. Once the system has rebooted both times, compare the charts from the second trace to the charts for the fourth trace to show you the time improvement of the system’s boot up.

The standard defragmenter included with Windows XP will not undo the boot optimizations performed by this application.

Windows uses part of your hard drive space as “virtual memory”. It loads what it needs to load into the much faster RAM (random access memory) memory, but creates a swap or page file on the hard drive that it uses to swap data in and out of RAM. The page file is typically on the root of your C: drive and is called pagefile.sys, but it is a hidden system file so you won’t see it unless you have changed your file viewing settings to show hidden and system files.

Virtual memory allows Windows to open more windows and run more programs simultaneously while only keeping the one being actively used in RAM. The “problem” lies in the fact that information remains in the page file. As you use different programs and perform different functions on your computer the page file may end up containing all sorts of potentially sensitive or confidential information.

To reduce the risk presented by storing information in the page file you can configure Windows XP to erase the page file each time you shutdown Windows. Here are the steps to configure this setting:

  • Click Start
  • Click Control Panel
  • Click Administrative Tools
  • Click Local Security Policy
  • Click the “+” next to Local Policies
  • Click Security Options
  • Doubleclick “Shutdown: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile”
  • Select the “Enabled” radio button
  • Click OK


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