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Windows XP performance tweaking guide

by Lucian Apostol

1. Stop 'last access update'
Whenever you access a folder on a NTFS drive, Windows XP updates that folder and all subfolders with a time stamp with the date of last access. Sometimes, this can slower windows performance.
To change this, open REGEDIT ( Start -> Run -> 'regedit' ) and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem Create a new DWORD value ( right click -> new -> DDWORD Value ) called 'NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate' and set the value to '1'
2. Disable unnecesary naming convention
For each file created, windows xp use one additional name for MSDOS compatibility: 8 character name followed by a ".", then 3 characters for the extension. If you don't intend to use DOS only software, this is waste of memory.
To change this, open REGEDIT Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem Change the value of the NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation key to '1'
3. Prevent windows to move operating data on virtual memory
By default, windows xp do periodically checks to move its essential driver and kernel files to the virtual memory ( page file ). This obviously slower performances. This should be done only if the system is low on physical Memory.
Open REGEDIT. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management. Select the DisablePagingExecutive value to '1'
4. Disable Performance counters
Windows XP has a performance monitor utility, to track several areas of your PC, including CPU and hard drive. Whenever you do something on your PC, these performance counters tracks everything. These processes from the background makes main processes to run slower.
To change this, you need to download Extensible Performance Counter List utility
First download and install the utility, then run the Exctrlst.exe utility, found in 'c:\program files\resource kit\'
Select each line in the 'Extensible performance counters' window and clear the 'performance counters enabled' button below. You must do this separately for each counter.
5. Remove page file from system drive

The operating system can use virtual memory when there is more data that can be stored on physical memory. The Virtual memory is on hard drive, this means is slower than standard memory. What we can do to improve performance is to remove the page file from the drive where operating system is installed on, and put it on other drive.
To do this, right click on "my computer" and select "Properties", Select the 'advanced' tab. Under 'performance' choose the 'settings' button. Select the 'advanced' tab again and under 'virtual memory' select 'change.'
You will get a list with all drives, with page file allocated on each.
6. Create a permanent Page file.
Follow the instructions from the previous tip and select the same value for minimum and maximum size. This prevents operating system to resize page file.
7. Optimize your page file size
By default, windows xp select the page file to 150% of physical memory, but if you have more than 512 physical memory, it's hard to believe that your operating system will need that amount of virtual memory. Change your page file to the same value as your physical memory is ( RAM ), but, if you have less than 512, leave it at 150%. You can do this using the steps at previous tip.
8. Defrag page file with PageDefrag utility
We all know that defragmentint hard drive is a good idea, but windows xp defragmentation utility can't defragment files that are already in use, for example page file ( virtual memory ). For this you can use a freeware tool called Page Defrag This tool is simply to use, just select all files you want to defragment and press Start.
9. Set priority for important programs
If you are using more applications at the same time, but you focus on a single application, you can change the priority for that application to boost its performances. By default, all applications are set to normal priority level. To change this, press CTR+ALT+Del to open Task Manager and select the application you want to rise the priority. On the right-click menu select Go To Process. Press right click on the proccess and select Set Priority. You will have many proority levels. The higher you set priority above normal, the more CPU time the program will steal from other applications when you are multitasking.
10. Check your hard drives with scandisk
Defragmenting hard drive can improve performances, but it can't touch bad sectors or lost clusters.
Because of this, it is a good idea to run XP's built in error checking utility on your drives once in a while. This utility will scan your disks for errors and optionally attempt to correct them.
Open 'my computer.' Right click the hard disk you wish to check and select 'properties.'
Choose the 'tools' tab and under 'error checking' select the 'check now...' button.
Check both options. You will need to restart the computer to do the full disk check.
Your disk will be fully checked for errors upon reboot, but be aware that this can take quite a while.
11. Make Windows to unload DLL files after closing a program
"DLL" stand for Dynamic Link Library. DLLs are files that containt data and functions needed by windows. Every piece of windows will require some libraries, and will link to them. For faster access, windows cache the libraries into memory, but after the program that uses them is closed, the memory is not cleared. The following registry tweak will make windows to remove DLL's from memory if they are not used.
To do this run REGEDIT. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer.
Create a new key named 'AlwaysUnloadDLL' and set the default value to equal '1.'
12. Thaw your desktop
Probably you have experienced at least once "Desktop Freezing". You tell windows to do something and everything will move very slow. When this is happening, means that windows need a refresh. Press CTR+ALT+DEL to open task manager. Select "Processes" tab, and find "explorer.exe", select it and press end process. Without closing task manager, select "New Task" from "File" menu, and there type "explorer.exe". The desktop will load again, without closing any application.
13. Speed up mouse movement
Windows applies an acceleration to the mouse by default. This means when you move the mouse, the pointer will start slowly and accelerates with continual movement. In games you will probably need better speed.
To remove mouse acceleration: open up REGEDIT and navigate to 'hkey_current_user\control panel\mouse'
Change the value of 'smoothmouseXcurve' to the following:
00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00 00,a0,00,00,00,00,00,00 00,40,01,00,00,00,00,00 00,80,02,00,00,00,00,00 00,00,05,00,00,00,00,00
Then change the value of 'SmoothMouseYCurve' to the following:
00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00 66,a6,02,00,00,00,00,00 cd,4c,05,00,00,00,00,00 a0,99,0a,00,00,00,00,00 38,33,15,00,00,00,00,00
14. Disable the themes service
If you are not a fan of the appearance of Windows XP, there is an easy way to turn it off and go back to the more sober and traditional Windows style. Simply disable the 'themes' service to restore a classic windows desktop appearance.
To do this, right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage.'
In the computer management windows, expand 'services and applications' and select 'services.'
In the right hand window, highlight the 'themes' service. Right click it and select 'properties.'
In the 'startup type' dropdown box, select 'disabled.'
15. Remove the desktop picture
If you need to have a picture on the desktop, don't do this, but if you choose performance against appearance, you can remove desktop picture which slows windows start-up.
Right click on an open area of the desktop and select 'properties.'
Select the 'desktop' tab and in the 'background' window, highlight 'none.' Press 'ok.' v
Think we're just pulling your leg? Nope, every computer in the PCstats labs that gets tested goes through this same step before we run a single benchmark.
16. Change to the NTFS file system
If you are using Windows XP, is a good idea to change the filesystem for your partitions to NTFS. It will improve security and data security, but also it can improve speed of your system.
If you are using two operating systems, and one of them is Windows 9x/Me or other OS which can't read NTFS, don't change it, else, you don't have any reason to keep your partition to FAT32.
Right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage'. From the computer management window, expand storage and select 'disk management.'
Using the 'file system' column of the upper pane of this window, you can easily check what file system each of your logical drives is using. Make a note of this information.
Now open a command prompt window by going to 'start\run' and typing 'cmd'
To convert a disk to NTFS, type 'convert (drive letter): /fs:ntfs'
So for example, if you were going to convert your C: drive, you would type 'Convert c: /fs:ntfs' at the prompt.
17. Perform a manual Application and Boot file Defrag

Windows XP has a feature to defragment application and operating system boot time by moving important files to the edges of hard drive for faster disk access.
Depending on your system, this can give a slight performance boost to data access from the affected drive.
Open command prompt ('start/run' and type 'cmd').
Type 'defrag (drive letter): -b'
The process may take a few minutes to complete.
18. Disable the hibernation feature
Windows XP's hibernation option allows a computer to copy its current memory contents to the hard drive before shutdown, allowing the system to resume operations exactly where it left off when it was powered down. To do this, it reserves space on the hard drive equal to the amount of physical memory present. If you do not plan to use the hibernation feature, you should ensure that it is disabled, or you are wasting disk space.
To disable hibernation: Go to 'start/control panel/performance and maintenance/power options.'
Go to the 'hibernate' tab and uncheck the 'enable hibernation' check box.
19. Disable automatic sensing on network cards
This tweak may help your performance by reducing occasional 'slowdown' periods of heavy CPU access for no apparent reason. By default, Windows XP automatically assesses the speed of your network card(s) and sets them accordingly. Apparently this process occurs at regular intervals, which can cause your system to slow occasionally. To remedy this, you can manually set the 'media type' of your network card to the correct value.
Right click on 'my computer' and select the 'hardware' tab.
Open 'device manager.' Find and highlight your network card(s). Right click it and Hit 'properties.'
Go to the 'advanced' tab and highlight 'media type.' In the 'value' drop down box, select the correct speed for your network card. Press 'ok.'
20. Use the prefetch switch to load applications faster
Windows XP's media player has a little extra command included in its shortcut, the '/prefetch:1' switch. This helps the application load slightly faster. You can try out this possible performance boost on other programs by editing the shortcuts to the program in question.
To see an example, right click on windows media player shortcut and select Properties.
It should look like this: "C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player\wmplayer.exe" /prefetch:1
Right click the shortcut and hit 'properties.' In the 'target' box, put '/prefetch:1' at the end of the line.
Press 'ok.' Note that this may cause loading errors in some programs. If it does not work, simply remove the /prefetch:1 entry from the shortcut.
21. Set DMA mode for all drives.
When Windows XP is installed, hard disks and CD drives may occasionally be set to the PIO mode for transferring data, which is slower than the default DMA (Direct Memory Access) mode used by all modern drives. A quick check of your drive settings can find and correct this error, allowing your drives to perform at their maximum.
To check and correct your hard drive and CD drive transfer settings right click 'my computer' and select properties, then the 'hardware tab' then the 'device manager' button.
Expand 'IDE ATA\ATAPI controllers' highlight 'primary IDE channel' and hit the 'properties' button.
Go to the 'advanced settings' tab, and ensure that the transfer mode is set to 'DMA if available.'
Repeat the above steps for the secondary IDE channel.
22. Do a Windows repair install
If you have serious problems with XP performance, or you get errors, some system files can be damaged.
A repair installation re-writes all essential Windows XP system files and re-detects all hardware without affecting the registry, current desktop settings or user data stored on the hard drive. This is the only way short of a full installation that can recover from errors caused by installing a different motherboard in an XP system, for example.
To perform a repair installation: Boot the system from your XP CD.
Choose the 'press enter to set up Windows XP now' option.
Press F8 to skip through the EULA (though if you haven't read it before, you should now. See our legal article for details as to why.
Now press R to begin a repair installation. Your system will go through the entire XP install process, but will not attempt to replace any of your existing data. It will simply reinstall the vital system files, fixing any that are corrupted or missing.
23. Stop hard disks spinning down
By default, windows xp spins down the hard drive after 20 minutes of inactivity to save power. This case cause serious delays if you want to use computer after this amount of time.
To disable hard disks spinning go to 'start/control panel/performance and maintenance/power options.'
Set the 'turn off hard disks' drop down box to 'never.' Click 'ok.'
About the author:
+ Games + Graphics tools + Internet related + Multimedia + Security / Privacy + System utilities

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