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[Question] - XP Tweaks - Myths and Realities


amenx
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There are few good performance tweaks for XP. Most tweaks are for the gui/visual and/or application-/user-prefs.

You can hardly notice any differance with many non-visual/gui tweaks. But using lots of those small tweaks can however add up and speed things up a bit.

Tweaking the services can give a very nice increase in overall Windows-performance. It may however be a bit tricky and require quite some work to find out exactly which services you can disable, depending on your system and the way you use it.

I've found out that you can set the prefetcher to 7 and get approximately the same performance (sometimes better and sometimes worse) as when it's set to 3 (tested with bootvis). Many sites recommend setting it to 5, but that is useless since it just disables the prefetch (some say it's faster that way).

I've probably come across most known tweaks in my work (every now and then for more than three years) to make my own special tweak-file (and nearly perfect ua-cd).

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@nmX.Memnoch, as far as I know, gaming is the most intensive when it comes to the page file. Most people prefer to have nothing else running but the game during gameplay to get the most performance (highest framerate) out of the game. Having said that, I have 2 drives, but they are not in a RAID array, and I keep all my game images on my second drive but they are installed on my first drive, so the I/O operations during gameplay obviously take place on the first drive. With my page file on the second drive and defragmented at boot-up with PerfectDisk, I think I can confidentally say that this is the easiest approach for my PC regarding performance. I know this is just in my case, but I think I've made the best choices for my PC.

@OuTmAn, yes, Zxian mentioned multiple page files to me before as well. I never tested that "theory" before, though.

@DL., regarding performance tweaks for XP, I'm not too certain of them in general to feel confident enough enabling them on every XP system I come across. I tried the "DisablePagingExecutive" on a machine once and got a BSOD. For this reason, I believe firmly that the best to get better performance is simply to get better hardware. It seems PCs nowadays, at least in my area, lack the RAM but not so much the CPU power. People like to put XP on their machines with 128 MBs of RAM, and then install something like Norton, which does a crappy job, and wonder why everything is slow. Most people don't think to defrag, clean/compact the registry, set the pagefile's initial/max values the same, Services, start-up, temp/cache, Prefetch. I'm a serious performance freak when it comes to computers so I know all about that stuff and what programs are best for the job.

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@nmX.Memnoch, as far as I know, gaming is the most intensive when it comes to the page file. Most people prefer to have nothing else running but the game during gameplay to get the most performance (highest framerate) out of the game. Having said that, I have 2 drives, but they are not in a RAID array, and I keep all my game images on my second drive but they are installed on my first drive, so the I/O operations during gameplay obviously take place on the first drive. With my page file on the second drive and defragmented at boot-up with PerfectDisk, I think I can confidentally say that this is the easiest approach for my PC regarding performance. I know this is just in my case, but I think I've made the best choices for my PC.
The only time you should have any drive I/O's while playing a game is when loading levels. If you're seeing an excessive amount outside of that then you're paging and need more RAM. Paging while playing a game will be a big performance hit regardless of where the page file sits...

Doing other tasks that are disk intensive (again, video editing or reencoding a DVD come to mind) are best done on a disk with no other I/O's. If you move your page file to the second drive then which of the two evils do you choose when doing tasks such as these? The second drive with the page file (which does get used to some extent even if you aren't "paging") or the primary drive with Windows and all of your applications? If you don't have your page file on the secondary drive the choise is quite obvious. Drives are fast enough these days that the normal paging Windows XP does won't even be noticeable. If you run out of RAM and start using the pagefile for that purpose it's going to affect performance no matter where you have it. For this reason I have found it best to just leave it where Windows puts it during install, then set the maximum size the same as the default minimum size to prevent the pagefile from fragmenting should I start paging for some reason with 2GB RAM.

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@Jeremy: I agree with you that hardware is the most important part, keeping the comp clean from spyware/malware/similar is also very important.

Most so called performance tweaks for XP are either fake/bogus, don't do much or even decrease performance and/or stability.

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Re Paging file, from the horses mouth:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314482/

To enhance performance, it is good practice to put the paging file on a different partition and on a different physical hard disk drive. That way, Windows can handle multiple I/O requests more quickly. When the paging file is on the boot partition, Windows must perform disk reading and writing requests on both the system folder and the paging file. When the paging file is moved to a different partition, there is less competition between reading and writing requests...

... The optimal solution is to create one paging file that is stored on the boot partition, and then create one paging file on another partition that is less frequently accessed on a different physical hard disk if a different physical hard disk is available. Additionally, it is optimal to create the second paging file so that it exists on its own partition, with no data or operating-system-specific files. By design, Windows uses the paging file on the less frequently accessed partition over the paging file on the more heavily accessed boot partition. An internal algorithm is used to determine which paging file to use for virtual memory management.

When you put a paging file on its own partition, the paging file does not become fragmented, and this counts as another definite advantage. If a paging file resides on a partition that contains other data, it may experience fragmentation as it expands to satisfy the extra virtual memory that is required. An unfragmented paging file leads to faster virtual memory access and to a greater chance of a dump-file capture that is free of significant errors...

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Amenx,

Just like with windows 98, there are many tweaks that work very well for Windows XP.

I have my own list which I scarfed up from many, many articles on the internet.

I had a customer last week that was experiencing a very slow shutdown, with some piece of HP (crappy) software that didn't want to shut down at all.

I encorporated my Quick Shutdown tweaks and now his computer shuts down in less than 8 seconds.

Getting the Kernal up off of the HD and into ram is another tweak that will greatly improve system performance.

There was a similar tweak for Windows 98 that really worked great.

Here's my favorite tweaks for improving system performance.

*******************************************************************************

Decrease Shutdown Time

Cut the amount of time it takes your computer to shut down to only a few seconds.

Click Start, click Run, and type regedit.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ System \ CurrentControlSet \ Control.

Click the Control folder.

Right click "WaitToKillServiceTimeout" and click Modify.

Set the value to 1000 (One Second)

***************************************************

Automatically Ending Non-Responsive Tasks

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Desktop \

AutoEndTasks = Set the value to 1

HungAppTimeout = Set the value to 1000

WaitToKillAppTimeout = Set the value to 1000 (One Second)

**********************************************************

Memory Performance Tweak

These Settings will fine tune your systems memory management -at least 256MB of ram recommended, 512 preferred for first tweak.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \

Session Manager \ Memory Management

1.DisablePagingExecutive -double click it and in the decimal put a 1 - this allows XP to keep data in memory now instead of paging sections of ram to harddrive.

2.LargeSystemCache- double click it and change the decimal to 1 -this allows XP Kernal to Run in memory improves system performance a lot. This tweak can actually slow down a system with less than 256 megs of ram.

***************************************************************

Give'em a try,

Andromeda43

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Re Paging file, from the horses mouth:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314482/

To enhance performance, it is good practice to put the paging file on a different partition and on a different physical hard disk drive. That way, Windows can handle multiple I/O requests more quickly. When the paging file is on the boot partition, Windows must perform disk reading and writing requests on both the system folder and the paging file. When the paging file is moved to a different partition, there is less competition between reading and writing requests...

... The optimal solution is to create one paging file that is stored on the boot partition, and then create one paging file on another partition that is less frequently accessed on a different physical hard disk if a different physical hard disk is available. Additionally, it is optimal to create the second paging file so that it exists on its own partition, with no data or operating-system-specific files. By design, Windows uses the paging file on the less frequently accessed partition over the paging file on the more heavily accessed boot partition. An internal algorithm is used to determine which paging file to use for virtual memory management.

When you put a paging file on its own partition, the paging file does not become fragmented, and this counts as another definite advantage. If a paging file resides on a partition that contains other data, it may experience fragmentation as it expands to satisfy the extra virtual memory that is required. An unfragmented paging file leads to faster virtual memory access and to a greater chance of a dump-file capture that is free of significant errors...

Read the bold. The optimal solution is two page files on seperate physical disks...not moving the page file.

My replies were in response to moving the page file. :)

However...if you read the rest of that paragraph my comments regarding disk intensive tasks still applies. If you have a pagefile on your secondary drive and do your disk intensive tasks on that drive as well...Windows will still be using the pagefile on the secondary drive for things that were already in that pagefile before the task was started.

Edited by nmX.Memnoch
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@Andromeda43:

The values you use are too small, it can cause apps to quit if they just happen to be a bit slow at some point.

It's better to use like 4-5 sec.

"LargeSystemCache" has been reported to cause errors/corruptions, many sites recommend against setting it at all for various reasons.

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1.DisablePagingExecutive -double click it and in the decimal put a 1 - this allows XP to keep data in memory now instead of paging sections of ram to harddrive.

2.LargeSystemCache- double click it and change the decimal to 1 -this allows XP Kernal to Run in memory improves system performance a lot. This tweak can actually slow down a system with less than 256 megs of ram.

You've got the descriptions backwards, but otherwise correct. However, I would strongly suggest against using the DisablePagingExecutive value unless you've got at least 2GB of RAM - becuase you're making sure that kernel nonpaged pool AND kernel pagedpool resource pools run in physical RAM, rather than just kernel nonpaged pool (pagedpool can be swapped out to the pagefile otherwise if the system becomes RAM-hungry).

Why, you may ask? Well, if you've got 1GB of RAM in your machine, and you have both nonpaged and paged pools running in RAM, you have the good possibility of dedicating roughly 600MB of physical RAM just for kernel memory, instead of just 256MB - it'll be used as necessary by the kernel, and applications may start running in the pagefile rather than RAM on a memory-hungry box.

If you have 2GB of RAM in your machine (or more), even with relatively full nonpaged and paged pools running in RAM, you'll be dedicating approximately 750 - 800MB of RAM to kernel memory, thus still allowing approximately 1.2GB of RAM for running processes.

On systems with 512MB or 768MB of RAM with this "tweak" enabled (sarcasm intended), you'll see that running processes (and these running processes include system services, background apps, etc. - not just user-initiated programs) will have very little physical RAM to grow into before things start getting paged out like mad.

The NT kernel's memory manager does a pretty darn good job of making sure that as much virtual address space as possible is mapped to physical RAM before paging out already, so this tweak really doesn't net much overall system performance - you're still better off adding more RAM, rather than modifying how that RAM is used.

Obviously all of this goes out the window on x64 platforms... :w00t:

Edited by cluberti
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Re Paging file, from the horses mouth:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314482/

To enhance performance, it is good practice to put the paging file on a different partition and on a different physical hard disk drive. That way, Windows can handle multiple I/O requests more quickly. When the paging file is on the boot partition, Windows must perform disk reading and writing requests on both the system folder and the paging file. When the paging file is moved to a different partition, there is less competition between reading and writing requests...

... The optimal solution is to create one paging file that is stored on the boot partition, and then create one paging file on another partition that is less frequently accessed on a different physical hard disk if a different physical hard disk is available. Additionally, it is optimal to create the second paging file so that it exists on its own partition, with no data or operating-system-specific files. By design, Windows uses the paging file on the less frequently accessed partition over the paging file on the more heavily accessed boot partition. An internal algorithm is used to determine which paging file to use for virtual memory management.

When you put a paging file on its own partition, the paging file does not become fragmented, and this counts as another definite advantage. If a paging file resides on a partition that contains other data, it may experience fragmentation as it expands to satisfy the extra virtual memory that is required. An unfragmented paging file leads to faster virtual memory access and to a greater chance of a dump-file capture that is free of significant errors...

Read the bold. The optimal solution is two page files on seperate physical disks...not moving the page file.

My replies were in response to moving the page file. :)

However...if you read the rest of that paragraph my comments regarding disk intensive tasks still applies. If you have a pagefile on your secondary drive and do your disk intensive tasks on that drive as well...Windows will still be using the pagefile on the secondary drive for things that were already in that pagefile before the task was started.

yes, I've been on the "optimal solution" for over a year now... Still, even if you had just one page file, it would still be better off on a second drive. The OS and program files would ideally be on the first drive while the 2nd is basically for less accessed data or backups (as in my case), so rarely any "intensive tasks" on that drive.

re the "optimal solution", I recently bought a newer 2nd drive and absent-mindedly formatted it into larger partitions, so the page file was no longer on its own. What I did to get around that was reformatted just the partition it was on and placed a 2gb fixed page file at the beginning of it, so that any other files/data added to that partition afterwards will not defragment the page file. This basically achieving the same effect as if it was on its own partition. :)

Edited by amenx
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I would suspect that there is no good way to account for all the various configurations of PCs, their hardware and installed applications - so whether or not a tweak produces a performance gain may not apply to all situations.

When troubleshhoting performance Microsoft has always insisted that administrators identify the "bottleneck".

In almost every case, the slowest performing part of the PC is the disk subsystem. Therefore, any tweak that reduces disk access or speeds disk writes is a successful tweak.

However, something, I think is much more important is the "networking loads" put upon a PC by various applications. (often in the backgroud)

My perspective suggests that most users are operating their PCs on the Internet and experience most slowdowns as a result of applications, "polling" or otherwsie "keeping alive" remote connections to Internet based servers.

Often these slowdowns are spwaned by applications repeatedly attempting "update checking", or other data exchanges. Of course "file scanning" performed in the backgound by various security applications causes noticable delays as well.

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However, something, I think is much more important is the "networking loads" put upon a PC by various applications. (often in the backgroud)

...

Often these slowdowns are spwaned by applications repeatedly attempting "update checking", or other data exchanges. Of course "file scanning" performed in the backgound by various security applications causes noticable delays as well.

This is unlikely in most cases - network connections are rarely a resource in contention, and the frequency & impact of update checks for applications is invariably tuned to be low.

It doesn't do software vendors any good to have their products check for updates every minute as this would just overload their servers with pointless requests - a balance is struck as to how often updates are likely to come out, and how critical it is to get clients updated in a timely fashion.

Doing a weekly check for AV updates would be silly, as would doing hourly updates for Adobe Acrobat Reader or something similar.

If an application is launched which does an update check, it should not have any impact on the system as a whole, possibly not even on the application itself if it is a separate thread.

It takes a lot for a system to have a performance hit due to extreme network traffic, and servers are much more likely to notice a hit before clients and they would be receiving and trying to handle requests rather than issuing them.

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The main problem of Windows * with Disk is Fragmatation

So MS could make a less fragmenting file s/m

like *nix file s/ms

and allowing fixed partition for pagefile sothat atleat it willnot be fragmented

However it has also the disadvatage of having fixed size pagefile

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@Mr Snrub:

One or two apps won't affect performance a lot, but if a user has installed many different progs that checks for updates it definitely will. Some common examples are: MS AU, Macromedia Flash, some PDF reader, Java, AV, software firewall and other security apps.

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