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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

XP Tweaking


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.

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