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Great tips for speeding up Windows, boosting performance, cleaning up, optomizing and generally making Windows faster.

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Speeding Up Windows 95 and 98

Yes, some of us still own 486 and early model pentium computers. We refuse to give them up because they have served us so well over the years. They were lightening fast with MS-DOS, very fast with Windows 3.x, run ok with Windows 95 and crawl with Windows 98.

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System Settings

There are a number of settings that you can change in Windows that are factory defaulted to their less-than- optimum settings. Making these changes will help speed up Windows.

Performance Settings

File System Properties

Go to Control Panel and go into System. Click on the Performance tab and then the File System button. Change the 'Typical role of this machine' setting to 'Network Server'.

Doing this will speed up your hard drive access, which is very important in Windows, especially if you don't have a lot of memory and Windows has to use your hard drive as extra memory.

When Windows uses your hard drive as memory, it's called "swapping" or "swapping to disk." Physical memory is in the order of 100 times faster than your hard drive, so you want your hard drive performance pepped up as much as possible.

Also in your File System Properties window, make sure your 'Read Ahead Optimization' is on FULL.

If your CD-ROM drive has been upgraded from a single speed or double speed (2x) CD-ROM to anything faster (4x or above), you will now want to click on the CD-ROM tab and make sure the 'Supplemental Cache Size' is set to its highest value (LARGE).

You see, when your CD-ROM was slower, before you upgraded, Windows didn't need to use a large cache (a "cache" is a buffer, memory set aside just for storing data). Since your CD-ROM couldn't transfer any more than, say, 400k per second, there was no sense in Windows having a 1.2mb cache and wasting your memory. But now that you've upgraded your drive, you want to have that extra cache space to speed up your CD-ROM access.

Once you've done all of that, click OK.

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Virtual Memory

Click on the 'Virtual Memory' button in the System Properties. Click on 'Let me specify my own virtual memory settings'.

Set the 'Minimum' amount to 2.5 times your physical memory (RAM). For example, if you have 16mb of ram, you'll want your minimum setting to be 40. Put this same amount in the 'Maximum' setting.

You see, Windows, by default, uses a variable size swap file. This is good in that it allows Windows to use less of your hard drive if it doesn't need it. But its bad side is that it's slower, because Windows is always having to change the size of the file, expanding and contracting it. This doesn't happen with a fixed size swap file, which saves your poor old 486 some time.

If you have 64mb or more of ram, then check 'Disable virtual memory.' Windows will warn you that all kinds of devilish things may happen if you do this, but ignore it. Think of it: if Windows doesn't ever swap, then it doesn't access your hard drive nearly as much. Since your hard drive is 100 or more times slower than your physical memory (RAM), you will see a significant performance boost!

WARNING: Do not turn off your Virtual Memory if you have less than 64mb of memory. I tried it with 24mb back before I knew that you needed at least 64. You can just barely get into Windows to turn it back on!

Device Manager

In your System Properties, click on the 'Device Manager' tab. Check your CD-ROM drive and other devices to make sure they are not using DOS compatability. If they are, click on the device, click Properties, go to the Driver tab, and update the driver to a Windows driver.

What does DOS compatability mean, and why change it?

DOS compatability results when you upgrade from an older version of Windows to Windows 95 or 98 (i.e., 3.x), and Windows failes to remove the DOS drivers for, say, your CD-ROM, out of your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files.

The result is that you're using a 16-bit driver from DOS instead of a 32-bit driver from Windows, which really slows you down! Make sure all of your drivers are Windows drivers and not DOS.

MSConfig (Windows 98 Only)

If you have Windows 98, you can clean up your system settings using MSConfig. Go to Start and Run and type MSConfig.exe and then click OK. From there click the Startup tab, and remove any programs that are loading at startup that you know you don't use. I did this and it increased my available system resources by 8% (a significant improvement!) This great tip comes from Joanne <>.

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Software for Speed Improvement

Running certain programs to clean up your hard drive will often improve the performance of Windows. Two primary examples are Defrag and RegClean.


Defrag is a program that comes with Windows that will defragment your hard drive. 'Fragment,' you say, 'what's that mean?'

Think of a bulletin baord with flyers on it. None of the flyers are overlapping each other, but they are all various sizes and shapes.

Say you took one of those flyers off of the bulletin board. This would leave a space, or hole, in that section of the board. Now say that you want to put another flyer in that space.

But wait! Your new flyer is longer than the old one, and it wont fit right in the hole. What do you do? You cut the bottom inch or two off of the flyer and stick it in another open section on the other side of the bulletin board. Then you scribble a note on the bottom of your flyer that says 'Please see bottom inch of flyer over on the other side of this bulletin board.'

Wouldn't that be a pain to read? You're reading along this flyer and then get to the bottom and realize that you'll have to walk to the other side of the board, find the bottom piece of the flyer, and continue reading from there.

Well your hard drive does this ALL the time! Say you write a document in Notepad that's 20k in size, and then you later delete it. Now let's say you create another document, this time in Word, and it's 150k in size. Windows will try to stuff the document into the 20k hole, realize it doesn't have enough space, then put the rest in another hole, or two, or three, leaving notes at the end of the holes that the file picks back up elsewhere on your hard drive.

This is called fragmentation. It makes your hard drive have to jump all over the place to read a file, and it hurts your performance! If your drive is more than 7-10% fragmented, you will want to run defrag, which will set all of the files back in order again.

Defrag is located in Programs-> Accessories-> System Tools.

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RegClean is a neat utility put out by Microsoft which, amazingly enough, does NOT come with Windows (go figure). It cleans up your registry, which over time gets very bloated and disgusting. You can download it from:

Click here to download RegClean from Microsoft's FTP site.

Simply install it by running REGCLEAN.EXE and follow the instructions. They are simple to follow. It should only take about 3-5 minutes to clean up your registry. I recommend doing this regularly.

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EasyCleaner is a small program that searches the Windows registry for entries that aren't pointing to a valid location. By deleting these entries, you speed up Windows. Deleting registry entries can be dangerous, so be sure to backup the registry before you use this program.

EasyCleaner also finds duplicate files and allows you to erase them, temporary files and other unneeded files, and shows you exactly how much space each program is taking up on your hard drive.

Great program. Click here to download it. The program was written by Tony Helenius. Thanks to Bruce and Jackie for recommending it.

Ram Booster

Have you ever noticed that, if you leave your Windows computer on constantly without ever shutting down, that eventually you begin to run out of memory, even if no programs are open? This is a RAM leak, and can be solved using a nifty little utility sent to me by Ion Petroianu.

It's called Ram Booster, and is very simple to use. Just run the program, type in the amount of free memory you want, and click the Go! button. The program will swap all unused running software to disk, freeing up your actual physical RAM. Click here to download the program.

Other Improvements and Modifications

Make Web-Style Folders Go Away

Did you find that moving around in your Windows folders got a whole heck of a lot slower when you upgraded to Internet Explorer 4.0 or Windows 98? All of those lousy graphics everywhere, that web-browser folder junk, etc.

That stuff is all neat and all if you have a Xeon 450mhz machine with 128mb of memory and a 21gb hard drive, but HEY! I still own a 486 MicroSLOTH!

Well, there's some hope anyway. Right click on the Start button and click 'Open'. Go to 'View' and 'Folder Options' in the menu. Select the 'Classic Style' radio button. This will make your folder lose all of that integrated HTML nonsense.

Next click on the 'View' tab. This brings up a list of options. Uncheck 'Remember each folder's settings'. Then click Apply. Next click the 'Like Current Folder' button, which will set all of the folders to the settings of the current folder.

Doing these things will pep up your folder browsing a good bit.

Turn off Active Desktop

You will definately want to turn off Active Desktop. Active Desktop allows your background to be a web page, which is the default when you install IE 4.0 or Win98. Major resource hog.

Go to Start->Settings->Active Desktop and be sure that 'View as Web Page' is not checked. If it is, uncheck it.

Few Colors Makes for Faster Refreshing

I'm not sure if you ever thought about it, but increasing the number of colors that Windows uses multiplies the memory used from your video card.

For example, a 640x480 8-bit (256 color) display requires about 300k of memory, whereas a 640x480 16-bit (65536 colors) display requires 600k of memory and a 640x480 24-bit (16 million color) display requires 900k of memory.

'So what?' you say, 'Isn't that all taken care of by the video card?' Yes, it is, but remember, every time Windows has to refresh the screen, it has to refresh 1 byte per pixel (8-bit), 2 bytes per pixel (16 bit) or 3 bytes per pixel (24 bit) refreshed. This slows down the refreshing, the ALT-Tabbing back and forth between programs, and the general drawing of icons and such.

256 colors should be fine for most programs. Change it in Control Panel->Display->Settings

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Faster Internet Software

This is a BIG problem with Windows. Internet Explorer CRAWLS on my 486 DX2-66, and swaps like crazy! So does Netscape Navigator. There is hope!

Opera is a browser that is so fast and small that it can run on a 386 with only 4mb of memory. It loads pages FAST, and it has a Java plugin available to support the Sun Java standard.

Download the trial version from:
Opera Software's Homepage

Trust me. It's WELL worth the $35. There's a Windows 3.x version, too!

A Great Windows Tune-Up That You Don't Want To Read

I hate to say this, I really do hate to say this, but...

Completely uninstalling Windows and reinstalling it and your software will significantly improve your performance if you've been running Windows for years without ever reinstalling it.

Yes, it's sad, it's painful, but it's true. RegClean fixes errors in your registry, but it does not remove entries that are no longer used, nor does it remove old, unused DLLs and VXDs (Windows files that hold functions).

Many times when you uninstall a program, and especially if you just delete its directory without uninstalling it (like many of us old-timer DOS guys like to do!), you will leave junk all over the Registry and the WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the size of your WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory. It is initially about 75-80mb. How big is yours? I imagine if you've never reinstalled Windows and you've had your computer for a few years downloading programs and removing programs and downloading and removing, etc., it's probably rather huge.

Reinstalling Windows reclaims wasted hard drive space by removing unused DLLs and makes your Registry nice and (relatively) tiny again. And that, my friend, is a major way to speed up Windows.

I've done it, it works, believe me.

A Possible Solution to What You Don't Want to Read

If you're too scared to try reinstalling Windows, or don't want to go through the hassle, use this utility which will find all of the DLLs not being used by Windows and move them into a backup location (it does NOT delete anything). Once you've rebooted and checked to make sure all of your software is working properly, you can safely remove the backup DLLs. Thanks to Ion Petroianu for sending me this cool little utility. WARNING! This utility is recommended for power users only. If you do not know how to move DLLs back into their old location, do not attempt this. However, I didn't have any problems with it myself.

Have any other clever tips and tricks for speeding up Windows 95 or 98?
Send them to me!

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