Monday, December 4, 2006

Use Windows XP like a pro

If you want your car to perform and look well you have to do some maintenance from time to time: clean it, change the oil, change the tires and so on. Windows XP can be a good performer but, like with the car, you should take care of some things. Most people will tell you that it's performance will degrade over time and you have to do a clean reinstall to get it back. That's not true! Make sure you follow these advices and you'll see.

Things to do only once

  • Make sure you have a big enough system (C:\) partition. This will make file fragmentation less likely to occur.
  • Set your swap file to a fixed size. To do this access "Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance : Settings > Advanced > Virtual Memory : Change" and enter a custom size. Use the same value for the initial size and maximum size (usually 1.5 x physical memory size). A good practice is to defragment the drive before so that Windows can allocate a contigous space for the pagefile.
  • Disable visual effects. To do this access "Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance : Settings" and check "Adjust for best performance". This will make Windows XP look a bit uglier but work faster. If you have a new and fast system enjoy the looks and leave the default for this setting.
  • Disable indexing services. To do this go to "Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Add/Remove Window Components" and uncheck the Indexing services. Click "Next" to apply.
  • Install a good antivirus and leave Windows Firewall on. This should keep viruses and spyware away but you can never be too careful with those.
  • Disable "last access update notification". Create a new DWORD registry value called ‘NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate’ in "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem" and set value data to 1.

Things to do from time to time
  • Delete temporary files. Usually you can find them in "C:\Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Temp\".
  • Delete your browser cache. For Internet Explorer go to "Tools > Internet Options... : General" and choose "Delete files > Delete all offline content". For FireFox go to "Tools > Options > Privacy > Clear now..." and make sure "Cache" is checked.
  • Defragment at least your system partition monthly. Make sure you completed the last two steps before and the result should be better.
  • Use Windows Update every week!!! This is very important. Also make sure your antivirus is up to date.
  • Check for newer versions of your drivers and software. Your browser, messenger or email client can be vulnerable to attacks even if the OS is updated. Also, updated drivers often bring good performance enhancements.

Things not to do
  • Do not install applications you don't need. These can bring the most bloat to your system increasing disk space, registry size, number of services, number of DLL's and so on. Make sure you install well-known and supported software. Check this for a list of free software I use.
  • Think twice before installing software from the internet. Twice!
  • Do not use memory defragmentation/cache enhancer software. Memory cache system is a key component of Windows constantly improved in the last 20 years and you simply cannot beat it with a 15$ utility.
This is it! And that's how I used Windows 2000 for 5 years without a single reinstall and Windows XP for the last 2 years.

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