Performance tweaks for Windows XP

Performance tweaks for Windows XP

Brien Posey

Sometimes network clients have to run some pretty demanding applications. When this occurs it's often up to the administrator to fine-tune the client's workstation in a way that boosts performance to a level that allows the application to run. In this article, I'll share some of these techniques with you.

Begin the tweaking process by opening the Control Panel and clicking the Performance and Maintenance link, followed by the System link. When you do you'll see the System Properties sheet. Now, select the System Properties sheet's Advanced tab and then click the Settings button on the tab's Performance section.

At this point you'll see the Performance Options properties sheet with the Visual Effects tab selected. The Visual Effects tab contains options to turn on and off various features such as window animation and mouse pointer shadows. All of these things enhance the desktop appearance but degrade performance to a small degree. Therefore, at the top of the tab, there are options that you can use to either automatically adjust for the best possible appearance or for the best possible performance. You can also use custom settings.

For a more dramatic impact on performance, select the Advanced tab and make sure that the processor scheduling and memory usage are both set to Programs. You should also verify that your virtual memory size is at least 1.5 times the size of your physical memory. If you have multiple hard drives, you can boost performance by moving your virtual memory's swap file to a drive other than the one that Windows XP is loaded on. To do so, click the Change button. Doing so will display the Virtual Memory dialog box. Now, select the drive that you want to create the new swap file on, and enter a minimum and maximum file size. After doing so select the drive where the swap file presently exists and set the minimum and maximum size to zero. Click OK twice to close the windows and then reboot the system.

When the system reboots you may have to manually erase the old swap file (PAGEFILE.SYS). Erasing the old swap file will free up a lot of disk space on that drive. Therefore, you should defragment that drive so as to fill in the empty space and gain optimal performance.

About the author: Brien Posey is a freelance technical writer and has been working with computers for about 15 years. Before going freelance, Brien served as the Director of Information Systems for a large, nationwide healthcare company. He has also served as a network engineer/security consultant for the Department of Defense.


This was first published in March 2002
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