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Tips ∓ Tricks To Improve PC Performance

 


Tips ∓ Tricks To Improve PC Performance (Hardware)

1.)  Tips ∓ Tricks For Hardware Configuration

A well-configured PC by itself offers great performance. The key lies in the choice of the components and their arrangement.

  • Choice of CPU
    My suggestion for a CPU would be one from AMD. I choose AMD for the following reasons
    1. Price-to-performance ratio: Athlon processors beat the best from the Intel's equally clocked processors. Besides, they are cheaper than Intel's. Because they support DDR-RAM, the overall system cost is lower.
    2. True FSB speed of 200 MHz: Though Intel advertises an FSB of 800 MHz, its true FSB is only 200 MHz, which is the same as the latest AMD Athlon XP processors. This is because not all subsystems of a PC can work at 800 MHz.
    3. DDR-RAM support: DDR-RAM allows two data fetches per clock cycle. The newer dual-channel DDR-RAM does four data fetches per clock cycle, which is the same number as RDRAM. RDRAM however has higher latencies. Besides, you cannot upgrade RDRAM easily. If you add another module of RDRAM to an existing one, you will only increase the total latency because RDRAM is serial in nature. Compared to this, because DDR-RAM is parallel in nature, you can easily add additional modules of DDR RAM as and when you have the money, and expect the throughput to multiply. Because RDRAM technology is proprietary and difficult to make, it is expensive. DDR-RAM on the other hand is cheaper because its specification is made by a nonprofit standards organization. Even Intel seems to moving towards DDRRAM, as many Pentium-4 chipsets now support DDR-RAM.
    4. HyperTransport: This technology was developed by AMD to upgrade the PCI bus of its limited capacity and all its other deficiencies. HyperTransport has been used in nVidia's nForce2 chipset. It beats all other PCI-based systems in terms of performance.
  • Choice of motherboard
    There was a time when integrated motherboards meant lower performance and limited functionality. Not anymore. With the nForce and the forthcoming chipsets from ATI, this feeling will definitely undergo a change. The nForce currently supports not only AMD processors, DDR-RAM, and HyperTransport, but also carries a GeForce GPU and a Dolby® 5.1 onboard sound processor. Other things to look for in a motherboard would be support for ATA 133, USB 2.0, AGP 8x, CNR, enough memory slots, space for larger heatsink/fan combination, etc.
  • IDE drives setup: A motherboard usually has 2 IDE connectors each capable of connecting 2 devices in a master/slave combination for a total of 4 devices. If you have just a single hard disk and a single CD drive, set them as separately as masters in each IDE connector. If you have a CD drive and CD-RW drive, set the CD-RW as the master and the CD drive as its slave.
  • ATX (cabinet): When buying the ATX, make sure it supports your CPU/motherboard/AGP combination. Intel Pentium IV processors and motherboards require a special kind of ATX that conforms to their standard (ATX 2.03). Do not buy an ATX with less than 300 W power supply. Also, make sure the cabinet has provisions for two extra fans (one in the front and one in the back). The power supply comes with a fan, which also tries to takes some hot air off the CPU through a grill placed just above the CPU. This grill needs to big enough and properly placed and spaced out to provide effective cooling. Another thing to look for in an ATX is a socket for the monitor. Some cabinets do not come with them. So, these have to be connected directly to the mains and cannot be switched off with the rest of the system when the PC is shutdown.
    With Windows Me/2000/XP, there is an option in Control Panel » Power Options called Hibernate. Hibernate is used to quickly shut down the PC and restart it with the same programs you had kept open when you shut down the system. This option is possible with ATX cabinets only. Hibernate does not function properly if you have devices that do not use Win32 ® Driver Model (WDM) drivers.
  • COM ports: If you are using a serial mouse, connect it to the COM1 port as the OS first checks this port for a mouse. You can connect your modem to the COM2.
  • CNR port: This port (known as Audio Modem Riser or AMR in older motherboards) can be used to add a specially made low-cost peripheral replacement. The replacement is far cheaper than a separate sound card or modem.
  • Fans: If your cabinet allows it, install additional fans for extra cooling.
  • Dust: Remove dust regularly from the insides of your cabinet and prevent them from forming a coating over the motherboard and other parts.
  • Driver updates: Check the websites of the various hardware vendors for updates and install them. Most important among them would be those of the motherboard chipset.

2.  Tips ∓ Tricks For BIOS

  • Standby BIOS: After you had just assembled or just bought your PC, make sure to take a copy of your BIOS in a floppy. Do not forget to copy the software program required to flash the BIOS with it. For instructions regarding this, refer to your motherboard manual or the manufacturer's website.
  • Do not detect absent IDE drives: As mentioned earlier, you can connect 4 IDE devices to your MB. During bootup process, the BIOS will try to detect all of them. If you have just a hard disk and a CD drive, you can set the BIOS to detect just these devices and bypass checking the absent ones. This will save some precious microseconds when booting up.
  • Supervisor password: To prevent your BIOS settings from being changed by anyone else, set a Supervisor password in the BIOS and do not set the user password.
  • User password: If you want to prevent access to anyone else, then set the User password.
  • Remote access: You can make a telephone call to your PC from outside or send a fax to it even when the machine is switched off. This is possible with ATX standard cabinets. In the power settings section of the BIOS, allow the PC to wake up on LAN or external modem act. Keep the power supply to the ATX and the modem on, while the system itself is powered off. When the modem receives a call, it will wake up the power supply and boot up the PC to handle the call.
  • Boot sequence: After you have installed your OS, set your hard disk first in the boot-up sequence with the CD drive and the floppy following it in that order.
  • Quick Power On Self Test: Keep this enabled and save on boot-up time.
  • Boot Up Floppy Seek: Keep this disabled.
  • BIOS updates: Check the motherboard's website or that of the BIOS manufacturer for BIOS updates and use the BIOS update program mentioned above to flash the BIOS. Many problems faced initially with hardware are likely to be solved after the updates.

3.)   Tips ∓ Tricks For Device Manager

  • Keyboard shortcuts: There may have been times when your mouse was not detected and you had a hard time getting around the device manager. Here are the navigation keys with Device Manager. If you are in the desktop, press the TAB key repeatedly until My Computer is selected. Then press the context MENU key, which is between the left Ctrl key and the Windows Key. This opens up the context menu for the My Computer. Now select Properties from this menu. Now you see the System Properties window. This has several tabs, one of which is the Device Manager. Press Ctrl+TAB repeatedly to move to Device Manager. Now you see all the devices listed. Press TAB to move to them. To open up any particular device, press the RIGHT ARROW and to shrink it up press LEFT ARROW. To open up the properties of any particular device, press ALT+ENTER or the MENU key.
  • DMA: Most of the hard disks that have come in the past few years support DMA. Make sure this option is checked in the Disk Drive Properties.
  • Autostart CDs: If you do not want CDs to autostart as soon as it is inserted, then uncheck the box Autostart Notification. Without this setting, if you do not want to autostart with a particular CD, then hold down the SHIFT key for some time as you insert the CD.
  • Ports: If you have a 56 kbps modem, then set its port speed to 1,15,200. This can be set in the Communication Port Properties
  • Modem: Most modems that are available in India use American-made chipsets. They do not recognise Indian dial tones. So, set the modem to blind dial using an initializing string ATX3. Modems usually come with a manual that has a list of AT commands you can use with your modem.

4.)  Tips ∓ Tricks For Disk Partitions

  • Primary Partitions, Extended Partitions and Logical Partitions
    A hard disk can have a maximum of only 4 partitions, which are called PRIMARY PARTITIONS. This limit was thought to be sufficient in the early days of the PC. To go over this limit, in place of a primary partition, a special kind of partition called EXTENDED PARTITION is used. Inside this EXTENDED PARTITION, any number of smaller partitions called LOGICAL PARTITIONS can be created.
  • Multiple OS and partitions: Some people recommend just one primary partition and the rest inside an extended partition. But, some OS like the Linux require a primary partition for proper booting up. Others, such as Windows 2000 will be happy to get installed in a logical partition while Windows 95/98/Me installs in the first primary partition.
  • My recommendation is two primary partitions (one for Win 9x/Me and one for Linux) with the rest inside an extended partition.
  • Partitioning tool: Windows 9x/Me supplies a partition tool called FDISK. It does not recognize partitions created by Linux installations. So, use something like Ranish Partition Manager.

5.)   Tips ∓ Tricks For Disk Swap

  • GUI-based operating systems use a swap file for the sake of virtual memory. In Linux, you create a separate partition for the swap. There are advantages in doing the same for Windows too.
    When you let Windows to manage the swap file, it remains in the C drive along with other files and becomes fragmented as Windows resizes the swap file over time. To avoid this, create a partition at the end of all your other partitions about 2.5 times the size of your installed RAM and format it.
    1. In Windows 9x/Me: Right-click on My Computer, click on Properties, choose the Performance tab, and click on Virtual Memory. Here, check the Let me specify my own virtual memory settings and chose the new partition. Set the Minimum and maximum size to something below the total size of the partition.
    2. In Windows 2000: Right-click on My Computer, click on Properties, click on the Advanced tab, click on Performance Options, and click on Change. Here, choose the drive where the swap resides and remove the settings in the Initial Size and Maximum Size boxes. Now, choose your swap partition and set the initial and maximum sizes to the new partition's full capacity minus 20 MB.
      If you run heavy duty applications such as Oracle, you may need a swap greater than 500 MB. For all others, a 300-MB partition should be more than enough.
  • If you have two hard disks, then this swap partition could be placed on the second disk. This hard disk should be connected to a different IDE channel. Preferably, place the swap file on the first partition in the second disk and follow the method shown previously. When two disks start working instead of just one, there is a perceivable increase in performance. People doing DV recording should have their programs, swap, and media files in three separate disks for best results.

6.)   Tips ∓ Tricks For Cache Setting

Windows has the same cache setting for all machines. Most often, this is not optimal. As a result, the system exhausts all its free memory and appears very sluggish. You can get the true value of your system by optimising the cache to your system's needs.

  • In Windows 9x/Me, you have to modify a system file. A software called Cacheman will do this for you. In Windows NT/2K, you should change the I/O page size. To do this, you can use Xteq Systems X-Setup. Choose the appropriate setting under System » Memory.
    The above-mentioned programs do not stay in memory all the time. They just simply modify a setting under which Windows works.


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