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|Tips ∓ Tricks
To Improve PC Performance
Tips ∓ Tricks To Improve
PC Performance (Hardware)
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
∓ 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
- 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.
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
- 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
Tips ∓ Tricks For Disk Partitions
- Primary Partitions, Extended Partitions and Logical
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.
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
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
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