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Tips & Tricks To Improve Windows Performance

Tips ∓ Tricks To Improve Windows Performance

1.)   Saving Memory and Increasing Speed

After you have set your cache setting to its optimum size as mentioned above, you will find more free memory. With the following tips, you can save even more memory.

  • Clear the startup programs: When you start up Windows, several programs such as instant messaging and PDF converter programs, start and get loaded on to memory. These take up precious memory. Ideally, you should remove them using the settings provided in the programs themselves. But, if you can't, then use Startup Control Panel to do that. This program after its installation will be found in the Control Panel.
  • RAM: A machine's speed can be simply improved by adding more RAM rather than going for a CPU upgrade. Get some additional RAM and see the improvement. If you have adequate RAM, but memory supply seems to be bottlenecked, then use RamBooster. It routinely frees some memory and can be custom adjusted for your needs. There are several such programs, but most of them make your system unstable. I had found no such problems with Rambooster.
  • Watch the programs in memory: Using software such as TaskInfo to find out which are the programs that are running in memory and weed out those that you do not need.
  • Three-button salute: If you cannot get software such as Taskinfo, then just press Ctrl+Alt+Delete combination once to bring up the Close Program dialog box. Ideally, when you have all programs closed and your taskbar is empty, there should be just three programs in this box - explorer, system tray, and your antivirus program. All other programs should be a waste. Most common culprits are Microsoft office, RealPlayer, Winamp, antivirus scheduler, etc. Just remove all those that are not needed using Startup Control Panel or using msconfig from the Run dialog box.
  • Increasing the performance of individual programs: You can increase the speed of a program, by setting the priority of the program's process thread to either High or Realtime. Use TaskInfo (in Win 9x/ME) or Task Manager (in Windows 2000 by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del). Do not go overboard on this or your system will look very unresponsive.
  • Active Desktop: Unless you run stock market price tickers on your desktop, deactivate Active Desktop to save memory. If you have enabled Active Desktop just to enable a GIF or JPEG file as the background, then convert the file to a BMP file and set that as the wallpaper without Active Desktop.
  • Plain desktop: Remove the desktop background image and set it None. This will save some memory.
  • Screen resolution: Set your screen resolution to 15 bit or 16 bit for both speed and saving memory. Set a higher level only when playing games and other such special stuff that require better resolutions.
  • Clean the Desktop: Remove all unwanted icons from the desktop and shortcuts from the desktop and the quick launch bar. If you have shortcuts for CD drives, windows will check for their contents every time it loads up and cause a delay.
  • Remove sound events: If you remove the sound events, your operations will get faster and are less likely to hang. To do so, go to Control Panel » Sounds and Multimedia » Schemes and then choose No Sounds.

2.)  Tips ∓ Tricks for Windows Explorer

  • Keyboard and mouse shortcuts:
    • Open any folder and press F3. This will bring up the Find Files dialog box for that folder.
    • Press Start+TAB key combination just once. Now, pressing TAB repeatedly will allow you to jump between various areas of the desktop, such as the desktop proper, taskbar, system tray, quicklaunch toolbar, and Start button.
    • When you drag a file with the right mouse button, you will be presented with an option to move or copy the file when you drop it elsewhere.
    • If you drag a file from some location and hover it over a folder that is minimized on the desktop without dropping it, then that folder will spring open allowing you to drop the file there.
    • If you drag a shortcut and place it over the Start button without dropping it, then the Start menu will spring open and you can navigate to your special program groups and drop it there.
    • Sometimes, when you have many programs open and you use the Alt+TAB combination to switch to another program, it does not switch. In this situation, press the Start button twice.
    • Press Alt+F4, to close a program. If no program is open, then it functions like a Shutdown command.
    • Pressing Alt+Enter after selecting an item will bring up its properties box.
    • Pressing Start+Pause will bring up the System Properties of your computer.
  • Adding extra options to the Send To menu: Open the Windows\SendTo folder. Create shortcuts to the programs and folders that you commonly use. My suggestion is for shortcuts to Desktop, My Documents, IrfanView, Subhash VCDPlayer, Winamp, and Windows Media Player. When you use this operation on any file, the file will copied to the chosen location or opened in the respective program.
  • Adding extra options to context menu: Usually, a certain file type can be opened with many programs, but when you double-click on it only the default program opens it. To have a choice, add some extra custom options to the context menu.
    Supposing you have MP3 files in your machine, which by default opens with Windows Media Player, you can have options in the context menu so that it can be opened with other programs such as Subhash VCDPlayer, Winamp, etc.
    Say you want to have an option with Subhash VCDPlayer, here is what you need to do. Go to Folder Options. Click on File Types tab. From the list under Registered File Types, search for and select MP3 Format Sound. Now click on Advanced. In the Edit File Type window, click on New. In the New Action window, enter Open with Subhash VCDPlayer in the text box under Action and "C:\Program Files\Subhash VCDPlayer" "%1" (including the quotation marks) in the Application used to perform action.
    Here, the ampersand symbol '∓' is placed before the 'S' in Subhash VCDPlayer so that 's' becomes the hot key in the context menu. You can follow a similar procedure, to do the same with Winamp or Sonique. Use the Edit button to modify any previous setting you have created. Exercise caution with the choice of the program. If the program and the file type are incompatible, the result can be undesirable.
    In Windows 9x, go to Folder Options » File Types. Here, select the file type that you need to add custom options. Now, click on Edit. In the Edit File Type window, click on New and follow the above-mentioned procedure.
    Create different options for different file types with compatible programs using this method.
  • Resize columns: Press Ctrl+Plus to resize columns to best fit the contents. Do not use this trick in the Temporary Internet Files folder though. Super bad news if you frequent this folder to manually pick out files.
  • Folder Options: Customizing the Windows Explorer is done via the Folder Options. To access this,
    • In Windows Me/2000: From the menu, choose Tools » Folder Options.
    • In Windows 9x: From the menu, choose View » Folder Options
    To move between the different tabs, press the Ctrl+TAB key combination or just use the mouse.
  • Setting the default view: There are five types of views available
    • Large Icons
    • Small Icons
    • List
    • Details
    • Thumbnails
    Open any folder and choose the type of view that you want from the toolbar. If you were to choose the Details view, then adjust the column sizes now. Then, go to Folder Options. In the View tab, click on the Like Current Folder.
  • Single-click operation: Normally, to select a file you single-click and to run you double-click. You can change this to hover for select and single-click to run. Go to Folder Options. Here, in the Click items as follows section, check the Single-click to open an item and Underline items only when I point at them.

    In Windows 9x, go to Folder Options, and choose Custom, based on settings you choose and click on Settings. In the Click items as follows section, choose the above-mentioned setting.
  • Expanding and collapsing levels: On the folder pane, you can expand a level by pressing ASTERISK or *. To collapse a level press MINUS or -.
  • Customized Links Toolbar: The Links toolbar has shortcuts to several Internet sites that you never have use for. You can replace them with shortcuts to folders or files in your hard disk or your own choice of Internet sites. To do this, go to the Windows\Favorites\Links folder. Here remove the shortcuts that Microsoft has provided and create some shortcuts to your own files and folders in your hard disk or network.
  • Open links in the same window: In the above tip, when you click on any link, the link opens in a new window. To open the link in the same window, right click on the link and select Open from the context menu.
  • Removing the Links toolbar: If you want to remove toolbar from showing up at all then, open a Windows Explorer window and from the menu, choose Views » Toolbars and click on Links. This will remove the Links toolbar from you Explorer window. To get it back again, repeat the process and see that the Links option is checked again.
  • Favorites: You can use the Favorites instead of the Links toolbar. This is especially useful in a networked environment where you need to navigate between several nodes and folders to access any file. Go to the Windows\Favorites folder. Create a folder and give it a name of your choice. Cut all the MS-supplied shortcuts and paste them in this new folder. Now go to your Network Neighborhood and navigate to the folders that you often access and add them to your Favorites by choosing Add to Favorites from the Favorites menu. Now, to hop over to some distant folder in just a couple of clicks, you need to choose it from the Favorites menu.
  • Using Favorites in other programs: The above tip can come to good use not just in Explorer windows, but also in other programs such as Word or Excel. If you need to save a file in a location that you have added to the Favorites, locate the Favorites icon in the Save As dialog box, click on it, and choose the appropriate favorite to open the folder.
  • Customising the Toolbar: In Windows Me and Windows 2000, you can customise the toolbar with your own choice of buttons. For this, from the Windows Explorer menu, choose Views » Toolbars » Customize. Remove those buttons that you do not need and add those that you need.

3.)   Tips ∓ Tricks for Xteq X-Setup

Xteq X-Setup is a great tool to tweak your system. It has different settings for Win 9x/Me/NT/2000. Instead of manually editing the registry, one can tweak the registry using X-Setup as a frontend. Choose the following settings.

  • To create a DOS box with current folder as its default directory, go to Appearance » Explorer » Context Menu » Context Menu Options and check on Enable 'DOS Prompt here' command for directories.
  • To hide certain drives, go to Appearance » Explorer » Options » Hide drives. For settings on shortcuts, go to Appearance » Explorer » Shortcuts.
  • To set up your own customized OEM logo on the Device Manager, go to Appearance » OEM information. Set the outer portions of the BMP file to the color of the 3D object (in your color scheme) before that.
  • To speed up your modem, choose the port in Hardware » Modem » COM Port Speed.
  • To prevent others from changing the screensaver or background, go to Appearance » Control Panel » Other Settings » Visible Pages in 'Display'.

4.)   Miscellaneous Tips ∓ Tricks

  • With faxing software, if you cannot locate the recommended initialization string for your particular modem, try fax class 1 in combination with the generic initialization string: AT∓F∓C1∓D2∓K3S7=55 If this doesn’t work, try fax class 2 in combination with the generic initialization string: AT∓F∓C1∓D2∓K4S7=55
  • Windows 9x/Me might sometimes throw up error message that some system file has gone corrupt. You can restore things using System File Checker from Start » Programs » Accessories » System Tools » System Information » Tools.
  • To show the correct speed with which your modem connects to the ISP, enter the initialization string ATW2
  • Of all antivirus programs, AVG Antivirus is the best and the lightest. It is better than Norton or McAfee.
  • Run your antivirus program's complete checkup every week. Also, defrag your hard disk every week. Use Disk Cleanup every now and then to clear your hard disk of junk files.
  • When Windows throws up a lot of errors and refuses to stop them even after a reinstall, a clean install of Windows is in order. This process can be done more safely and easily if your data files reside in a drive other than the one where Windows sits. This way you don't have to do time-consuming backups. So, after the first time you install Windows, follow these steps.
    • Your My Documents would typically be in C:\My Documents or C:\Documents and Settings\user\My Documents. If you have a drive D, then right-click on your My Documents and select Properties » Move. Here, select a folder in the D drive. Now, your My Documents will be moved to that folder.
    • Change the store folder of your Outlook Express email messages as mentioned above, to a folder in the other drive.
    • It also helps to backup email account settings too. Select Tools » Accounts » Mail. Select the email account and click on Export. This will create a file with the extension .iaf. Whenever you want to re-create the email account, click on the Import button and select this .iaf file.
    Most people format their Windows drive before doing a clean install. This is not necessary. If you have more than one OS, it will delete the boot files of the other OSes too. Just delete the Program Files folder and the Windows folder from MS-DOS or from another OS and go ahead with the install. After that is done, import your email messages from the folder you had created previously. Now, delete any files in that folder. Next, change the message store back to that folder. Also, change the My Documents back to the folder you had created earlier. 
  • Use a download manager to manage your downloads. Second-generation download managers allow for the files to be downloaded in pieces simultaneously by more than one thread, and combine them together after download is over.
  • If you keep a lot of programs installed, your program menu can get very long. So, divide them into sections such as Multimedia, Internet, System Tools, Utilities, etc., by creating appropriately named folders inside the c:\windows\Start Menu\Programs folder and making appropriate choices during installation.
  • Quicklaunch Toolbar: Keep the Show Desktop icon in it. If you had deleted it for some reason, then do a search for *.scf in the drive and if you find the Show Desktop.scf file, copy it to the Quicklaunch folder. If you do not find it, then create a new folder. Open Notepad and type the following
    Choose Save as from the File menu. In the dialog box, change Save as type to All files. Give the filename as Show Desktop.scf. Make sure you save it in the folder you had created just then. Now, right click the taskbar and choose Toolbar»New Toolbar. Here choose the folder where you had put the Show Desktop.scf file.

    Keep shortcuts in your Quicklaunch bar for your drives. Create a shortcut with the target as c:\windows\rundll32.exe user.exe,exitwindows. Clicking on this icon will shut down Windows in a snap. However, this command works for Windows 9x/Me only. For Windows NT/2000/XP, you need something more sophisticated. I suggest you download Wizmo (Windows Gizmo - 37 KB). Create shortcuts to this small program using appropriate parameters for logoff, shutdown, restart, hibernate, reboot, and several other functions.

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