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Speed up your Win9x/ME machine

How do I speed up the boot and run time of my windows 9x/ME computer? by Comtech
Posted: 11 Oct 00

To Cache or Not to Cache

aka How to get Windows to run even faster.

by Jim (reboot) Delong

Lately I've been getting lots of questions about cache sizes as related to speed. As it seems everyone is squeezing the last drop out of their processor/RAM combination, I thought I'd share a little "trick" that works. It may cost you a bit of money, but the rewards are worth it.

Explanation: windows uses a "cache" file on your hard drive, called win386.swp, otherwise known as the swap file. All win9x versions must have a swap file of some sort, and there are arguments all over every BBS about how big, how small, same max/min size, editing your system.ini file, messing with the registry, etc. Forget them all. You don't need the headaches.

Here's how to get windows to run without ever using the swap file. (well, almost)

1. Go out and buy a minimum of 128 meg of RAM. Sure, everyone will scream about price, but it's relatively cheap compared to replacing your HD when it crashes from the "thrashing" involved in read/writes using a swap file.

2. Go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Monitor. If you don't see it there, go to Add/Remove Programs in control Panel, select the windows setup tab, System Tools, and select it and install it.

3. Open System Monitor, select Edit, Add Item. Select Memory Manager on the left side, and down the bottom on the right you'll see Unused Physical Memory. Select it. Select Edit, Add Item. Select Memory manager on the left side, and 4th from the bottom on the right select Swapfile in use. Let them run for a couple of minutes and take note of the average settings in these boxes (graphs).

4. If you have less than 60 megabytes free (asuming you bought the 128 I recommended), it's time to do some serious pruning.

5. If you've got windows 95, jump to #6, otherwise win98 users continue...Go to Start > Run > and type in msconfig. Click OK. Select the Startup Tab. Look at all the junk you've got running in the background, taking up your precious memory! Take the tick marks out of EVERYTHING except what you absolutely, positively, MUST have. Leave system tray, and it's a good idea to leave Scan Registry, as it only runs once per 24hour period anyhow, backing up your registry. If you want to get rid of System tray as well, go into the Multimedia properties in control panel, and de-select "show volume control...", then you may de-select systray as well.
Above all, get rid of Real player and jukebox. You don't need them running all the time. They'll open if, and when, you try to open a .ram file anyhow. You don't need a virus scanner running while you're playing solitaire, so why is IT running? Only start it before you go on the web, or put a floppy in the drive that you're unsure of. Get the picture?

6. Read #5, but as Win95 does not have msconfig, you need to do things manually. Open Explorer, and look in the C:\WINDOWS\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp folder. Take out (delete) anything you don't need. Look in the C:\WINDOWS\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp folder for anything else that you don't absolutely need and delete them. Open your virus scanner, look in the tools or preferences menu for shutting the thing off (don't start when windows starts), and do the same with Real Player, or any other thing in the taskbar (beside the clock). Alternatively you can get PCMagazine's Startup Cop, which does a great job of emulating msconfig.

7. Restart your computer.

8. Open System Monitor, and look at the new settings. You may have to manually select Unused physical memory, and Swapfile in use again.

9. If your swapfile is in use, or you still have less than 50% (60 meg or so) of free physical memory, it's time to repeat the process, and shut something else off.

10. This works wonders for systems with winmodems, it frees up a lot of RAM for the modem buffer to use, and generally speeds up connect rates. It also helps if your modem likes to disconnect for no reason.

11. Enjoy your new faster computer. Applications will still take the regular time to load up, but once in memory, will NOT use the swap file to store information, they will use RAM instead, and that translates into a huge speed increase.

Of course there will be naysayers. I'm just suggesting you try this. It won't hurt, and you could be amazed at the results.

Back to Microsoft: Windows FAQ Index
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