Make XP faster than ever before

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Do you leave the machine always running because you machine takes an eternity to boot? Are you fed up waiting every time you start your IDE or office application? Is your system so slow that you have frequent coffee/tea breaks?

Try these tips and you would really boost XP performance in general and also bring down XP boot time considerably!!

Tip 1: Disable unwanted services

There are quite a few services you can disable from starting automatically. This would be to speed up your boot time and free resources. They are only suggestions so I suggest you read the description of each one when you run Services and that you turn them off one at a time.

Some possibilities are:

  • Alerter
  • Application Management
  • Clipbook
  • Fast UserSwitching
  • Human Interface Devices
  • Indexing Service
  • Messenger
  • Net Logon
  • NetMeeting
  • QOS RSVP
  • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
  • Remote Registry
  • Routing & Remote Access
  • SSDP Discovery Service
  • Universal Plug and Play Device Host
  • Web Client
  • Database Servers/Web Servers/Application Servers that are set to startup automatically, you can change it to Manual and start it when required.

Tip 2: Cleaning the Prefetch Directory

WindowsXP has a new feature called Prefetch. This keeps a shortcut to recently used programs. However it can fill up with old and obsolete programs. To clean these periodically go to:

  • Start / Run / Prefetch
  • Press Ctrl-A to highlight all the files
  • Delete them

Tip 3: Not Displaying Logon, Logoff, Startup and Shutdown Status Messages

To turn these off:

  • Start Regedit
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\policies\system
  • If it is not already there, create a DWORD value named DisableStatusMessages
  • Give it a value of 1

Tip 4: Clearing the Page File on Shutdown

  • Click on the Start button
  • Go to the Control Panel
  • Administrative Tools
  • Local Security Policy
  • Local Policies
  • Click on Security Options
  • Right hand menu – right click on “Shutdown: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile”
  • Select “Enable”
  • Reboot

For regedit users (more adventurous)…..

If you want to clear the page file on each shutdown:

  • Start Regedit
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\ClearPageFileAtShutdown
  • Set the value to 1

Tip 5: No GUI Boot

If you don’t need to see the XP boot logo,

  • Run MSCONFIG
  • Click on the BOOT.INI tab
  • Check the box for /NOGUIBOOT

Tip 6: Decreasing Boot Time

Microsoft has made available a program to analyze and decrease the time it takes to boot to WindowsXP. The program is called BootVis.

  • Uncompress the file.
  • Run BOOTVIS.EXE
  • For a starting point, run Trace / Next Boot + Driver Delays
  • This will reboot your computer and provide a benchmark
  • After the reboot, BootVis will take a minute or two to show graphs of your system startup.
  • Note how much time it takes for your system to load (click on the red vertical line)
  • Then run Trace / Optimize System
  • Re-Run the Next Boot + Drive Delays
  • Note how much the time has decreased
  • Mine went from approximately 55 to 33 seconds.

Tip 7: Increasing Graphics Performance

By default, WindowsXP turns on a lot of shadows, fades, and slides etc to menu items. Most simply slow down their display. To turn these off selectively:

  • Right click on the My Computer icon
  • Select Properties
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • Under Performance, click on the Settings button
  • To turn them all of, select Adjust for best performance
  • My preference is to leave them all off except for Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging

Tip 8: Increasing System Performance

If you have 512 Megs or more of memory, you can increase system performance by having the core system kept in memory.

  • Start Regedit
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\DisablePagingExecutive
  • Set the value to be 1
  • Reboot the computer

Tip 9: Increasing File System Caching

To increase the amount of memory Windows will locked for I/O operations:

  • Start Regedit
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management
  • Edit the key IoPageLockLimit
  • Set the Value based on the amount of Ram you have
    • 4096 – 32megs of memory or less
    • 8192 – 32+ megs of memory
    • 16384 – 64+ megs of memory
    • 32768 – 128+ megs of memory
    • 65536 – 256+ megs of memory

     

Tip 10: Resolving Inability to Add or Remove Programs

If a particular user cannot add or remove programs, there might be a simple registry edit needed.

  • Go to HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Uninstall
  • Change the DWORD NoAddRemovePrograms to 0 disable it

Top 10 reasons for PC crash

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Fatal error: the system has become unstable or is busy,” it says. “Enter to return to Windows or press Control-Alt-Delete to restart your computer. If you do this you will lose any unsaved information in all open applications.”

You have just been struck by the Blue Screen of Death. Anyone who uses Microsoft Windows will be familiar with this. What can you do? More importantly, how can you prevent it happening?

1. Hardware conflict

The number one reason why Windows crashes is hardware conflict. Each hardware device communicates to other devices through an interrupt request channel (IRQ). These are supposed to be unique for each device.

For example, a printer usually connects internally on IRQ 7. The keyboard usually uses IRQ 1 and the floppy disk drive IRQ 6. Each device will try to hog a single IRQ for itself.

If there are a lot of devices, or if they are not installed properly, two of them may end up sharing the same IRQ number. When the user tries to use both devices at the same time, a crash can happen. The way to check if your computer has a hardware conflict is through the following route:

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager.

Often if a device has a problem a yellow ‘!’ appears next to its description in the Device Manager. Highlight Computer (in the Device Manager) and press Properties to see the IRQ numbers used by your computer. If the IRQ number appears twice, two devices may be using it.

Sometimes a device might share an IRQ with something described as ‘IRQ holder for PCI steering’. This can be ignored. The best way to fix this problem is to remove the problem device and reinstall it.

Sometimes you may have to find more recent drivers on the internet to make the device function properly. A good resource is http://www.driverguide.com. If the device is a soundcard, or a modem, it can often be fixed by moving it to a different slot on the motherboard (be careful about opening your computer, as you may void the warranty).

When working inside a computer you should switch it off, unplug the mains lead and touch an unpainted metal surface to discharge any static electricity.

To be fair to Microsoft, the problem with IRQ numbers is not of its making. It is a legacy problem going back to the first PC designs using the IBM 8086 chip. Initially there were only eight IRQs. Today there are 16 IRQs in a PC. It is easy to run out of them. There are plans to increase the number of IRQs in future designs.

2. Bad Ram

Ram (random-access memory) problems might bring on the blue screen of death with a message saying Fatal Exception Error. A fatal error indicates a serious hardware problem. Sometimes it may mean a part is damaged and will need replacing.

But a fatal error caused by Ram might be caused by a mismatch of chips. For example, mixing 70-nanosecond (70ns) Ram with 60ns Ram will usually force the computer to run the entire Ram at the slower speed. This will often crash the machine if the Ram is overworked.

One way around this problem is to enter the BIOS settings and increase the wait state of the Ram. This can make it more stable. Another way to troubleshoot a suspected Ram problem is to rearrange the Ram chips on the motherboard, or take some of them out. Then try to repeat the circumstances that caused the crash. When handling Ram try not to touch the gold connections, as they can be easily damaged.

Parity error messages also refer to Ram. Modern Ram chips are either parity (ECC) or non parity (non-ECC). It is best not to mix the two types, as this can be a cause of trouble.

EMM386 error messages refer to memory problems but may not be connected to bad Ram. This may be due to free memory problems often linked to old Dos-based program.

3. BIOS settings

Every motherboard is supplied with a range of chipset settings that are decided in the factory. A common way to access these settings is to press the F2 or delete button during the first few seconds of a boot-up.

Once inside the BIOS, great care should be taken. It is a good idea to write down on a piece of paper all the settings that appear on the screen. That way, if you change something and the computer becomes more unstable, you will know what settings to revert to.

A common BIOS error concerns the CAS latency. This refers to the Ram. Older EDO (extended data out) Ram has a CAS latency of 3. Newer SDRam has a CAS latency of 2. Setting the wrong figure can cause the Ram to lock up and freeze the computer’s display.

Microsoft Windows is better at allocating IRQ numbers than any BIOS. If possible set the IRQ numbers to Auto in the BIOS. This will allow Windows to allocate the IRQ numbers (make sure the BIOS setting for Plug and Play OS is switched to ‘yes’ to allow Windows to do this.).

4. Hard disk drives

After a few weeks, the information on a hard disk drive starts to become piecemeal or fragmented. It is a good idea to defragment the hard disk every week or so, to prevent the disk from causing a screen freeze. Go to

* Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter

This will start the procedure. You will be unable to write data to the hard drive (to save it) while the disk is defragmenting, so it is a good idea to schedule the procedure for a period of inactivity using the Task Scheduler.

The Task Scheduler should be one of the small icons on the bottom right of the Windows opening page (the desktop).

Some lockups and screen freezes caused by hard disk problems can be solved by reducing the read-ahead optimization. This can be adjusted by going to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System Icon-Performance-File System-Hard Disk.

Hard disks will slow down and crash if they are too full. Do some housekeeping on your hard drive every few months and free some space on it. Open the Windows folder on the C drive and find the Temporary Internet Files folder. Deleting the contents (not the folder) can free a lot of space.

Empty the Recycle Bin every week to free more space. Hard disk drives should be scanned every week for errors or bad sectors. Go to

* Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Scandisk

Otherwise assign the Task Scheduler to perform this operation at night when the computer is not in use.

5. Fatal OE exceptions and VXD errors

Fatal OE exception errors and VXD errors are often caused by video card problems.

These can often be resolved easily by reducing the resolution of the video display. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-Display-Settings

Here you should slide the screen area bar to the left. Take a look at the color settings on the left of that window. For most desktops, high color 16-bit depth is adequate.

If the screen freezes or you experience system lockups it might be due to the video card. Make sure it does not have a hardware conflict. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager

Here, select the + beside Display Adapter. A line of text describing your video card should appear. Select it (make it blue) and press properties. Then select Resources and select each line in the window. Look for a message that says No Conflicts.

If you have video card hardware conflict, you will see it here. Be careful at this point and make a note of everything you do in case you make things worse.

The way to resolve a hardware conflict is to uncheck the Use Automatic Settings box and hit the Change Settings button. You are searching for a setting that will display a No Conflicts message.

Another useful way to resolve video problems is to go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Performance-Graphics

Here you should move the Hardware Acceleration slider to the left. As ever, the most common cause of problems relating to graphics cards is old or faulty drivers (a driver is a small piece of software used by a computer to communicate with a device).

Look up your video card’s manufacturer on the internet and search for the most recent drivers for it.

6. Viruses

Often the first sign of a virus infection is instability. Some viruses erase the boot sector of a hard drive, making it impossible to start. This is why it is a good idea to create a Windows start-up disk. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-Add/Remove Programs

Here, look for the Start up Disk tab. Virus protection requires constant vigilance.

A virus scanner requires a list of virus signatures in order to be able to identify viruses. These signatures are stored in a DAT file. DAT files should be updated weekly from the website of your antivirus software manufacturer.

7. Printers

The action of sending a document to print creates a bigger file, often called a postscript file.

Printers have only a small amount of memory, called a buffer. This can be easily overloaded. Printing a document also uses a considerable amount of CPU power. This will also slow down the computer’s performance.

If the printer is trying to print unusual characters, these might not be recognized, and can crash the computer. Sometimes printers will not recover from a crash because of confusion in the buffer. A good way to clear the buffer is to unplug the printer for ten seconds. Booting up from a powerless state, also called a cold boot, will restore the printer’s default settings and you may be able to carry on.

8. Software

A common cause of computer crash is faulty or badly-installed software. Often the problem can be cured by uninstalling the software and then reinstalling it. Use Norton Uninstall or Uninstall Shield to remove an application from your system properly. This will also remove references to the program in the System Registry and leaves the way clear for a completely fresh copy.

The System Registry can be corrupted by old references to obsolete software that you thought was uninstalled. Use Microsoft Registry Cleaner to delete corrupted, invalid, broken entries.

Often a Windows problem can be resolved by entering Safe Mode. This can be done during start-up. When you see the message “Starting Windows” press F4. This should take you into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode loads a minimum of drivers. It allows you to find and fix problems that prevent Windows from loading properly.

Sometimes installing Windows is difficult because of unsuitable BIOS settings. If you keep getting SUWIN error messages (Windows setup) during the Windows installation, then try entering the BIOS and disabling the CPU internal cache. Try to disable the Level 2 (L2) cache if that doesn’t work.

Remember to restore all the BIOS settings back to their former settings following installation.

9. Overheating

Central processing units (CPUs) are usually equipped with fans to keep them cool. If the fan fails or if the CPU gets old it may start to overheat and generate a particular kind of error called a kernel error. This is a common problem in chips that have been over clocked to operate at higher speeds than they are supposed to.

One remedy is to get a bigger better fan and install it on top of the CPU. Specialist cooling fans/heat sinks are available from http://www.computernerd.com or http://www.coolit.com

CPU problems can often be fixed by disabling the CPU internal cache in the BIOS. This will make the machine run more slowly, but it should also be more stable.

10. Power supply problems

With all the new construction going on around the country the steady supply of electricity has become disrupted. A power surge or spike can crash a computer as easily as a power cut.

If this has become a nuisance for you then consider buying an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This will give you a clean power supply when there is electricity, and it will give you a few minutes to perform a controlled shutdown in case of a power cut.

It is a good investment if your data are critical, because a power cut will cause any unsaved data to be lost.

Windows Shortcut to speed

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Getting used to using your keyboard exclusively and leaving your mouse behind will make you much more efficient at performing any task on any Windows system. I use the following keyboard shortcuts every day:

Windows

Shortcut

Description

Windows key + R

Run menu

Windows key + E

Explorer

Windows key + D

Show Desktop (Minimize all windows). Pressing the Shortcut again will maximize all windows

Windows key + Pause/Break

System Properties

Windows key + F

Display Find Dialog

Windows key + L

Lock computer

Windows key + M

Minimize all windows

Windows key + SHIFT + M

Restore all windows

Windows key + F1

Help

Windows key + Tab

Cycle through buttons on task bar

Windows Key + U

Open Utility Manager

 

Short commands (In Run dialog)

Command

Description

Cmd

Command Prompt

Iexplore/firefox

Web Browser

Compmgmt.msc

Computer Management

Dhcpmgmt.msc

DHCP Management

Dnsmgmt.msc

DNS Management

Services.msc

Services

Eventvwr

Event Viewer

Dsa.msc

Active Directory Users & Computers

Dssite.msc

Active Directory Sites & Services

Fsmgmt.msc

Shared Folder Management

devmgmt.msc

Device manager

cleanmgr

Disk Cleanup

Ntbackup

Windows Backup Utility

notepad

Notepad

Wordpad

Wordpad

Calc

Calculator

Mspaint

Microsoft Paint Application

Control

Control Panel

control printers

Printers Dialog

 

Explorer Shortcuts

Shortcut

Description

END

Display the bottom of the active window

HOME

Display the top of the active window

NUM LOCK+ASTERISK

on numeric keypad (*) Display all subfolders under the selected folder

NUM LOCK+PLUS SIGN

on numeric keypad (+) Display the contents of the selected folder

NUM LOCK+MINUS SIGN

on numeric keypad (-) Collapse the selected folder

LEFT ARROW

Collapse current selection if it’s expanded, or select parent folder

RIGHT ARROW

Display current selection if it’s collapsed, or select first subfolder

BloatWars

•April 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I am an avid PC user for the last 18 years or so. My first computer was a HCL Busy Bee 486DX (33 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 120 MB HDD) with DOS 6.0. Since then lot of things have changed. Even my current cell phone has a processor that is 20 times faster than my first PC. Even the software applications have changed a lot.

Software vendors and developers alike take too many things for granted these days (and I am one of those developers.. :-)). Developers’ don’t even think about storage requirements, computing power etc as these can be procured in bulk for a fraction of the cost that we used to pay 10 years back.

Now, the point I am trying to make; Are current generation software applications offer enough features (usable) that justifies their hardware requirements? Today’s application has grown too ridiculous to justify. I realized this when I wanted to upgrade my existing CD/DVD burning application (Nero 7.0 Standard) to the latest version (Nero 9). Nero 7 with all features requires roughly 400 MB space (which is quite high for a CD/DVD burning tool). But Nero 9 the latest avatar requires a staggering 1.5 GB!! I saw the feature listing and was really shocked. Many of the features are just a mockery of human intelligence.

For example take this feature:

Record, manage, playback, and enjoy your favorite TV shows – even for HDTV. Watch High-Definition TV and use the P-i-P (“picture-in-picture”) mode for watching 2 channels at the same time.

I have to say these guys are amazing. I am yet to see the “the” dumbest guy who will use this feature in a CD/DVD burning tool.

I am not targeting Nero there are worse examples. I am quoting this as I had an opportunity to check this yesterday. The number of “useful” features that have increased from Version 7 to 9 is fewer than 10. This does not justify the increase in space requirements (400 MB to 1.5 GB!!).

Operating systems are no angles here. Microsoft is leading the race as they are far by any means making the most out of the “monopoly” (noose) they have over the operating systems market.

Here is information on the different operating systems releases Microsoft has done over the years. With this we can easily conclude Vista is the Blotwars winner!! And Nero 9 a close 2nd.

 

Windows version

Processor

Memory

Hard disk

Windows 95

25 MHz

4 MB

~50 MB

Windows 98

66 MHz

16 MB

140–255 MB

Windows Me

150 MHz

32 MB

320 MB

Windows 2000 Server

133 MHz

64 MB

1 GB

Windows XP

300 MHz

128 MB

1.5 GB

Windows Vista

800 MHz

512 MB

15 GB

 

Zawinski’s Law of Software Envelopment (also known as Zawinski’s Law) relates the pressure of popularity to the phenomenon ofsoftware bloat:

Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.

We as intelligent consumers have to consider here is this; (I felt like I have a painted “Jack ASS” banner on my forehead when I was staring at Nero 9 system requirements)

Does every program should read/send mail? Just because computing resources are cheap you should not be spending it so freely for no logical reason what so ever.

Use applications that functionally work for you. Don’t fall for the “latest version” crap. Most times they are just bloated features which are as useful as a socket wrench to a heart surgeon.

In this world of bloated software applications Adobe is a real hero at least when it comes to Flash Player. Initial version was around 400 KB and now it is a mere 1.6 MB. Most of the features at least are very valid. But adobe had done real blunder as well in case of Adobe acrobat reader. From a humble 2 MB program (Acrobat 1.0) now it is 80 MB monster. There are other zillions of examples which I can quote, which don’t change a thing.

Finally, I ended up uninstalling iTunes, Acrobat Reader and many other applications which are so bloated, I just felt ashamed that I was using all these applications without noticing the amount of resources they were hogging.

Away you go bloatware. Here are some alternatives;

Bloat

Bloat Free

Nero 9

ImageBurn

ITunes (Manage iPod)

Floola

Adobe Acrobat Reader

FoxIt Reader

Adobe Photoshop

GiMP

WinZip

7-Zip

Cyberlink Power DVD

VLC Player

Yahoo Messenger + GTalk + AIM + IRC + ICQ + MSN

Pidgin

   

 

I will update the list whenever I stumble upon a bloat free application.

Welcome to the bloat free world!!