4. Optimal BIOS Settings
To get into your BIOS, you usually press the DEL or F1 key immediately as the PC is booting up. Look at the bottom left corner of the screen just after your monitor has switched on and you'll see which key.
Now there are several different BIOS types, many settings and various names for the same settings, so I won't go into much detail here. The best way to check your BIOS settings and optimise them is to follow the Definitive BIOS Optimisation Guide which is excellent. Each BIOS setting is indexed alphabetically and explained quite well. If you really want to get the most out of your system, and improve stability and performance you'll have to correctly set up your BIOS. There's no way around it. I'll comment on the settings most relevant to Morrowind:
- AGP Aperature Size
The common myth is that this should be ½ your RAM size. This is not true. Read the BIOS Guide above to find out why, but for people with 256MB of RAM or above I would recommend choosing a 128MB aperature size. Don't allow your aperature size to be below 64MB as this turns off AGP Texturing. And don't set it to anything above 256MB.
- AGP 4x/2x
If you're running AGP4x on your system and it's not a new system, try AGP2x. AGP4x was known to be quite unstable on most systems up until very recently when both the graphics cards and motherboards have had better implementation of AGP4x which is very stable. The speed difference between AGP4x and AGP2x is almost non-existent.
Turn off sidebanding if you have it on. It's another cause of instability, and the speed difference is effectively nil.
- Fast Writes
Fast Writes is another cause of instability with a minute speed difference with it on. Turn it off to ensure greater stability.
Note that setting AGP4x, Sidebanding or Fast Writes in the bios does not guarantee these settings will run at 4x or be enabled in Windows. You should use RivaTuner or similar tweaking utilities to check and alter these settings to ensure they are on or off as required.
I would highly recommend that if you're having problems you stick with AGP2x, Fast writes off, Sidebanding off for maximum stability.
- RAM Timing Settings
These are many and varied, but for safety and stability, initially set these to 'Auto' or 'By Spd' to ensure they're not too fast for your RAM. Also, if you have two or more different brands/speeds of RAM in your system then run the RAM at the setting supported by the slowest RAM stick. Even then, this can still be a source of problems, so attempt to have all your DIMMS the same speed and brand for optimal stability.
5. Windows Tweak Guides
Absolutely essential to getting the most out of your machine is tweaking Windows. I've written two comprehensive WinXP Tweak Guides which bring together all the major performance settings and tweaks. I recommend you read and follow them from start to finish:
WinXP Tweaking: From Reformat to Relax
WinXP Tweaking: From Relax to Righteous
The following tweak guides are also excellent and I highly recommend you read and follow them too:
Our WinXP Tweak Guide - Part 1
Our WinXP Tweak Guide - Part 2
WinXP Services Tweak Guide