Tweaking Windows XP - Part 1

Want to know how to tweak Windows XP for faster performance and improved appearance? Yes? Then come on in and see what Osiris found out when he started digging into some of those little secret areas of the newest OS to hit the streets.
Published Fri, Nov 2 2001 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Windows XP Tweaking -

IntroductionThis is the first article I have written for TweakTown, with many more to hopefully follow. Before we get into it, I'd like to thank all the people who have been involved in the running of TweakTown over the time I've been here - Mike Wright, Jon Albiez, Cameron Johson, Jason Rist, Chris Lee and Mytch Harper. Oh yeah, I think that Cameron Wilmot guy had something to do with TweakTown as well... But hey, you guys and gals don't want to hear me brown-nosing... you want to find out how to maximize your performance and visual appearance of Windows XP. Or at least, I hope you do. If you don't, what are you doing reading this article? Supporting me? Awww, thanks...On with the show!Before we begin...Before we start tweaking, I recommend you set up a few things on your operating system. Make sure you have Administrator privileges on the computer you are tweaking as some options may have been disabled for use by standard users. Also, there's ClearType. ClearType basically works to make text on your screen appear much clearer and readable - a massive boon for laptop owners. It works wonders for desktop owners as well - as you can observe from the below pictures...
ClearType Off
ClearType On
To turn ClearType on, just access your Display properties in Control Panel, then click on the 'Appearances' tab. Then click the 'Effects...' button, and you will get a dialog like the one below.
Tick 'Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts...' and change the listbox to 'ClearType'. Then just click OK, Apply, and close down your dialogs.OK? let's get tweaking!How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?

Windows XP Tweaking -

All right... First off, we're going to have a look at some very basic tweaks. Some of these are just basically Windows 95/98/ME et cetera tweaks, but they still work fine in XP. I'd also better mention that I tested all of these tweaks on Windows XP Professional Edition - most of them should work in XP Home Edition, but make sure you read down a bit - there are alternate methods for Home Edition users for some tweaks. I'd also better say that to perform some of these tweaks, you should have knowledge about how to edit the registry.Tweak #1 - MsConfigMost of you will be familiar with MsConfig, which is basically a built-in system configuration utility for Windows. Open it up by simply going to Start -> Run..., then type 'msconfig' in the box and press enter. Now, the tab we are interested in here is the 'Startup' tab... simply click on it and you should see a screen similar to the one below.
This box displays all of the programs that will be started when Windows boots up. None of these programs are vital for Windows, so don't feel worried about removing some of them in experimentation. You can see from the screenshot that I have disabled both NDetect (ICQ's start-up program) and WinAmpa (WinAmp, obviously). Now, if you've unchecked some boxes, Windows should start up faster and will take less resources by not running these programs in the background.Tweak #2 - More Startup TweakageNow we're going to take the tweak above and go one step futher. Go to Start -> Run again, then type 'services.msc'. You should get:
This is a more detailed list of processes that are starting up with Windows. All those items with 'Automatic' listed next to their names are booting with Windows. Click on the items to find out just what they do. If you decide you don't need a certain service, you can simply right-click on it and change it's properties from 'Automatic' to 'Manual'.How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?

Windows XP Tweaking -

Tweak #3 - Speeding Up Internet ExplorerThis is a handy little trick you can use with Internet Explorer 6 (which ships with XP) to make it boot up extremely fast - instantly, on my system :). This should be familiar to those of you who have created shortcuts for Half-Life mods and the like. For those of you who aren't familiar, simply right-click on a shortcut to Internet Explorer (such as the one in the Quicklaunch bar) and add the parameter '-nohome' to the end of the command line, like so:
Tweak #4 - Menu DelaysAnother minor and easy tweak to remove any delay from menus sliding out. For this you will need to use regedit (open regedit by going to Start -> Run..., then typing 'regedit' and pressing enter). The key you need to change is located in HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop. The actual key is called MenuShowDelay - all you have to do is change the value to 0. Remember, you will have to re-boot your computer for this tweak to take effect.Tweak #5 - GPEDIT.MSC And AutoplayA great tweaking file that comes with XP is gpedit.msc. Go to Start -> Run... and then type in 'gpedit.msc' and press enter. This is effectively the Policies Editor, and it comes in handy often. For example, if you hate CD autoplay like I do and want to permanently disable it, you can use this tool to do so. Just run gpedit.msc, then go to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System. In here you can see the value 'Turn Off Autoplay'. Right-click on it and then click 'Properties'.
Now you can simply play around with the settings for this and other values in these folders, customizing appearance and performance issues.How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?

Windows XP Tweaking -

Tweak #6 - Increasing Options In Add/Remove MenuNot a fan of MSN Messenger? don't want Windows Media Player on your system? Fair enough, but if you go to Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel, by default none of Windows XP's 'built in' programs are visible. it's fairly easy to change, though... just open the file X:\Windows\inf\sysoc.inf (where X: is the drive letter where Windows XP is installed) in Notepad. You should see a section of the file something like this:[Components]NtComponents=ntoc.dll,NtOcSetupProc,,4WBEM=ocgen.dll,OcEntry,wbemoc.inf,hide,7Display=desk.cpl,DisplayOcSetupProc,,7Fax=fxsocm.dll,FaxOcmSetupProc,fxsocm.inf,,7NetOC=netoc.dll,NetOcSetupProc,netoc.inf,,7iis=iis.dll,OcEntry,iis.inf,,7com=comsetup.dll,OcEntry,comnt5.inf,hide,7dtc=msdtcstp.dll,OcEntry,dtcnt5.inf,hide,7IndexSrv_System = setupqry.dll,IndexSrv,setupqry.inf,,7TerminalServer=TsOc.dll, HydraOc, TsOc.inf,hide,2msmq=msmqocm.dll,MsmqOcm,msmqocm.inf,,6ims=imsinsnt.dll,OcEntry,ims.inf,,7fp_extensions=fp40ext.dll,FrontPage4Extensions,fp40ext.inf,,7AutoUpdate=ocgen.dll,OcEntry,au.inf,hide,7msmsgs=msgrocm.dll,OcEntry,msmsgs.inf,hide,7RootAutoUpdate=ocgen.dll,OcEntry,rootau.inf,,7IEAccess=ocgen.dll,OcEntry,ieaccess.inf,,7This is a list of all components installed at the moment. I've taken the example of MSN Messenger - the program entry called 'msmsgs', third-last line. You can see the word 'hide' highlighted - this is the string which tells Windows not to display the component in the Add/Remove Programs list. Fix this up by simply deleting the word 'hide' like so:msmsgs=msgrocm.dll,OcEntry,msmsgs.inf,hide,7To this:msmsgs=msgrocm.dll,OcEntry,msmsgs.inf,,7Now, after restarting, you should be able to see MSN Messenger in the Add/Remove Programs list. If you want to be able to quickly view and remove all components, simply open the sysoc.inf file and do a global find and replace for the word ",hide" and replace it with a single comma ",".Tweak #7 - Disabling Windows File ProtectionWARNING: Using this tweak means you will be able to delete vital Windows's a quick tweak to be able to totally disable Windows File Protection, the system that prevent users from deleting system and program files. Simply find the key SFCDisable in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon and edit it to hold the value 0xFFFFFF9D.
If you want to re-enable File Protection, just re-set the value to 0.Tweak #8 - Automatically Kill Programs At Shutdowndon't you hate it when, while trying to shut down, you get message boxes telling you that a program is still running? Making it so that Windows automatically kills applications running is a snap. Simply navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop directory in the Registry, then alter the key AutoEndTasks to the value 1.
Note: the key 'AutoEndTasks' might not exist. If not, simply create it with a value of 1. To disable the AutoEndTask feature, simply change the value back to 0.How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?

Windows XP Tweaking -

Tweak #9 - Memory Performance TweaksThere are several memory tweaks that can be performed with Windows XP - all of them are located in theHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory Managementsection of the registry.
Disable Paging ExecutiveIn normal usage, XP pages sections from RAM memory to the hard drive. We can stop this happening and keep the data in RAM, resulting in improved performance. Note that only users with a large amount of RAM (256MB+) should use this setting. The setting we want to change to disable the 'Paging Executive', as it is called, is called DisablePagingExecutive. Changing the value of this key from 0 to 1 will de-activate memory paging.System Cache BoostChanging the value of the key LargeSystemCache from 0 to 1 will tell Windows XP to allocate all but 4MB of system memory to the file system cache, basically meaning that the XP Kernel can run in memory, greatly improving it's speed. The 4MB of memory left is used for disk caching, but if for any reason more is needed, XP allocates more. Generally, this tweak improves performance by a fair bit but can, in some intensive applications, degrade performance. As with the above tweak, you should have at least 256MB of RAM before attempting to enable LargeSystemCache.*Important* - Since posting this tweak, I have received a few emails reporting that on systems with large amounts of RAM (more than 1GB) and with multiple large hard drives, this tweak can result in instability and possible data loss. Like all of the tweaks listed in these guides, this is 'at your own risk', however if you are concerned, please check out this website for more information.Input/Output PerformanceThis tweak is only really valuable to anyone running a server - it improves performace while a computer is performing large file transfer operations. By default, the value does not appear in the registry, so you will have to create a REG_DWORD value called IOPageLockLimit. The data for this value is in bytes, and defaults to 512KB on machines that have the value. Most people using this tweak have found maximum performance in the 8 to 16 megabyte range, so you will have to play around with the value to find the best performance. Remeber that the value is measured in bytes, so if you want, say, 12MB allocated, it's 12 * 1024 * 1024, or 12582912. As with all these memory tweaks, you should only use this if you have 256MB or more of RAM.Tweak #10 - Speeding Up Share Viewing
This is a great tweak. Before I found it, I was always smashing my head against the table waiting to view shares on other computers. Basically, when you connect to another computer with Windows XP, it checks for any Scheduled tasks on that computer - a fairly useless task, but one that can add up to 30 seconds of waiting on the other end - not good! Fortunately, it's fairly easy to disable this process. First, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Explorer/RemoteComputer/NameSpace in the Registry. Below that, there should be a key called {D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF}. Just delete this, and after a restart, Windows will no longer check for scheduled tasks - mucho performance improvement!How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?

Windows XP Tweaking -

Tweak #11 - Prioritizing Individual Processes
This is so simple it's not funny, but it leads into the next tweak... anyway, if you press Control+Alt+Delete, then click on the 'Processes' tab, you should get a dialog like the one above. You can see a list of all the processes running at the time. Now, if you are running a program that you want to dedicate more processing time to - eg, 3D Studio Max, as in my example, you can just right-click on the process, move your cursor down to 'Set Priority >', then select how high you want that program prioritized. While I'm checking my email, I might want a Normal priority for Max, but if I leave my Computer, I can increass it to 'RealTime' to get the most rendering done. Easy!Tweak #12 - Prioritizing IRQsThe last tweak for this guide - and a good one. The main components of your computer have an IRQ number assigned to them. With this tweak we can increase the priority given to any IRQ number, thereby improving the performance of that component. The most common component this tweak is used for is the System CMOS/real time clock, which improves performance across the board. First of all, decide which component you want to give a performance boost to. Next, you have to discover which IRQ that piece of hardware is using. To do this, simply go to Control Panel, then open the System panel (You can also press the shortcut of Windows+Break). Click the 'Hardware' tab, then on the 'Device Manager' button.
Now, right click on the component you want to discover the IRQ for and click 'Properties', then click on the 'Resources' tab.
You can plainly see which IRQ this device is using (if there is no IRQ number, select another device). Remember the number and close down all of the dialog boxes you have opened, then start up RegEdit. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControlPriorityControl in the registry. Now, we have to create a new DWORD value - called IRQ#Priority (where '#' is the IRQ number), then set the data to 1. For example, the IRQ of my System CMOS is 8, so I would create the key IRQ8Priority.
Now, after restarting, you should notice improved performance in the component you tweaked. I would strongly recommend the CMOS, as it improves performance around the board. Also note that you can have multiple IRQ prioritized, but it is fairly inefficient and can cause instability. To remove this tweak, simply delete the value you created.End Of The LineWell, that's the end of my first guide. I hope it's helped you to maximise both your performance and appearance. (Windows's appearance, that is - not your own, for that, you'll just have to wait for my plastic surgery guide...)Thanks again to all the TweakTown Staff, I hope I can continue to make a contribution to TweakTown. If you have a suggestion or comment about this article, please email me at (not sure if my TweakTown email is working yet), or just message me in the TweakTown Forums.Happy Tweaking, Guys And Gals!-Gavin "Osiris" BallardHow much to upgrade to x64 Edition?

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