A brief Tutorial - Some WIN9X Speed Optimisations

I advise you to work through this from the top down, as it is arranged in order from most effective to least effective for effort and cost expended. As far as I know, almost all of this is still appropriate to Windows 98. Many of the General Principles will still be appropriate to other Operating Systems, including future Versions of Windows. Some specific Win98 tips are being added as their usefulness is noted.

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Turn off the music if it gets a bit much...
But if you want to optimise your keyboard driven PC as well as this music sounds, read on...

Please note: The author (who does not have the time to give individual technical support) has no present connection with any company (other than as a customer), and does not endorse the products of any company. This information was compiled by the author and is provided as a public service. Neither the author nor any organization mentioned herein are responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any consequential problems that might result. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Last Updated 12 Aug 2003
(My last system H/W upgrade in Nov 97)

Table of Contents.

Some Terms Defined.

I have seen much myth about speeding up WIN9X. Some of it has little connection with Reality, often being merely Magic Incantations repeated without understanding how Operating Systems, and sometimes WIN9X in particular work. Some of the myths may in fact cause the system to run slower.

What is Optimisation?

Optimisation is making the most of the resources available: the process of preparing plans to coordinate the total system to operate in the most efficient manner. Thus the more one knows about the system as a whole, the better the Plans for Optimisation can be.

But it is a matter of balance. Spending excessive effort on one small part that overall causes little benefit is not useful, and if the overall effect is worse, the system has not really been optimised at all.
Depending on what one uses a system for, will govern what minor optimisation processes will give most overall benefit.

Memory - Real and Virtual.

Real Memory is RAM. Programs are only capable of being executed by the CPU from Real Memory. One of the points of this discussion is to maximise the amount of of Real Memory that is available.

Virtual Memory is just a fake. The OS uses a file on the disk to pretend that it is extra Real Memory. Program code has to be loaded from the Hard Disk (if the Real Memory - RAM has overflowed onto the Hard Disk) via the (relatively) slow I/O channel back into Real Memory to be executed.

What is Caching?

Caching is implemented inside the OS. Some Real Memory is used to keep a list of references to the most recently accessed information on an I/O device, such as the hard disk. The System Optimisation it provides, is that it is faster to read the information from Real Memory, than use the relevant I/O channel to get that info. It is also used for things like modems, and may sometimes be called buffering. It uses areas of Real Memory called buffers.

Real Memory Optimisation.

Before worrying about Virtual Memory or Disk Caches, there are some things to do to ensure that one has sufficient Real Memory to start with. You may need help in working through these steps. You may need to read manuals or help files or FAQ's, or consult other experts, until you understand what you are doing. Trial and error may also prove helpful.

If you are constrained in a step below, e.g., you cannot afford more RAM, or you cannot move a device driver out of Real Memory into Virtual Memory, then you just have to juggle the other factors as best you can.

WIN9X Machine Profiles.

WIN9X has three options for the setting called Machine Profiles. It is described in its own section under the topic of optimising Hard Disk access.

Some CD-ROM Minor Optimisations.

WIN9X allows the CD-ROM to be optimized. Here are some different minor optimisations. These are only really worth bothering with reducing the Real Memory consumed if you are using a minimal amount of RAM. These suggestions originated when 4X drives were "fast"! With a 24X or faster (which may be either IDE or SCSI), you probably won't notice it. If you have a large amount of RAM (more than 32 Mb), it's also hardly worth bothering about.

Trade off between Hard Disk Drives and RAM Optimisations

How to Improve RAM use and performance via better disk cache use
Virtual Memory Optimisation.

All modern PC Operating systems involve trade offs between the Amount of Real Memory and the speed of the Hard Disk Drives.
The data held in the high speed memory (RAM) can be accessed as fast as the motherboard H/W allows. One can pretend that one has more RAM by using Virtual Memory (emulating RAM by using a file on the slower Hard Disk).
One can also keep tables and other data structures in faster RAM which allows one to pretend that the slower Hard Disk is faster.

This discussion shows how to balance these two conflicting demands in order to optimise Windows. Almost all Windows apparent speed increases that do not involve H/W replacement come from manipulating these two trade offs.

Optimising the Video Card.

This section shows you how to ensure the correct System settings for your Video Card, including in the Advanced Graphics System Settings.

It should be noted that some Motherboards with onboard Video Cards do involve sharing Motherboard RAM with the Video Card. This does affect the discussion slightly. Just use your Common Sense®!

Other Cards and Devices.

One should not forget that other cards and periphal devices such as Sound Cards, Network Cards, External Disk Drives (Jaz, etc) Scanners, Mouse, USB devices, etc should have the latest appropriate Virtual Memory type drivers loaded.

Of course you can always upgrade to a faster CPU...

But that can cost a lot of money (if you can still buy the appropriate chip), your current Motherboard may not take it, and you may even need to buy a new Motherboard. If you are still memory, HD speed, or even Video Card speed restricted, you should consider those steps first, especially if you are money restricted. But don't forget the relative cost calculations, a whole new PC with the right specs may be a better choice than lots of incremental upgrades.

Can I make WIN9X boot up faster?

Now that you have optimised your system, there are a few things that can be done to make WIN9X boot a little faster.

Some WIN98 special tricks.

There are a few things that can be done to make WIN98 run a little faster.

Make WIN98 paging and swapping act like WIN95.

WIN98 is more swap file intensive than WIN95, even with lots of free Real RAM. By default WIN98 first goes to Virtual Memory, then Real Memory, which is a rather clumsy way of doing it considering the respective access speeds. Allegedly it was done for better performance, but I found a noticeable speed up for many tasks by including this tip. The first access to the system object is just as slow as the default, but subsequent acceses to the same system object are noticeably faster (provided the the task mix has not caused it to be paged out to disk). Such tasks include repainting the desktop, opening a previously opened and closed directory, saving an image from a webpage, saving a URL to the DeskTop or Favourites, etc. Even games like Mordor (has lots of file I/O - a game designed from a UNIX original) seem to speed up! Add this line to the [386Enh] section in the SYSTEM.INI file.


Get WIN98 Lite if it is still available.

I was originally inspired to write this page by having to find things out for myself. My P133 32Mb system was not optimised by the dealer when I bought it. It ran like a dog. I knew nothing about optimising WIN95. Apparently neither did the dealer. Now, after spending quite a lot of time on it, and after some HW upgrades and replacements, I have a faster 3Gb HD, and a total of 64Mb.
The content of this document has been continually rewritten based on my experience and knowledge, to avoid some potentially misleading generalisations and errors I came across in various places.
Any comments regarding any perceived errors (with appropriate authentic documentation references please) may be sent to me via email to correct any errors or bad or unclear phrasing.
No commercial exploitation of this document allowed without previous written authority (please email me), but non commercial links are OK.

Those of you who have been helped by this document, and have emailed me to thank me for writing this - it's always nice to be thanked.

Copyright © 1996-2003 Robin Hayes. All rights reserved.
Products and Companies referred to herein are Trademarks or Registered Trademarks of their respective Companies or Trade Mark Holders.

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