15 Basic TIPS to make your XP machine to run faster

Posted by Shashank Krishna Wednesday, January 7, 2009



Everyone wants their machine to run faster. We have compiled all the special tweaks we've made into this one handy article. We focus on settings that improve the performance of Windows XP and not on user interface tweaks. Note: You can disable most of XP's user interface candy and increase performance! These tweaks are designed for Windows XP both Home and Pro. Make sure you have at least 256 MB of RAM, any less and your machine will lag due to use of the hard drive as memory. 512MB is preferred. Backup your System before attempting any of these modifications! Remember, we can only get so much performance out of old hardware. It might be time to upgrade to a faster machine. Check our Dell Coupons page for the latest deals Microsoft covers performance in Windows XP. PC magazine found general application performance is faster on XP than on Windows ME.


You need to ensure that you have configured your BIOS correctly. The BIOS is software embedded on your motherboard that loads and configures hardware before the operating system. Failure to do so can easily slow down CPU and disk performance. Consult your computer or motherboard's manual to ensure that all CPU caches are enabled, memory timings are set correctly, and that IDE data transfer modes are set correctly. You can speed up the boot process by enabling "Rapid Bios Boot" or "Fast/Quick boot". Also turn off auto detection of IDE devices and detect them manually. Set System and Video BIOS Cacheable to OFF as well as Video RAM cacheable to off, as these are legacy operating system DOS settings. Test CPU performance with PC Magazine's benchmarks. Test drive performance with HDtach benchmark.


You need to ensure that you have the latest versions of all your hardware drivers. The ones on the original Windows CD-ROM are usually out of date. Updated Video and SCSI drivers can significantly improve the performance of your computer.

Video Performance

If you experience slow screen redraws and you are running the latest drivers for your video card, try selecting a lower quality video resolution. In the Display icon of the Control Panel, select the Settings Tab. If the system is set for True color try lowering it to High Color (16-bit). Many LCDs cannot show a full 32-bit color pallet. You can also reduce the Desktop Area. Upgrade to a new video card if this does not help. Using the latest Microsoft DirectX drivers can increase game performance. Reducing XP's screen effects will also speed up performance. Goto My computer, Properties, Advanced Tab, Performance Settings, Select adjust for best performance.

Hard Drive Port

Make sure your hard drive is not connected to the same IDE port as your CD/DVD-ROM. Each IDE port is programmed to operate at the slower of the two devices on the port, so you could be slowing down access to your primary hard drive by leaving a CD-ROM on the same channel. Put your CD/DVD-ROM on the Secondary IDE port. Intel Application accelerator lets you independently set tranfer rates for devices on the same cable.


Windows does not automatically utilize faster DMA IDE data transfer modes on IDE slave drives. Programmed I/O mode is the default setting.

1)) Right click on "My Computer", select the Hardware tab, and Select Device Manager.
2) Expand "IDE ATA/ATAPI Controller" and double-click on "Primary IDE Channel"
3) Under "Advanced Settings" tab, check the "Device 1" setting. Set it to "DMA if available"
4) Repeat the step for the "Secondary IDE Channel" if devices are present there.
Remember, we can only get so much performance out of old hardware. It might be time to upgrade to a your hard drive to a faster Serial ATA model. Check our hard drive page for the latest deals

SCSI Write Cache

Many SCSI drives do not have their write caches enabled. Use a Mode Page Editor such as the one built into EZ-SCSI to enable Write Caching on all your hard drives. Windows XP allows you to enable Write Caching in the Properties page of a SCSI Drive.

Minimize Background Applications and Services

Press CTRL-ALT-DEL while in Windows and bring up the Task Manager. Notice how many programs are running in the background. Each program steals memory and CPU cycles. Offenders include: Adobe Gamma Loader, Fast Find, msmsgs (Messenger), Office Startup, qttask (Quicktime), System Agent, Real Player, Norton. To stop programs from automatically starting, remove the file from the Programs - Startup folder, left click on the icons in the System tray and turn off automatic loading, or consult the help file of each program to turn it off. Run MSCONFIG to get a list of programs that run on startup and remove unnecessary ones.

Disable Alerter, File and Print, FTP Publishing, Indexing Service, World Wide Web Publisher, Messenger, Computer Browser, Routing and Remote Access, Smart Card, Smart Card Helper, Terminal services, Uninterruptible Power Supply if they are not being used. You can always turn them off and test your machine, before setting them to be disabled on startup. Run "services.msc" from the Run.. menu and Disable any services that are unncessary. BlackViper has additional information on services.

You can also Configure Virus scanning to only scan incoming files.

Removed Unused Programs, Protocols, and Fonts

Uninstall any Programs that you do not use. Also remove any Fonts that are not used. This will free up disk space and make the machine boot faster. You should also remove any temporary files located in the C:\TEMP, c:\windows\prefetch, or C:\WINDOWS\TEMP directories. Also remove any unused Network Protocols such as NetBEUI or IPX.

Unload DLLs

Windows does not unload dll files a program has used after it has been closed, to speed up a possible restart of the program.

Use Regedit to edit: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer Add the DWORD value named: AlwaysUnloadDLL and set it to 1

Virtual Memory

Windows uses your Hard Drive as swap memory but its default configuration can cause a major loss of performance with the memory swap file getting moved around.

Select System icon from the Control Panel - Performance and Maintenance, select Advanced Tab, select Performance areas, and click on Settings Under virtual Memory click Change. The Initial and Maximum size should be equal otherwise Windows will keep resizing the file. The optimal memory setting for users with 128 MB+ is approximately 1.5-2 times the RAM size, users with 64 MB should use a 2 times multiple. You should also locate Virtual Memory on your fastest drive or striped RAID volume, placing it on the non-boot drive, can help increase performance. Defragment after setting this to minimize fragmentation and force the swap file to get located on the fastest part of your disk. Third party defragmentaters can optimize the swap file.

Always make sure your system has enough RAM. 128MB is the absolute minimum, 512MB is preferred. You can bring up the Performance Tab of the Task Manager to ensure that Total Commit Charge is lower than your Total Physical Memory. If not, add ram.

Memory Tweaks

There are 3 tweaks you can make to change how XP uses memory.
Open Regedit and Find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\

Disable Paging Executive:
XP pages data from RAM memory to the hard drive. We can stop this happening and keep more data in RAM, resulting in better performance. Users with a large amount of RAM (256MB+) should use this setting. The setting we change to disable the ’Paging Executive’, is DisablePagingExecutive. Changing the value of this key from 0 to 1 will de-activate memory paging.

System Cache Boost:
Changing the value of the key LargeSystemCache from 0 to 1 will tell XP to allocate all but 4MB of system memory to the file system cache, allowing the XP Kernel to run in memory. The 4MB of memory left is used for disk caching, if 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 previous tweak, you should have at least 256MB of RAM before attempting to enable LargeSystemCache.
Input/Output Performance:
This improves performance of large file transfers. If this entry does not appear in the registry, you will have to create a REG_DWORD value called IoPageLockLimit. The data for this value is in number of bytes, and defaults to Zero which equates 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. The value is measured in bytes, so if you want, 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.
Use your hard drive less for Virtual Memory:
The Windows 98/ME "ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1" optimization does not work for XP.
Remember, we can only get so much performance out of old hardware. It might be time to upgrade to a your memory. Check our memory page for the latest deals


Make sure you regularly defragment your hard drive with a defragmenter. Windows XP includes one. Keep your drive defragmented as a drive with even 5% fragmentation can be very inefficient.

Microsoft has a utility called "Bootvis" that can monitor your system bootup and optimize its performance. They removed the files from their site.
This site has a copy.
Extremetech has more bootup performance tips

Network Performance

Tweak XP has a nice tip on adjusting how much network bandwidth is reserved for different programs.

Offload processor tasks to network adapter's with intelligent processors.
Open Regedit and Find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
Edit or Create the REG_DWORD key "DisableTaskOffload" and set it to 0 to Enable the Task Offload. By default, if this key is present, it's set to 1 to disable the task offload.
Details from Microsoft.

Drive Performance

Some drives have configurable acoustic levels. They sacrifice performance for quiet. You can always turn off acoustic management for maximum performance.

Shortening Menu Delay

You can shorten the delay when menus open up by using Regedit to edit: HKEY_CURRENT_USER / Control Panel / Desktop / MenuShowDelay By default, the value is 400, but changing it to a smaller value, such as 100, will speed it up.

Other Resources

TweakHound is a good site to go for more tips.
TweakXP is a good site to go for more tips.
Windowsxp AtoZ is a good resource.
Windowsxp.nu is also a good resource.
X-Setup can help tweak settings.
Cachemem can help tweak cache - memory settings.
Super Win Software makes several tools for tweaking including Add/Remove pro


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Shashank Krishna
Bangalore, up, India
nothin much to say.........doin B.tech in IIIT allahabad loves bloggingn hacking.... :) and loooves blogging
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