December 25, 2008
Only posting here for posterity. This article was originally written Jan 1st, 2001
So you just bought that brand new AMD 1.3 gigahertz computer with all the bells and whistles. Of course after a month or two it’s all the sudden running as slow as your old computer. Luckily there are several things you can do to make your computer run like a champ again.
Windows (all versions,) in an attempt to make such things as web browsing, and common programs run faster uses up a lot of caching and hard drive space by creating temporary files. When Windows boots it reads these files back into system memory, then caches them out to the swap file. It’s very possible for files you’ve not needed in months to be opened. This also one of the reasons that Windows seems to steadily slower the longer you use it.
Internet Browsers, IE and Netscape, in addition to keeping cookies for frequently visited web sites, it also keeps a copy of every web page you open! Unluckily when either program launches, each and every single one of these pages are also read into memory by the browser!
On top of both these problems, the Windows FAT (File Address Table,) is notoriously inefficient compared to those in other operating systems (Such as Unix, OS/2, Amiga, etc.) The FAT file system dumps files back into the first open space it finds on the hard drive. For instance, you open a file off of block #1 on the hard drive, the hard drive keeps spinning. You make changes to the file (such as a Word document,) then resave. Since the hard drive has kept spinning it’s no longer back at block #1, instead it’s reading block #3 and automatically writes just the changes to the file into block #3. Now to open the file totally it has to open block #1, skip block #2 then open block #3. Granted, this is a very, very simplistic example.
Lets look at how you want to fix each of these problems. First off we need to recognize the names the offending files so that we can remove them. Windows operating systems tend to use .tmp as extensions. You can pretty much be guaranteed to be able to delete the file without worrying about it. But, just to be sure you want to make sure that Windows puts all these files in the same place. Luckily, a holdover command in the code from Windows 2.0 makes this happen! Go to start -> run then type “sysedit” Choose Autoexec.bat (which will most likely be empty.) Type
Set temp = c:\windows\temp (make sure the directory exists of course! J
This forces not only windows (which does it by default,) but ALL windows programs, if written correctly, to write their .tmp files into that directory. Then you can simply blow everything out once a week or so without any problems. Other wise you’ll have to use the Windows search function to find these files, and run the risk of accidentally deleting something you do need.
In Internet Explorer is very easy to get rid of its temporary files. With IE open go to Tools-> Internet Options. Click on Delete Files. Make sure you put a check next to “Delete offline content,” then hit delete. This will clear all of IE’s temporary files and it’s cached files.
Due to a “feature” in Windows, Netscape is a bit harder to do though. It’s “Clear Cache” function doesn’t delete everything it needs to do. So, go to c:\program files\netscape\users\default\ and delete both the cache directory and and the netscape.hst file. Keep in mind that this and the above trick does delete all your ‘visited’ links.
Also, running scandisk and defrag on your computer about once a week is a good idea. Scandisk will clean up and corrupted files, and trust me you WILL have some. Defrag goes along and puts all the parts of a file back together into the same place on the hard drive. This increases the speed with which the file can be opened off of the hard drive.
Another relatively small thing that many people don’t think about is the number of fonts in your system. Windows also loads each font into memory. If you have more then about 30 or 40 fonts, it’s highly recommended you move them out of the c:\windows\fonts directory. I once had a client who had 1500 fonts loaded. Windows took ten minutes to load. As soon as we shrunk it down to 25 most used, Windows booted like it was on a new computer!
Some people recommend changing the size of your swap file and playing with such settings and read-ahead optimization. In Windows 98 setting the system performance for “Server” makes Windows load a bit faster. In Windows 2000 setting the Maximum registry size to about 20-30 megs makes a bit of a difference, especially if you install a lot of software. Changing the size of the swap file has never seemed to make a difference in any of the tests I’ve run, but may make a difference with you.