your data or create a system restore point in case of a mishap. To better understand the Registry read my Registry 101. These instructions are also available on video.
Free up Memory:
Force Windows to unload DLLs
The most important thing in performance is the available memory to the system. When a program starts, it's loaded into system memory including resources the program may need such as Dynamic Link Libraries (DLL). When the program shuts down, not all DLL's are removed from the memory. This is due to the way the OS operates. It keeps the DLL in memory in case the program starts again. This take up valuable system memory which will hinder performance on computers with little memory. To force Windows to remove unused DLL's from memory, start the Registry editor. When the Registry editor starts and shows all categories, Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer. If the key AlwaysUnloadDll is not listed, then create it as a DWORD and give it a value of 1. NOTE: If running older DOS programs or 16-bit programs, you may experience errors using this setting. If you are receiving errors with this setting, go back and delete the entry or give it a value of 0.
Reduce visual effects
Another way you can free up memory is by reducing the amount of colors from 32-bit to16-bit. Click Start > Control Panel > Display. In the lower right hand corner, change colors to 16-bit. Reducing the resolution, will also reduce memory usage. Turn off XP's appearance features by clicking Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings. Under Visual Effects, choose Adjust for best performance or you can choose Custom to select certain features like Show Thumbnails.
Avoid DOS programs
DOS programs do not allow Windows to manage the memory properly. DOS programs hold on to the memory they use preventing Windows from swapping them out to free memory for other programs using the Page File.
Remove unwanted or unused icons from the desktop
For the computer to keep track each icon requires more memory usage. Clean up the desktop by right clicking on the desktop, choose Properties > Desktop > Customize Desktop > Clean Desktop Now. Follow the instructions. By checking Run every 60 days, will help keep the clutter to a minimum.
Turn off services and programs you do not need or use
By default, Windows runs every service and program known, whether you use them or not, that takes up unnecessary memory. Click Start > All Programs > then Startup. This folder shows some of the programs that startup when Windows starts. Remove the programs from the folder or hold the SHIFT key down while Windows is starting to prevent the programs from starting. Next, Click Start, then Run. Type msconfig and press enter. Click on the Startup tab. These programs also start when Windows is starting. Un-check programs you do not want to run during startup, choose OK and reboot. You can also use this technique to find a problem causing program. If you're not sure what the program does you can go on the internet and search for the program for more information as to what it does. Finally, if you click on the Services tab, will show Windows services that run in the background. Msconfig doesn't show the description to what a particular service do. To see the description for a service, click Start > Run > type services.msc > press enter. Select a service to see it's description. Services like Smart Card can be disabled unless you require a card to access your computer. If using Wi-Fi, Windows uses the Wireless Zero Configuration service, but if you are using adapters like Linksys, Netgear, and Belkin, this service is not required since these adapters use their own configuration program. Disable this service if you are using a wired Ethernet connection. To disable a service, right click the service then choose Properties. Under the General tab choose Disable for Startup Type.
Speed up XP:
Prevent Windows from being sent to the page file
Windows often sends part of itself to the pagefile to free up memory to allow other programs to run faster. This feature can slow down Windows. If your computer has more than 512MB of system memory, you can keep Windows resident in memory by starting regedit, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\DisablePagingExecutive and change the value to 1.
Prefech allows Windows to track most commonly used programs and files to be loaded into the memory cache for faster access instead of waiting for the hard drive since memory can be accessed much faster. The Registry Key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters\EnablePrefetcher has 4 options. Changing the value to 0 disables Prefetch, 1 prefetches application launch files, 2 prefetches boot files, and 3 prefetches as many files as possible. To see what files are prefetched, go to C: \Windows\Prefetch. You can use different settings to see what is being prefetched after clearing the prefetch folder and rebooting the system.
Disable NTFS 8.3 Name Creation
Windows XP uses the New Technology File System (NTFS), which is a step above FAT16 and FAT32 from previous versions of Windows. NTFS allows Long Filenames to be created instead of the traditional 8.3 type filenames. For example, myprogram.data instead of myprogra.dat. When using old 16-bit programs, NTFS keeps track of the filenames and converts them for the program to understand. This process degrades the NTFS performance. It is recommended to use newer versions of your programs. Unless you really need NTFS to track 8.3 names, disable the Resgistry Key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem\NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation by changing it's value to 1.
Convert FAT16 and FAT32 to NTFS
Most computers that came with XP installed use NTFS, however, if you upgraded from a previous version of Windows, you do have the option to convert to NTFS. NTFS is far superior with added security, performance, reliability, and disk space utilization, including support for metadata. To convert the hard disk to NTFS, click Start, then Run, type convert drive: /fs:ntfs, where drive: is the letter of the drive you want to convert. There are additional options for the NTFS convert command: /v provides information of the drive being converted, /nosecurity will set privileges so all files can be accessed by anyone, and /x will dismount the drive from the network to prevent interruptions from other users trying to access the drive during the conversion process. For example: convert d: /fs:ntfs /v will convert drive D: to NTFS with information of the drive being converted. NOTE: If you are using a dual-boot OS due to incompatible programs running in XP, DO NOT convert a drive to NTFS! Previous versions like Windows ME cannot read NTFS drives. Upgrade the programs to versions compatible with XP.
Decrease XP's startup time
To speed up XP's startup, have XP perform a boot defragment everytime it starts. This will put all of the boot files next to each other which will provide faster, startup times. Not all computers have this feature turned on. You can check the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Dfrg\BootOptimizeFunction to see if the Enable string value is set to Y. If it isn't, change or add the key.
Decrease XP's shutdown time
To speed up XP's shutdown, don't have XP clear the page file. For Security reasons, XP clears the page file before shutting down which can take some time depending on different variables. The page file stores temporary data to free up the system memory for other programs. Some people would rather have the page file cleared upon shut down due to sensitive data they were working on. If security isn't an issue, change the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\ClearPageFileAtShutdown value to 0
Use ClearType fonts:
ClearType is a feature which allows users with LCD (or Flat screens) and laptops to better read the text on high resolutions like 1440x900 that my laptop uses. To turn on Microsoft's ClearType technology, right-click the Desktop > choose Properties > Appearance > Effects. When the Effects dialog box appears, click the box next to Use the following notice a difference in legibility of the fonts. I do not recommend using ClearType on standard monitors since they make it worse and cause headaches to arise. Once enabled, ClearType only works after you log on to Windows. To make ClearType work before the log on to Windows, open the Registry Editor and change the key HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\ControlPanel\Desktop\FontSmoothingType value to 2. Exit the editor and reboot.
Need more System Memory?
How can you tell if you really need to spend money on a memory upgrade? The truth is it may not be necessary. It mainly depends on what the computer is used for. If you are just an average computer user, than a memory upgrade isn't necessary. If you are editing movies, burning CD/DVD's, editing photos, playing high performance games, etc, then a memory upgrade is probably necessary. One way to tell if you computer needs the upgrade, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete. When Task Manager comes up, choose Performance. This tab indicates how system resources are utilized.
CPU Usage refers to the percentage of the processor being used (The lower this number the better). CPU Usage History reveals how the processor was used over a period of time. If the CPU is steady above 50% for a long period of time, may indicate a program or system crash may ensue. PF Usage refers to the amount, in KiloBytes (KB), of the Pagefile is being used. Page File History shows how the Page File was utilized over a period of time.
Handles reveal how many resources are being used by programs and processes such as Registry keys, Fonts, and Bitmaps.
Threads indicate the number of tasks that programs or processes are performing. A single program can have several tasks or threads.
Processes is the number of programs and processes currently running on the computer. I mentioned earlier, in Free up Memory on how to shut down programs, services, and processes.
COMMIT CHARGE (Kilobytes):
Total is the combined amount of Physical Memory (RAM) and Virtual Memory (Page File) being used in KiloBytes. The higher the commit charge the more strain on the system.
Limit is the amount of virtual and physical memory free for use.
Peak indicates the highest total amount of memory used since the last boot up.
Physical Memory (Kilobytes):
Total displays the amount of RAM installed in the computer. To convert to MB, divide the total by 1,024.
Available reports the amount of free memory. When the memory is used up, Windows begins using the Page File.
System Cache indicates the amount of RAM being used for recently accessed programs and data. When a program or a data file is accessed, it is then loaded into the cache even when the program or data file no longer in use. The computer will look to this cache before going to the hard drive since memory access is much faster.
Kernel Memory (Kilobytes):
Total reports the amount of memory being used by the primary components of the XP kernel, which are the files that make up the operating system.
Paged is the amount of Virtual Memory (Page File) being used by Windows Kernel.
Nonpaged is the amount of Physical Memory being used by Windows Kernel.
If the Commit Charge Total exceeds the total physical memory, can some what slow the system down. This event causes Windows to rely on the Page File located on the hard drive. It must clear out idle programs from the physical memory and relocate them to the Page File. If the Page File fills up then the system is out of memory. The constant transfers from memory to Page File back to memory will hinder system performance. Remember, the memory can be accessed faster than the hard drive.
If the Peak Commit Charge is frequently at or near the Limit Commit Charge, an increase in the Page File size or Physical memory is needed. This event indicates a problem with low memory. The Page File size should be 1.5 times that of the total physical memory installed.