Tuning Windows XP

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Getting the highest performance out of Windows XP.

I did a similar article a few months back about tuning a Windows PC. Much of it was more aimed at the older FAT32 file system Microsoft Operating Systems such as Windows 95, 98 and ME. Now, with people so rapidly migrating to the NTFS file system OS's such as Windows 2000 and XP I thought it was about time to revisit this and aim it more at those users.

Common Sense

many of the same basic rules of common sense apply here as well. Keep your task bar clean. Don't have a bunch of unnecessary applications running down by your clock. Programs that commonly add themselves to the startup are things like Real Player, Quicktime Player, Winamp and such that can EASILY be disabled with no problems.

Anti-Virus' and Firewalls are another story, the purpose of those programs requires that they run all the time. In this case you are best off not using a real resource heavy utility like Norton's stuff or MacAfee's. There is a free anti-virus program out there called AVG Anti-Virus, which is a very good anti-virus program, plus is very light weight compared to big apps like Norton and MacAfee. For firewalls it mightbe worth looking into Sygate's Free Personal Firewall. Many consumer tests rank this is the best of consumer firewalls whether free or not.


Windows is actually several "applications" that are constantly running. These applications are often referred to as "services" some of them are necessary, some of them are not. With any multimedia PC, it is in the users best interest to have as few of these services running as possible. To do this you need to look through the list of processes that are running when you are at a blank desktop. You can get the this list with the "three finger salute", that being pressing ctrl > alt > del and then clicking on the "Processes" tab in the resulting dialog. Also, the services themselves are easy to manage by typing services.msc in the run dialog. We will go through a few of these services and explain what they are. It is up to you to decide if you want or need that service running.

Automatic Updates - If you go to the Windows Update site on a regular basis, or you are running on a dialup internet connection, you are best leaving this disabled. This periodically goes to Microsoft and sees what updates are available for your PC.

Computer Browser - Maintains a list of PC's on a network.

DHCP Client - Accepts dynamically assigned IP's and DNS form a DHCP server. if you are on a broadband internet connection, and do not have a static IP you may need to leave this service running to keep you connection, many ISP's operate with DHCP networks.

Internet Connection/Firewall Sharing - Personally I recommend disabling this and using a third-party firewall for security.

Telnet - If you don't know what this is you certainly don't need it running, and it can actually be a security risk. Telnet is a method of accessing remote PC's.

Remote Registry Service - Allows the registry to be changed remotely...I recommend disabling.

Netmeeting Remote Desktop Sharing - If you don't use Netmeeting, disable it.

Telephony - Provides telephony suport via internet and LAN. if you don't use it, disable it.

Windows Zero Configuration - Auto-config for 802.11 adapters. (Wireless network devices)

Of course there are many others that may be added by specific hardware or software in your PC, for example, I have some ATI services becasue of my video card, but not everybody would so I won't get in to those. It also is true that the less services you have running the more secure your server is as well. So you are getting a leaner running PC plus a more secure one.

Tuning Tips

There are also several other setting and options that one can use to get the most power out of XP. SOme of them come at the expense of the "prettier" features of Windows XP, but if performance is what you are looking for, then sometimes that is the price you have to pay. Some of these are just simple configuration options scattered around Windows, but other require registry edits, which, if you are unfamiliar with editing the Windows Registry, it might be best off to leave them alone. If you feel lucky, go to the "run" dialog and enter "regedit" and have some fun and see what happens :-)

1. Processor scheduling should be set to background services and not Programs
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced Tab > Background Services

2. Visual effects should be set to a minimum.
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Visual Effects Tab > Adjust for best performance

3. Switch Off Desktop Background Image
Right Click Desktop > Properties > Desktop Tab > Background None

4. Disable Screen Saver
Right Click Desktop > Properties > Screen Saver > None

5. Disable Fast User Switching
Start > Settings > Control Panel > User Accounts > Change the way users log on or off > Untick Use Fast User Switching

6. Switch Off Power Schemes
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Options > Always On > Turn off monitor and turn off hard discs to Never

7. Switch Off Hibernation
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Options > Hibernate > Untick Hibernation

8. Activate DMA on Hard Discs/CD ROMS
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager > IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers > Right Click Primary IDE channel and Secondary IDE channel > Properties > Advanced Settings Tab > Transfer Mode to "DMA if available" for both devices

9. Disable System Sounds
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Sounds Tab > Sound Scheme to None

10. Do Not Map Through Soundcard
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Hardware Tab > (highlight your soundcard from the list) > Properties > Audio Devices > (highlight your soundcard from the list) > Properties, and check the "Do not map through this device" checkbox.

11. Disable System Restore
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > System Restore Tab. Tick the "Turn off System Restore on all Drives"

12. Startup and Recovery Options
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Advanced > Startup and Recovery Settings > Untick Automatically Restart

13. Disable Remote Assistance
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Remote > Untick Allow remote assistance invitations to be sent from this computer

14. Fix Swap File Size (Virtual Memory
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced > Virtual Memory Change > Custom Size. Set initial and maximum size to the same value.

15. Speed Up Menus
Start > Run > Regedit > HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Control Panel > Desktop Folder. Set MenuShowDelay to 1

16. Disable Offline Files
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Folder Options > Offline Files Untick "Enable Offline Files"

17. Disable Remote Desktop
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Remote > Untick "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer"

18. Disable Internet Synchronise Time
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Date and Time > Internet Time > Untick "Automatically synchronize with internet time server"

19. Disable Hide Inactive Icons
Start > Settings > Taskbar and Start Menu > Taskbar TAB > Uncheck "Hide Inactive Icons"

20. Disable Automatic Desktop Cleanup Wizard
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display > Desktop > Customise Desktop > Untick "Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days"

21. Disable NTFS Last Access Time Logging (NTFS File Systems Only)
Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > System > CurrentControlSet > Control > Filesystem. Add a new DWORD value - "NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate" and set value to 1.

22. Disable Notification Area Balloon Tips
Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer > Advanced. Create a new DWORD value called EnableBalloonTips and set to 0.

23. Disable CDROM Autoplay
Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > System > CurrentControlSet > Services > Cdrom. Set autorun to 0.

24. Disable Disc Indexing Service
Right Click Start > Explorer > Right Click Each Disc > Properties > Untick "Allow Indexing Service to index this disc for fast file searching"

In Conclusions

I have tried to write a decent, all-purpose tuning article here, in doing so I copied some info from other sites or other places. The list of tuning tips is from MusicXP along with other stuff I have just learned through the years. As always, every PC is different and can do differetn things depending on the other hardware and software in that particular PC.

With this guideline, and your common sense and experimentation, you should be able to get your PC running as smooth and clean as possible.

Related Forum Topics:

User-submitted comments

Oct 20, 2003 02:47 pm
sata raid using pair of raptors &1520highpoint rocketraidpcicard
Based on data I read on the "Radified"Scsi guide, I am embarked on my own adaptation of a method described there, using scsi for boot drive, and programs for its ability to truly multi-task, and ATA drives for data storage.Also the article on dual-boot herein is a major inspiration for my configuration plans. And although I'm still fuzzy in some areas, like reading and writing to and from, exactly where, I am certain enough about the fact I want to boot from my 88-98mbps raid "0" array I have established with the pair o' raptors. The way I love the sata cables that connect drives to cpu is, well I like'em!
Alls I'm doing by posting this is to try and get aquainted and well I do still have the small mbr problem I will soon fix. And it could be cuz of a response to my post, which would be great.
Basically what I am yet to finish is the editing of my startup&recovery whatchamacallit;
[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect

I say I believe this is my last hurdle to dual booting success, if anybody can add.. thanks

Mar 06, 2005 08:09 am
are all these really nesercerry??


Jan 30, 2008 05:02 pm
Necessary? Not necessarily :) Depending on the power of your PC though, they could make all the difference in the world.

Mar 11, 2011 10:28 am
good stuff!
I know this is a really old article, but I just went down the list and tweaked my old pc, and it really did boost performance. This is still valuable stuff for the budget home recorder who uses old stuff. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Thanks dB!

Feb 22, 2012 04:17 am
new york it services
My system has dumb of virus.anybody gie me solution..http://www.telxnyc.com

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