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138. Make a healthy computer run even faster

By Andrew D. Wright

Here are some things you can do to increase a healthy Windows computer's speed and performance.


1. Remove any programs and services you don't need from starting up with the computer. The more little programs that need system resources, the slower the computer is. Windows has a built-in tool called msconfig that lets you disable unwanted programs from starting up automatically. Microsoft Sysinternals has an even better free program called Autoruns that gives you complete control over everything that starts up with the computer.

Press Windows key and r, type in: msconfig, hit Enter then select the Startup tab.


2. Disable disk indexing. Windows XP and Vista use a disk indexing system to make searching your hard drive faster. Most people don't search their hard drive that often, so maybe saving a few seconds there isn't that important. The indexing program runs all the time though, tying up the hard drive with a constant stream of minor file changes.

Open Windows Explorer (Windows key and E) and right click on your hard drive, usually C:, and select Properties. On the bottom of the Properties window uncheck "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk". A new window will pop up. Select to apply the changes to all files and sub-folders. An error box will pop up when a file in use can't be updated - select Ignore All. The changes will take a few minutes.


3. Defragment your hard drive. In the same hard drive Properties window as above, click on the Tools tab and click on Defragment Now. This may take awhile. It's not a bad idea to run this three or four times in a row to make sure that all the files on the hard drive have been put together and that all open space on the drive is in one big chunk. This will be important for the next step.


4. Adjust your swap file size and location. A swap file is the place your computer puts data being worked on temporarily to free up physical memory for other tasks. The swap file is also known as virtual memory. By default Windows makes this file resizable on the fly, which can mean longer times to update the swap file and opens the possibility of a slower, fragmented swap file. The ideal is to have one fixed-size swap file in one unbroken piece.

First clear out the old swap file. Go to Start, right click on My Computer in XP, Computer in Vista, and select Properties. In Vista, then select Advanced system settings. In XP and Vista click on the Advanced tab and click the Settings button under Performance. Click the Advanced tab on the new window and under Virtual memory click on Change.

Click on the C: drive where the swap file is now and select No paging file and click the Set button. Click OK to accept the changes and reboot the computer. Windows will complain about not having a swap file.

When the computer has restarted, go back to the same place and this time click on Custom size. Set both the Initial size and the Maximum size to the same value, double the size of your current memory. So if you have 1 GB of RAM, set your swap file to be 2048 MB (count in units of 1024 MB to a maximum size of 4096 MB). Click the Set button and OK and reboot the computer.

On computers with a second physical hard drive as fast or faster than the C: drive, put the swap file on the second hard drive for a little extra performance boost.


Microsoft Sysinternals Autoruns (free):


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Originally published 12 September 2008


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