Steps to restoring Windows' snappy performance

Many Windows slowdowns are due to an errant application that is hogging memory or CPU time. An example is provided by reader Gilbert Anderson. One of his co-workers gradually lost cursor control for longer and longer periods when closing Microsoft Word or Excel files. It got so bad that 19 seconds were required to regain control.

It turns out that the setup of Office 97 had installed the Outlook e-mail client, which defaults to "journaling" the date/time/duration-edited of files.

Anderson found more than 2700 entries logged, even though his friend had never used Outlook. Deleting these entries and clicking Tools-Options-Journal to turn off Outlook's logging immediately restored the original snap.

One way to find out about "hidden" processes like these is to run a free Microsoft utility called WinTop under Windows 95 or 98. You can do the same thing with the Processes tab in Windows NT 4.0.

This utility shows you how much CPU time various programs are consuming. If you find a process that's doing something unusual, you can take action.

WinTop is part of the Kernel Power Toys. It's downloadable from http://www.microsoft.com/windows95/downloads/contents/wutoys/w95kerneltoy/default.asp. Follow the unzip instructions, then read Wintop.txt. The Microsoft Web page says the toys are only for Win 95, but I run WinTop under Win 98 all the time with no problem.

Another trick that can improve performance in Windows involves the swapfile. Windows creates this file to handle situations when your applications and data exceed the physical RAM.

Many readers configure their swapfile to be the same size all the time. This saves Windows the overhead of increasing and decreasing the swapfile's size as you work.

How big should you make the swapfile, though? I've seen recommendations that you make a fixed swapfile that is two to three times the size of your RAM. But the truth is, the less RAM you have, the larger the swapfile you need.

The best way to determine the proper size, therefore, is to make the size appropriate for your system. Here's a procedure (using Windows 98 as an example) to find the optimum size and lock your swapfile onto it:

1. In Win98, run Sysmon.exe. In the System Monitor window, look for a graph entitled Memory Manager: Swapfile Size. If this graph isn't visible, pull down the Edit menu, then click Add Item-Memory Manager-Swapfile Size-OK to make the graph appear.

2. Pull down the View menu and make sure Always On Top is selected. Then click Options-Chart and make sure an Update Interval of three seconds or so is selected.

3. Open your largest applications and their largest documents, such as word processing, spreadsheet and graphics files. Consume RAM as you would on a major project.

4. In the System Monitor window, click the Swapfile Size chart. The status line should show the Peak Value of your swapfile. Note this and close all your windows.

5. Create a defragmented swapfile by temporarily reducing your swapfile to zero bytes and defragmenting your hard drive. To change the swapfile size to zero, run the Control Panel's System applet. Click the Performance tab, then click the Virtual Memory button. Change the Minimum and Maximum values to zero. Restart Windows and defragment your drives.

6. Create a permanent swapfile at least as large as the Peak Value you found in Step 4. If you have two physical hard drives, specify the faster one for your swapfile.

Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 98 Secrets (IDG Books)

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brian Livingston

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?