Turning Off System Restore Improves Performance: FALSE
System Restore is a real aid when it comes to rolling back bad Windows patches and driver updates, but by its very nature, it is said to impact performance because it’s always creating restore points, thus robbing you of a little power. The truth: System Restore lurks idle most of the time and rarely does anything at all, creating checkpoints only during app installs plus once every 24 hours by default. Even then it spends only a few seconds doing so and only during idle time. It’s virtually unthinkable that you’d try to run a program at the exact same time that System Restore began creating a restore point, and even if you did, you probably wouldn’t notice. The proof is in the benchmarks: We got nearly identical results on PCMark whether System Restore was on or off. (Note, however, that System Restore can consume a fair amount of disk space—this is configurable—so if gigabytes are precious to you, consider throttling it back.)
Defragmenting SSD Drives Is Useful: FALSE
Regardless of the actual value of defragmenting a physical hard disk (see the tip below), there’s really no value at all in defragging an SSD. The reason has to do with the way flash memory is constructed. The theory behind defragmenting a hard drive is to order data into contiguous, uninterrupted segments of the disk. But flash memory isn’t built that way: Blocks of data are placed throughout the drive space and are all accessible with the exact same speed, and since there are no moving parts in an SSD, there’s no advantage to rearranging them. Some even caution that, since flash memory is limited to a finite number of writes before it fails, defragmenting can actually do more harm than good.
Defragmenting Your Hard Drive Improves Performance: TRUE
One of the most venerable suggestions for improving disk performance is to defragment your hard drive regularly. The science of defragging is sound: By putting all the bits of a file or application in sequential order on your drive, the drive should have to do less work (and spend less time) to access those files. Thus: faster performance. Well, in practice it’s not really true. Today’s hard drives are fast enough to make fragmentation largely irrelevant, and our benchmark tests have repeatedly borne this out: On moderately fragmented drives, defragmentation will offer negligible to no performance increase. For seriously fragmented drives (think 40 percent or more), especially those running XP or older OSes, defragmentation can help, but don’t expect the world. As for third-party defrag tools, there’s no real evidence that they’re any more effective than Windows’ built-in defragger.
Click Disk Defragmenter under Accessories / System Tools.
Eliminate the Recent Documents/Recent Items Folder With a Registry Hack: TRUE
For privacy reasons, many users on shared computers like to clear the Recent Documents folder or delete it altogether. Totally understandable, but there’s no need to turn to the registry to do the job. It’s all in the invaluable TweakUI (and in Vista, it’s built into the OS).
In XP: Install TweakUI and browse to the Explorer section; then uncheck “Allow Recent Documents on Start menu.”
In Vista, right-click the taskbar, click the Start Menu tab, and uncheck “Store and display a list of recently opened files.”
Turning Off The Windows Splash Screen Will Shave Time Off Your Boot: TRUE
No one seriously needs to be reminded they’re running Windows while the computer is loading the OS, right? Turning off the Windows splash screen ought to cut a little bit off of system boot time. For most systems, this generally works, but we never saw an average improvement of more than two seconds—and even less on Vista systems (probably because in lieu of the animated progress bar, you get a colorful Aurora). Still, a second is a second....
XP: At the Run prompt, type msconfig. Click the BOOT.INI tab, and select the
Very similar for Vista: Run msconfig, click the Boot tab, and select the No GUI Boot option.
Turning Off Support For 8.3 Filenames Will Improve Performance: TRUE
To maintain backward compatibility, Windows keeps an alias of every file and folder name in the old 8.3 format, even on NTFS partitions that support long filenames. The odds that you will ever need to use this format to access a file are incredibly small, so you can turn it off via a registry hack. The tip does nothing for general performance, but it can shorten the time it takes to open and display folders, though you’ll notice a difference only with extremely full folders (1,000 items or more) and usually only the first time they are opened.
Run regedit and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem. Select NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation and change the value to 1.
A Registry Hack Lets You Keep Windows From Rebooting Automatically After Installing Updates: TRUE
Another huge nuisance in Windows. There’s just nothing quite like leaving a file open overnight, then returning to your PC in the morning to find that Microsoft has helpfully restarted your machine for you, shoving all your work into digital limbo and leaving an evil calling card: “This update required an automatic restart.” It’s possible to stop auto-reboots, but it’ll take a registry hack.
Run regedit and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Polices\Microsoft\Windows. Create a new key under Windows and call it WindowsUpdate. Now create another new key under WindowsUpdate called AU. With AU selected, in the right-hand pane right-click and create a New DWORD. Call it NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers. Double-click the DWORD and give it a value of 1. Reboot, and Windows’s death grip over your system will be ended.
A Registry Hack Lets You Alphabetize The All Programs List Automatically: TRUE
One of Windows’s little eccentricities is that when you install a new application it places it in the All Programs list at the bottom, not in alphabetic order where it belongs. You can manually reorder the list by right-clicking on one of its entries and clicking Sort by Name, but you’ll need a complicated registry hack to automate things every time you install an app.
Run regedit and browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer. Right-click the MenuOrder key (in the left-hand pane) and select Permissions. Click Advanced. Deselect “Include inheritable permissions...” (Vista) or “Include from parent the permission...” (XP). Click Copy at the Security pop-up. Click OK. Now, back in the Permissions view, select your user name and deselect “Allow” next to Full Control in the Permissions pane at the bottom of the window. Repeat this step for any groups you are part of (Administrators, etc.). Reboot. Now when you install apps, they’ll be alphabetized automatically. Whew!
Turning On Multiple Cores In Vista Improves Boot Time: FALSE
You’ll find an option within Vista’s msconfig utility that cryptically lets you set the “Number of processors” used during boot. By default it is turned off (with the drop-down set to 1). We tried upping the setting to 2 on a dual-core system and, guess what, no change in boot time whatsoever. Turns out this is just a debug setting for coders who want to test how programs load on single-core machines without having to physically go to a less-sophisticated PC. It can be completely ignored. By default Windows uses all your cores.
Superfetch Boosts Performance: TRUE
Superfetch is an update of the XP Prefetcher, designed to more intelligently load applications into RAM based on frequency of use. With Superfetch on, your PC should theoretically get faster over time, particularly when loading frequently used apps. You won’t see improvement in general performance, like rendering Photoshop files, but Superfetch does tend to make apps load 10 to 20 percent more quickly, depending on their size.
Superfetch is on by default. To ensure that it’s active, go to the Control Panel, open Administrative Tools, and select Services. Scroll down to Superfetch and ensure that it is set to “Started” and “Automatic.”
Write Caching Will Improve Performance On SATA Drives: TRUE
This feature is disabled by default in Vista because if your computer loses power before a write is completed, you can lose data. If you’re confident in your UPS’s capabilities, crank it up and you’ll see at least a 10 percent improvement in performance. Remember, write caching is supported only on SATA drives. The options are grayed out for older ATA disks.
In Explorer, right-click the drive you want to speed up and select Properties. Click the Hardware tab, select Properties again. Click the Policies tab. Check both of the boxes beneath “Optimize for performance.”
ReadyBoost Will Improve System Performance: TRUE
Yes and no. If you have a reasonably modern system, with even 1GB of RAM or more, you won’t see any performance increase from ReadyBoost, which lets you use removable flash memory to cache disk operations. In fact, with lots of RAM, we saw a slight dip in performance when using ReadyBoost. The picture is different if you’re pathetically RAM-poor: With just 512MB of RAM, app load times and general performance can be modestly improved with ReadyBoost... but why not spring for some real DIMMs instead of this half-baked setup? You shouldn’t be running Vista at all with so little RAM, nor should you be reading this magazine. 2GB of name-brand RAM will cost you less than 50 bucks; pricier than a 2GB thumb drive but oh so worth it.
If you really want to run ReadyBoost, the easiest way to turn it on is to insert your thumb drive and allow AutoPlay to run. Select “Speed up my system” from the menu. If you have AutoPlay disabled, right- click the thumb drive in the Computer view, select Properties, and choose the ReadyBoost tab. Dial ReadyBoost up to the maximum supported level of 4GB.