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Tuning Windows XP’s Performance : More Optimization Tricks

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The rest of this article takes you through three tricks for eking out a bit more performance from your system: adjusting power option, disabling fast user switching, and turning off visual effects.

Adjusting Power Options

Windows XP’s power management options can shut down your system’s monitor or hard disk to save energy. Unfortunately, it takes a few seconds for the system to power up these devices again, which can be frustrating when you want to get back to work. There are two things you can do to eliminate or reduce this frustration:

  • Don’t let Windows XP turn off the monitor and hard disk— Run Control Panel’s Power Options icon to display the Power Options Properties dialog box. In the Power Schemes tab, use the Power Schemes list to select the Always On item (this is optional) and select Never in the Turn Off Monitor and Turn Off Hard Disks lists. For good measure, you should also make sure that Never is selected in the System Standby and System Hibernates lists.

  • Don’t use a screensaver— Again, it can take a few seconds for Windows XP to recover from a screensaver. To ensure that you’re not using one, launch Control Panel’s Display icon, select the Screen Saver tab, and choose (None) in the Screen Saver list. If you’re worried about monitor wear and tear, use the Blank or Windows XP screensavers, which are relatively lightweight and exit quickly. Also, be sure to deactivate the On Resume, Display Welcome Screen check box to avoid having to log on all over again each time you exit the screen saver.


Turning Off Fast User Switching

Windows XP’s Fast User Switching feature enables multiple users to keep programs and documents running concurrently, which makes it easy to quickly switch from one user to another. Of course, having multiple sets of running programs and open documents adds to the memory and resource requirements of your system, which slows down performance for all users. In other words, the time saved by switching users quickly is most likely lost several times over by overall slower performance.

Therefore, you should disable Fast User Switching by following these steps:

1.
Launch Control Panel’s User Accounts icon.

2.
Click the Change the Way Users Log On or Off link.

3.
Deactivate the Use Fast User Switching check box.

4.
Click Apply Options.

Reducing the Use of Visual Effects

Windows XP uses a large number of visual effects to enhance the user’s overall Windows experience. For example, Windows XP animates the movement of windows when you minimize or maximize them; it fades or scrolls in menus and tooltips; and it adds small visual touches such as shadows under menus and the mouse pointer. Most of these effects serve merely cosmetic purposes and are drains (albeit small ones) on system performance. If you don’t need some or all of these effects, there are various methods you can use to turn them off:

  • Launch Control Panel’s Display Icon, select the Appearance tab, and click Effects. In the Effects dialog box (see Figure 1), deactivate the following check boxes:

    Use the Following Transition Effect for Menus and Tooltips

    Use the Following Method to Smooth Edges of Screen Fonts

    Show Shadows Under Menus

    Show Windows Contents While Dragging

    Hide Underlined Letters for Keyboard Navigation Until I Press the Alt Key

    Figure 1. Turn off most of the check boxes in the Effects dialog box to improve performance.

  • While you have the Display Properties dialog box open, select the Settings tab and choose Medium (16 bit) in the Color Quality list. Using fewer colors gives your graphics card less to do, which should speed up video performance. Also, click Advanced, display the Troubleshooting tab, and make sure that the Hardware Acceleration slider is set to Full.

  • Launch Control Panel’s System icon, display the Advanced tab, and click Settings in the Performance group. In the Visual Effects tab of the Performance Options dialog box (see Figure 2), either activate the Adjust for Best Performance option (which deactivates all the check boxes) or activate Custom and then deactivate the check boxes for the effects you want to disable.

Figure 2. Turn off the check boxes in the Visual Effects tab to improve performance.


  • Launch Tweak UI and select the Mouse branch. Move the Menu Speed slider all the way to the left (Fast). This eliminates the delay when you hover the mouse over a menu item that displays a submenu. This is equivalent to setting the following Registry value to 0:

       HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\MenuShowDelay

Other -----------------
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