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Optimising Windows 95/98

Tweaking win2000 and winXP are found here

Windows is very inefficient in the way it opperates. Especially in the way it should be setup for DAW uses. When you need all the available power in your computer to finish off a large multitrack project you will need every last bit of grunt unless you begin making destructive edits. All my work is done in Logic Audio Platinum with very few destructive edits, there are very good reasons why I like to minimise destructive edits. Just because you are working with digital audio doesn't mean you wont lose quality.

DISCLAIMER The owner and writer of this page takes no responiblity for any loss of work and/or damage to work, equipment, persons, family cat or any living entity that may result directly or indirectly from using the tips that the following pages contain. Use at own risk. By continuing to read you agree that any negative effects from these tips are entirely your own fault and in no way mine. blah blah blah....

WARNING Some common sense may be needed when deleting files and carrying out other tweaks contained in my pages. ;-)


Check Your Free Disk Space  
Delete all TMP files  
Delete all CHK files  
Delete all Temp Internet Files  
Get Rid of Excess Fonts  
Defragment Your Hard Drive  
Make Sure Your System Is Using 32-bit Drivers  
Lose autoexec.bat and config.sys  
Clean Out Your Startup Group  
Optimse your swap file / virtual memory  
VCache or Disk Cache  
Disable Write behind Caching  
Turn Off CD-ROM Autoplay  
Turn Off Power Management  
Enable Your Hard Drive's DMA Setting  
Use Hotkeys Instead of Desktop Icons  
Disable Window Animation  

Check Your Free Disk Space

If the free space on a hard disk falls to below 10% of the size of the drive or 100 MB (whichever is smaller), performance slows to an absolute crawl. The easiest way to quickly check your available disk space is to double-click My Computer, hit F5, and click once on C:. The drive's capacity and free disk space will appear in the lower pane of the window. As you will see by the next few topics free disk space really does impact your system more than what most people realise because of multiple factors.....read on.


Delete all TMP files (temporary files)

Temp files are where the computer places information temporarily while it writes that information to disk or waits for you to tell it where that information is to go. What happens if you have heaps of TMP files in your computer is that the computer goes to create the 00001.TMP file and that name is already taken up by another file so it then tries to use 00002.TMP file and if that one exsists I'm sure you can guess what then happens....All this wastes both a computers time and power...

Start > Find > Files or folders > *.tmp will probably turn up some temp files. Ctrl-A-Shift-Del-Enter will banish them without sending them to the Recycle Bin.


Delete all CHK files

CHK files also tend to clutter up hard drives--these are the lost clusters ScanDisk finds and saves unless told otherwise. Start > Find > Files or folders > *.chk may turn up some more candidates for deletion. Ctrl-A-Shift-Del-Enter disposes of them properly.

TIP if you open up the advanced options in scandisk you can tell the program to "free space" and NOT to "convert to files" this means you will never need to search for CHK files again...Or until you format/reinstall windows again.

Delete all Temp Internet Files

Start > Run > c:\Windows and, while holding down the Control key, click once on the folder labeled Temporary Internet Files and once on the folder labeled Cookies. If you have settings that are saved in cookies, such as logon IDs for password-protected web sites, don't select Cookies. Shift-Del will throw away your Internet Explorer cache (IE uses an inordinately high 10% of your available disk space for cache by default) and your Internet Explorer cookies. Internet Explorer will rebuild this folder the next time it's launched.

TIP Yes once again you can change a setting to stop this from EVER becomming a problem. INTERNET EXPLORER>TOOLS>INTERNET OPTIONS>ADVANCED tick the option "empty internet tempory file folder when browser is closed" If you have a slow modem then you may wish to decrease the maximum space for these files instead.


Get Rid of Excess Fonts

Windows 9x is better at font management than Windows 3.1 was, but this platform still has difficulty managing large numbers of fonts. Fonts consume disk space and chew up CPU cycles whether you're using them or not. If you have hundreds of fonts, either get a package like Adobe Type Manager Deluxe that lets you group and categorize them for special projects, or group and categorize them into folders yourself, dragging their contents into your fonts folder as you need them. As long as fonts aren't in the C:\Windows\Fonts directory, they're just occupying disk space, and they're not consuming any CPU cycles. The only people likely to need the Symbol font are mathematicians, college students living in Greek houses, and students studying the Greek language. If you don't fall into any of those three categories, you can ditch Symbol as well. :)

Defragment Your Hard Drive

After you maximize your free space, you want to defragment your drive using Start > Programs > Accessories > Disk Defragmenter. Defragment whether Windows says you need to or not. There are strategies for defragmenting, third-party utilities that do a better job.

Defragment your drive after you remove any large quantity of data from your hard drive, as well as any time you install software. You should also make a habit of defragmenting your drive once a month. Before an important recording session is also a good time to spend the time defragging (and i dont mean playing a quick game of unreal tournament)*smiles*.

The less free space you have on your hard drive, the faster your drive will become fragmented !!! The previous few topics are beginning to seem not so stupid after all.

Make Sure Your System Is Using 32-bit Drivers

If the system is much slower than it should be, there's a good chance that Windows isn't using its native 32-bit drivers for disk access. Another common symptom of this problem is a nonfunctioning CD-ROM drive. To check for more symptoms, press Start, then proceed to Settings > Control Panel > System > Performance. If you see a message that says certain drives are using MS-DOS compatibility mode, you have a problem. Switch over to Device Manager > Hard Disk Controllers. If you see yellow exclamation points, you may have one very common (but perplexing) Windows 9x problem. To fix it, press Start, then proceed to Run > Regedit, then Ctrl-F-NoIDE-Enter. We'll talk about Regedit in a little bit more depth later in this chapter. For now, if Regedit comes back with a key labeled NoIDE highlighted in blue, right-click on it and select Delete. Now restart immediately. You should see an immediate, dramatic improvement in disk performance.


Lose autoexec.bat and config.sys

Rename AUTOEXEC.bat to AUTOEXEC.XYZ and rename CONFIG.bat to CONFIG.XYZ and restart. If you don't run DOS programs, this trick is a double blessing: you speed up your system, and you don't have to change the way you work at all. Renaming the files like this allows you to keep the files for reference, but keeps the system from finding them and using the configuration data in them. Be sure to restart immediately after you do this procedure.

Clean Out Your Startup Group

Loading programs in to RAM will force the computer to use the swap file, see next topic below. I suggest using this utility to unload all programs that load at startup except, External links, SYSTRAY, taskmonitor, and scanregistry....All others can and should go. The only other one I have in here is my firewall. Make sure that you have no more than 5 in here and definately no MS fastfind or MSoffice entries. Virus protection should be removed since you can run it when it is needed.


Optimize Your Swap File , also known as virtual memory.

In a perfect world your computer will never use its swap file at all. If the computer needs the swap file constantly the computer looks to empty the cpu's work to ram, when the ram is full it then empties some of the ram to the hard drive then puts what the CPU was working on in ram. Then the cpu looks for the next data that it needs that should be already in the ram waiting. This shuffling DATA to and from the RAM and hard disk brings a fast CPU to its knees.

Forget what other people have told you about set your swap file to double the amount of ram you have....This wastes huge amounts of hard disk space and when recording if you ever need that much room for a swap file I can tell you now your computer is not going to cope with too many tracks of audio. Setting the swap file's maximum and minimum values to the same number is a good idea but this can cause an even worse thing to occur than letting windows manage the swap file..Your swap file can become fragmented.....Windows 98 is miles ahead of 95 when it comes to managing the swap file so I recommend it is left at its default settings unless you wish draw every once of power out of the computer or are having problems with windows deafult setting... If you only have 1 hard drive I would highly recommend setting the max and min to the same value or the drive has to leave the audio files to make any changes to the swap file (refer to this pagefor more info on this). After changing the value of the swap file defrag your hard drive and reboot to dos. Once in DOS delete the swap file so that when windows is restarted the swap file is rebuilt unfragmented....This is very important. Another trick is too get the autoexec.bat file to delete the swapfile for you everytime the computer starts. Enough free unfragmented space is needed if this trick is to be used. Windows 98 has a utility called SYSTEM MONITOR which can tell you how large your swap file is. It may need to be installed off your CDROM since it is optional when installing windows. Run your programs and look at the size of the swap file when windows is managing its size...This will tell you if you need more RAM and what size to set your permanent swap file to. You will want to make sure windows doesn't reallocate the space for a swap file whilst you are recording or a glitch will be heard...Logic Audio calculates how much room you need for a swap file based on the figure set in audio hardware and drivers. The setting is called "max audio tracks" for this reason you should set this number to as close to the maximum amount of tracks that you will need in the song that you are working on. Logic ensures that windows will not resize your swap file when recording unless you load another program while running logic. Setting the maximum and minimum swap file size to the same number and higher than what you ever need for a swap file isn't necessary for Logic Audio but some other programs aren't as smart and it may need to be done.

I have read heaps of tips on swap files and I shall tell you to ignore most of it...One tip is to set a swap file on another dedicated partition, this seems like a good idea since the swap file will never become fragmented but Partitions other than the primary one will be signifcantly slower depending on how far towards the centre of the drive that partition is. You want the swap file to be in the fastest part of the hard drive and definatly NOT on the same partition as your audio files..Once again a dedicated hard drive for audio begins to make more sense. Recording to the same partion as the swap file and system files can increase the chance of data corruption.

On systems with large amounts of memory (i.e. > 256mb) the hard disk based swap file is not needed as much, this tweak optimizes the use of the swap file on such systems.

Using notepad open the file SYSTEM.INI in your Windows directory.

Find the [386Enh] section and add a new line reading "ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1". Save the file and restart Windows for the change to take effect.


VCache or Disk Cache

Cache can get quite confusing for some people since there are many different types of cache. This section will talk just about VCACHE or disk cache as it is also known as.

Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Performance > File System > Typical Role of this Machine > Network Server. Windows will now store the last 2,729 filenames and the last 64 directory names it's used. Of the well-known tips, this one tends to make the most noticeable difference. Using Network Sever will double the standard settings...For those of you using more than 256 Mb of RAM I will write a registry patch that will double the values for network sever. I will link it HERE. You may use it at your own risk and on the condition you let me know if you noticed a difference after installing it. It will add another option under network sever called "Skinah's DAW Tweak" so you can select and deselect it at will. When playing with this value you will need to allocate more VCACHE to hold/store the extra files in ram or you will not achieve a thing....This is outlined below....


Windows uses its VCACHE to mirror data on your hard drive. It takes only a little bit longer to read 128K off the disk than it takes to read 64K, so when Windows asks for 64K, the VCACHE will go ahead and read more data than Windows asks for. And if Windows asks for the next piece, VCACHE can provide that data from RAM instead of from the disk. Also, if you ask for a piece of data once, there's a decent chance you'll ask for it again, so VCACHE holds whatever data you've loaded last for as long as possible.

To illustrate this principle, try restarting your computer, then loading a large application like Microsoft Word. Count off the seconds before it loads--an unscientific one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand will suffice for this illustration. Now immediately close Word and load it again. This time, it will load much more quickly, because much of Word is loading from RAM rather than from disk.

The correct setting is totally system dependant. I will give you some guidelines that other sites do not tell you....

Setting Vcache to a value less than 8192 can cause problems when burning CD's....It helps to cause "buffer underruns" so set the maximum vcache setting equal to or more than 8192. Next tip is that with increasing the computers role from "desktop" to "network server" or "Skinah's DAW tweak" the computer remembers more and more of the last files you used and keeps them in RAM...If the Vcache is small then not all of the files fit into the allocated space and the full potential of increasing the role is never achieved. The other end of the scale is that if you set the minimum value to a high value this keeps that amount of RAM for vcache and won't allow programs to use that section of RAM... This is why windows is constantly changing the values behind your back. The less RAM u use the more it allocates to Vcache. Once again you can use SYSTEM MONITOR to graph your disk cache settings while windows has control over the settings to see what your system needs under normal applications. Just remember that windows uses something like 75% of available ram for caching so make sure you load your sequencing program and a large song before looking at the values.... my settings are 10240 minimum and 32768 maximum since my computer always uses the 32768 value unless the system is very low on ram where it will then decrease to the 10240 setting. I find my computer NEVER resizes the vcache with these settings since I have enough RAM in my computer for the applications that I run. You can make the values anything you like although I highly recommend sticking to values that are multiples of 1024 due to the way a computer counts with base 2.....A bit is either a 1 or a 0, so you have two choices in binary code (2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2=1024) 1024 is 10bits.

The VCACHE settings are found in a file called "system.ini" in your windows directory.

v-cache settings in tweaking windows win-98 and me for audio recording.


Write Caching

By default, Windows is set to enable disk "write  caching" which basically means that rather than writing files to hard disk immediately, Windows puts the (audio and other) data in RAM first, waiting for a chance to write it to disk. 
Unfortunately, if you're recording a lengthy bit of audio, this "chance" may never come, and Windows will simply run out of RAM and try to dump any audio (or other) file/s currently in RAM to your hard disk. This can potentially cause data loss, audio glitches and other "fun" stuff.

  • To disable write caching...right-click on the My Computer icon on your desktop and scroll to Properties in the menu which appears.
  • In the ensuing window/s, click on the Performance Tab and then File System buttons, respectively.
  • In the next window, click on the Troubleshooting Tab and check the "Disable Write-Behind Caching.." checkbox.

Turn Off CD-ROM Autoplay

Under some circumstances, Windows 9x polls the CD-ROM drive every few seconds to see if a CD has been inserted. Depending on the nature of your system, this can make things noticeably more sluggish. Control Panel > System > Device Manager > CD-ROM > <name of your CD-ROM drive> > Properties > Settings. Clear the box labeled Auto Insert Notification, then click OK. If you have more than one CD or DVD device, repeat this process for each drive in your system.

If you are recording and your computer is close to 100% CPU power the simple checking the cdrom drive can cause clicks and pops at regular intervals...Also if a hard drive is sharing an IDE channel with a cdrom and it checks for a cd in the drive then that hard drive cannot be accessed !!! click here for more info regarding this and IDE.

Turn Off Power Management

By default, Windows will shut down your hard drive after a period of inactivity. This feature can cause significant slowdowns, because your drive then has to power back up the next time it's accessed. The delay can easily be a second or more. This delay will be noticeable if your disk cache has been working well and your system hasn't had to access the drive for a long period of time, but a sudden change of events makes the system look to the drive.

The wisdom of turning off hard drives in order to save power is questionable anyway. This practice causes them to wear out much more quickly, and the amount of money you save will be pennies per year, if that--the amount of power a modern hard drive consumes is that negligible. Reducing the lifespan of a useful drive that will cost $200 to replace in order to save a dime just doesn't seem like a wise move.

In laptop computers, the situation is a little bit different since your primary concern is battery life, rather than performance or longevity. You have little choice but to use power management on your laptop; however, keep it turned off on your desktop computer.

In Windows 95, go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power. Clear the box that reads "Allow Windows to manage power usage on this computer." Then click on the Disk Drives tab and clear the checkbox there as well.

In Windows 98, go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Management > Power Schemes > Home/office desk > Turn off hard disks > Never.


Use Hotkeys Instead of Desktop Icons

Some people many see this as over the top, and yes it is unless you have lots and lots of icons on the desktop. If you set your vcache settings correct the icons should be in the cache. Many people keep shortcuts to their most frequently used applications on their desktop. In the past, I've recommended that people follow this practice. Unfortunately, having dozens of icons on the desktop slows the system down for the same reason that having desktop wallpaper does, only more so because the system frequently has to load the icons from disk when redrawing the desktop. Keep your desktop simple--if you need fast access to certain key applications and don't want to navigate the Start menu, define hotkeys instead. They're faster than double-clicking an icon, they're always available without having to make the desktop visible again, and they don't slow the system down.

To make a hotkey, right-click on the Start menu and hit Explore. Navigate to your program's icon, then right-click on it and hit Properties. Click the Shortcut tab, and click in the box labeled Shortcut Key. Hit a key that makes sense--I typically use the first letter of the application's name--then hit OK. From then on, hitting Ctrl-Alt and that letter key will launch that application.

If you only have one hard drive then this tip is a good idea.... If you have two drives then it doesn't hurt to have a few around to help people find applications. I prefer a clean desktop anyway and using hotkeys is good once you get used to the idea.....that is until you then use another computer or format the disk LOL.


Enable Your Hard Drive's DMA Setting

THIS IS A MUST. If your disk controller is capable of direct memory access (DMA) and has the correct driver installed, you can dramatically reduce the amount of CPU power your drives require. DMA permits the controller chip to write to memory directly, rather than sending it to the CPU and making the CPU write it to memory. This feature alone doesn't do much to improve the speed of the data transfer, but it does permit the CPU to do other work while disk access is taking place, which can increase overall system speed.

Many people know to download the DMA-capable drivers for their disk controllers, but they frequently miss this step, which negates most of the benefit of having the drivers. To enable DMA, go to Start > Control Panel > System > Device Manager > Disk Drives > <any IDE drive present> > Properties > Settings > Options > Enable DMA. reboot the computer and then recheck the DMA box, it should stay ticked.

If the drive or controller isn't capable of DMA, or if the installed driver doesn't support DMA, the Enable DMA box won't appear. In addition, this box probably won't appear on SCSI devices, because SCSI controllers generally use DMA by default and don't give the option to turn it off. Some ATA100/66 controllers are handled as SCSI devices.



USB, COM and LPT ports  If USB is not needed then disable it in the bios. This can also be done to serial ports and parallel ports. If you dont use any parallel devices but you use a legacy sound device then disable it or you get IRQ sharing. You can also disable the legacy emulation if you never run any dos games. Same goes for serial ports. You only have 2 IRQ's for serial ports and if u have both enabled and an internal modem installed then you are IRQ sharing. IRQ sharing puts extra load on the CPU depending how many interupts that are sent down that line. You free up IRQ's by disabling any thing thats built into the MB in the BIOS.


Compressed Drives Dont use compressed drives for obvious reasons, more power to the CPU. Also make sure disk compression is disabled. Check under control panel-system-performance

Virus Protection  While it is essential to have protection dont leave it running in the background, this goes for all programs especially ICQ. If u must have programs loaded then get more RAM 128 is the bare minimum. 256 is where its at these days especially with VST instruments or Virtual instruments. More things that run means more latency is needed and less tracks/effects.

- check in device manager which resources your components use, and enable shadowing of these memory ranges in bios (advanced bios features)


Disable Window animation

windows uses little "effects" for when a window pops up and is minimised... you can disable this in win98 START> SETTINGS> CONTROL PANEL>DISPLAY>EFFECTS> "animate windows menus and lists"...disable this and bingo no more pops. depending on how badly your HDD is fragmented and if u are using 1 or two drives this will differ from system to system. Having this enabled on some systems will cause pops and glitches whenever you minimise and maximise or even switch between two programs.


Thanks To.....

A lot of the basic information here has been gathered from a wide variety of sources. It has been edited by me to make it relevent to DAW uses and also to cut to outdated information out. I have also added a large amount of my own Tips trick and experience. I would like to thank David L. Farquhar and others whom i will add here for some of the information contained in this page. David L. Farquhar has written a book on this topic which is recomended by microsoft.


Lose the Screen Savers

The need for screen savers evaporated in the early 1990s when monitor refresh rates increased, but people continue to buy them. There is absolutely no compelling reason to use them; from a technical standpoint, they do far more harm than good. The real danger with monitors is not the picture becoming permanently etched onto the screen; it's the phosphors wearing out from being overworked. Many screen savers have nearly as much movement as a fast-paced video game and make the monitor and CPU work about as hard as well. If your system is doing routine maintenance like scanning for viruses, checking hard disks for errors and correcting them, or defragmenting hard disks--things it should be doing automatically, and we'll cover that in Chapter 5--a screen saver interrupting those tasks will make them take much longer. If you're waiting for the computer to finish some time-intensive task like a transform in Photoshop or even a lengthy download from the Internet, the screen saver steals valuable RAM and CPU power from that task. It also creates one more task for the computer to juggle--and one more reason for it to crash. Some screen savers have been known to crash systems.

Using the Blank Screen screen saver that comes with Windows is a good idea; it doesn't use any CPU power, and it gives your monitor's phosphors the opportunity to really rest, saving wear and tear on the monitor and reducing its power consumption. If you want to protect your monitor, use Blank Screen and give it a timeout period of 30 minutes. The use of any other screen saver causes more harm than good.

Some monitors eliminate the need for any screen saver altogether. My Iiyama Vision Master Pro monitor has a power management menu. If your monitor has digital on-screen controls, it may also have its own power management. If that's the case, set your monitor to put itself in power-saving mode after 30 minutes, which allows you to dispense even with the Blank Screen screen saver.

Lose the System Sounds and Desktop Schemes

The Microsoft Plus packs for Windows 95 and 98 contain some gimmicks such as desktop themes than cause icons to spin as they're clicked. Unless you have an extremely high-end computer turn that stuff off. In many cases, it takes longer for the computer to spin the program's icon than it does to load and launch the program.

You also want to turn off animated cursors and system sounds, as these toys can steal large amounts of memory and CPU time. If you need system sounds to warn you of important things like critical events, program errors, or incoming mail, go ahead and use them, but refrain from assigning sounds to every event. On the majority of systems, I go into the Sounds control panel, select the schemes box, and set it to No Sounds.

I know you lose some personalization by doing these things. I know that setting the Critical Stop event to a .wav file of Peter Sellers saying, "Special delivery for you. A bomb. Did you order one?" helps you keep your sense of humor when Windows decides to crash. And I've been known to run down the canonical list of weird band names, making multimedia themes based on the music of Alien Sex Fiend and of Crispy Ambulance (heaven forbid I use a halfway calm and sane-sounding artist like Elvis Costello or Aimee Mann) for my colleagues' systems. I can also tell you that I've never seen a 300 MHz system run as slow as it did with those themes installed. At the time, that was one of the fastest computers money could buy, but it ran like a low-end 486. That's why I never put any of these themes on my own systems--only on other people's.

If you want to express your creativity without dragging down your system or alienating your friends, family, or coworkers, there are other, less expensive ways to customize your system. Try coming up with your own color schemes, or changing Windows' font sets and sizes instead. Right-click on the desktop, select Properties, and click on the Appearance tab. Use those settings to express yourself, rather than CPU-hogging cursors and sounds. You can also try playing around with Lite-Step