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Topic Title: Tweeking your OS:
Topic Summary: Things you can do to take back your performance!
Created On: 06/24/2010 10:50 AM
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 06/24/2010 10:50 AM
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X-tremedreamer
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This was published in CPU magazine and I thought it would be a good start to an OS Tweaking thread. I am going to leave it verbatim as it was published, and we can add to it as we go.

July 2010 . Vol.10 Issue 7
Page(s) 48-52 in print issue

Windows 7: Power User Edition
High-Octane OS Tweaks


By now you know that Windows 7 is everything that Vista should have been - faster, more efficient, packed with more features, and better tuned for an era of online existence and distributed storage. Whether you're buying a new system or looking to breathe new life into an old (but not too old) machine, version 7 is clearly today's must-have Windows.

Of course, we can't expect miracles. Like prior Windows versions, this one starts off promising and then slowly grows fat and sluggish over time. Additionally, Win7 arrives "out of the box" with a bunch of default values that may not be exactly optimal when it comes to performance. We know how much you like optimal. So let's dive into tweaking and tuning and making sure your Win7 installation is running fast and furiously.

Many of the tips that have applied to improving performance in prior Windows versions carry over with Win7. However, because some users need gentle reminders, and also because sometimes the details change from version to version, we've updated several of these for Win7 while including some new tweaks specific to the new OS.


Pick The Right Components

Microsoft has a long and infamous history of drastically understating its Windows hardware requirements. For example, Microsoft begins by requiring a 1GHz processor (at windows.microsoft.com/systemrequirements). Now, that might be fine with a quad-core CPU, but we sure wouldn't want to try anything beyond WinXP with a single-core 1GHz chip. As for memory, Microsoft's 2GB recommendation (for Win7 64-bit; 1GB is the minimum requirement for Win7 32-bit) is low even for most novice users. If you're running the 64-bit version of Win7 (which you probably should these days, all other things being equal), you want at least 4GB of memory, if not 6GB or 8GB. This is doubly true if you need to run WinXP Mode (www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc) or any other virtualized environment. We run WinXP Mode under Win7 Ultimate 64-bit on a Phenom II X4 955 (3.2GHz) with 6GB of RAM, and it still runs agonizingly slow.

Perhaps most of all, try to score an SSD (solid-state drive) as your boot volume. This is doubly appropriate for Win7, given that the OS has been redesigned to minimize writes and flushes, which favors SSDs, and now offers native TRIM command support. Low-capacity SSDs are now widely available for less than $150, and all but the cheapest and worst should rampantly outperform hard drives on basic Windows tasks, such as boot, hibernation, and application loading. Get an SSD for Windows and store all of your data on a big, cheap, ordinary hard drive. The performance benefit can be massive.

Clean It Up

How long have we been suggesting this? Probably so long that many users now take the advice for granted and ignore it. After all, why worry about the size of your temp file collection when you have hundreds of spare gigabytes lying around? But what if you don't have hundreds of empty gigs on your C: drive? What if you did as we ­­­just suggested and got yourself a 32 to 64GB SSD as your primary drive? Suddenly 4GB or 5GB of garbage sitting in your Windows folder becomes 10% of your total boot drive capacity and puts you a lot closer to being pinched for spare blocks with which to perform your write/erase processes. If you value your write times, revisit the old days and clean that clutter out. In the Start search field, type Disk Cleanup. Choose your target drive, then, under the Disk Cleanup tab, go through and pick all of the file types to delete. This is doubly important because you don't want to defrag an SSD (or subject it to unnecessary writes of any kind).


Adjust For "Best Performance"

For many years, Microsoft has tried to make Windows look as silky and smooth as possible. Along the way, we've all known that looking good soaks up system resources. If you can live without some of the visual bells and whistles, you can regain a bit of lost performance. Dig into Control Panel>System And Security>System>Advanced System Settings. Click the Settings button under Performance. In the Performance Options pop-up window, you'll see a long list of visual elements and effects within Win7, most of which are enabled by default as part of the Let Windows Choose What's Best For My Computer option. You can select Custom, then pick and choose which items to disable. For a fast, slash-and-burn approach, pick Adjust For Best Performance to turn off all effects. This will result in a blander interface but better response times, particularly if you're saddled with integrated graphics or a trailing-edge graphics card.

Use Write Caching On SATA Drives

ReadyBoost (using USB flash drives as a secondary memory cache for Windows) turned out to be a joke for systems with at least 1GB of RAM, but write caching can still be beneficial. In some situations, write caching for a given drive can yield drive performance improvements of 5 to 10%. In Computer, right-click the volume you want to cache and select Properties. Go to the Hardware tab, highlight your desired drive, and click the Properties button. Under the resulting General tab, click Change Settings. Next, under the Policies tab, make sure that the Enable Write-Caching On The Device box is checked.

Shut Down . . . Now!

Had enough of instructing Windows to restart, walking away, and then returning later only to find that some app refused to close and you're still waiting for a reboot? This Windows glitch has driven us nuts for years. Fortunately, there's a Registry hack you can apply to shorten the process kill time. This hack also existed under WinXP/Vista but has been altered and simplified under Win7. Click Start and type regedit in the Start search field. Click the Regedit.exe link and click Yes at the UAC prompt. Within the Registry, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CURRENTCONTROLSET\Control. Right-click the WaitToKillServiceTimout item and select Modify... Our Win7 installation defaults to a value of 12000, which is 12 seconds. You can dial this down all the way to 2000, or two seconds. Close the Registry Editor; the changes will take effect when you reboot.


Selective Startup

You know how Windows bogs down over time, burdened with all of those background crapplets that load during startup? Some of those you need, but some just take up unnecessary boot seconds and are never used during an average Windows session. Type msconfig in the Start search field, select Msconfig.exe, and go to the System Configuration window's Startup tab. Uncheck anything that doesn't look useful or necessary. Some entries are pretty cryptic and require Web searching to figure out. (For example, would you know that "SBSV 2010/02/19-11:02:07" by Adobe Systems is actually a SwitchBoard process and that Switch-Board is now a retired project? We didn't. Why on earth does CS5 load this?)

Take Back Your Reboots

Nothing irks us more than walking into the office in the morning and discovering that Windows has downloaded a patch during the night and unilaterally decided to issue an "automatic restart" regardless of whether all open work was saved. Whose system is this, anyway?

Well, no more. Rerun the Registry Editor and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\POLICIES\MICROSOFT\Windows. Right-click Windows, point to New, and select Key. Name the key "Windows Update." Now create a new key under Windows Update called "AU." Create a new DWORD value for AU called "NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers." Right-click this DWORD, select Modify, and give it a value of 1. After you reboot, you will no more face the morning restart surprise.

Possibly the best productivity hack of all time, this gem will prohibit Windows from auto-rebooting and taking out your open files in the process. Just remember to reboot on your own occasionally.

Smarter Searching

Data can be like sand. Try as you might to gather it into neat piles, it has a tendency to spill and leak through your fingers. This is why Windows Search is often so useful, especially with the relatively recent indexing functions added by Microsoft to combat Google Desktop. The trouble is that because data changes over time, particularly through the addition of new files, your old searches are no longer valid, so you have to burn time running them again and again . . . unless you create a saved search. Say you have a thing for Beluga caviar and you collect recipes, photos, PowerPoint files, and who knows what else about Beluga. To search your Win7 system for all things Beluga, you would press WinKey+F and type Beluga. To narrow your search down to only JPEG images, you could click in the search field and select Kind from the list of four search filters (Kind, Date Modified, Size, and Name). Your string in the search field to find all Beluga JPEGs between 1 and 16MB would be "size:large type:=.jpg Beluga." Just keep adding filters until you've narrowed as far as you want. Assume this string returns 74 Beluga JPEGs. Having to create this search string every time you want to find those pictures is a time-waster, so save the search by clicking the Save Search link. By default, this saves in your User Account>Searches area, but you can change this to be wherever you like. Note that the saved search also appears in the Explorer Navigation pane under Favorites. Just open the saved item to automatically run the search again.

Keep in mind that Win7 searches only span across indexed locations. By default, these include locations such as the Documents, Pictures, and Music libraries. If you keep most of your data off of your C: drive, your searching with these defaults won't be very effective. Click Start, then type indexing options in the search field. Within the Indexing Options window, click Modify to add additional indexing locations. Click Advanced and use the File Types tab to make sure you're including the file extension types you want, as well as including file contents by selecting the Index Properties And File Contents radio button. For example, we had thousands of old WordPerfect files that weren't generating search hits because not only had we failed to include the drive on which those files were located, but we also weren't indexing the file contents of our WPD files. Note that the more files you index, the slower your Windows indexing will run. It's a trade-off, but one that is more palatable if your index is located on an SSD.

Use The Reliability Monitor

Buried within the Control Panel's Action Center is the Reliability Monitor. (While in the Action Center, expand Maintenance and click View Reliability History.) As the name implies, the monitor itself won't improve Windows performance, but it will give you clues to help troubleshoot Windows application problems and find a remedy so Windows can perform better in the future. Windows ranks overall reliability on a scale from 1 (lowest reliability) to 10. Take a picture of the 10 rating after your clean Windows 7 installation, because it's probably the last time you'll see it. The line graph and numerical ratings don't give you much information, apart from confirming your worst fears. ("I knew this system was falling apart!") More useful is being able to corroborate informational events, shown with an "i" in a blue circle with subsequent increases in application failures. For instance, if you see that Windows installed a security update on Monday followed by a significant increase in app crashes, you can probably guess that the update is to blame and then roll back the software change.


Tweak The Virtual Memory

Remember virtual memory, that large swap file on your hard drive used for overflow needs when your system didn't have enough RAM for the jobs at hand? Maybe you haven't thought about virtual memory in years - probably since memory got cheap enough to buy by the handful. Well, Win7 is a memory pig, and some older systems might be stuck with a mere 2GB. This is a recipe for paging file performance problems, because Windows must constantly work to resize the paging, a performance-sapping process. As a rule of thumb, it's good to have a swap file that's 2.5 times the size of your system memory. (Win7 defaults to recommending a 1.5X value.) So for 2GB of RAM, you'd have a 5,120KB swap file, and you'd keep that size constant so Windows won't have to work at dynamically resizing it. In the Start search bar, type adjust perf. In the resulting Performance Options window, click the Advanced tab, then click the Change button, and uncheck Automatically Manage Paging File For All Drives. Select a custom size and make sure the initial and maximum sizes are identical to prevent any resizing. Click Set and OK.

Because drive performance is so key to virtual memory performance, this is part of why SSDs can deliver such a massive performance boost on netbooks, which tend to be relatively low on system memory.

Allocate More RAM For Windows XP Mode

Remember when we said that WinXP Mode was slow as drying paint in January? Well, no wonder! As you might be able to see in our screen shot, WinXP Mode defaults to only using 512MB of our system's 6GB of system memory. Let's fix that. First, make sure your virtual machine is closed down. When it is, open Computer and navigate to C:\Users\User Name\Virtual Machines. Right-click the virtual machine that needs more memory (chances are you only have one option called Windows XP Mode.vmcx) and select Settings. Click the Memory setting and apply whatever size value you like. Just make sure you leave plenty of memory for Win7 running outside of XP Mode.

Try Accelerators

You probably know that increasing the size of your browser's temp file space can improve browser performance by having more content already precached on your system. (In IE8, go to Tools, Internet Options, General tab, Browsing History Settings button, and change the disk space to use.) Assuming you're not strapped for disk capacity, this is probably a good idea.

You can also save time when surfing by using IE8's Accelerators. The first time you ran IE8, the browser probably prompted you to look at Accelerators, whereupon you blew the request off as another frivolous timesink. Look again. Accelerators are browsing shortcuts available through a right-click menu when you highlight a block of text within the browser window. While search Accelerators are the most common, options span from blogging to weather tools. If you find yourself constantly doing copy-and-pasting into different Web services, look into Accelerators to cut down your work. Right-click a selection and pick All Accelerators, Find More Accelerators, and see what you find.

Improve Your Image

If you really want to kill your Windows performance, try having a drive crash and then reinstall your system. We sit here worrying about saving seconds while rebuilding a system image can take days. First you install the OS, then the drivers, apps, updates, and patches. Then you redo all of your preferences, cookies, and so on. Finally, you bring back your (hopefully) backed up data. It's a nightmare. In the business world, "bare metal backup" options solved this problem by backing up every bit of the system image, OS files and settings included.

Win7 delivers the same functionality in its Backup And Restore routine, located in the Control Panel. Find an NTFS-formatted drive target with plenty of capacity and use the Change Settings link to create your backup set. Be sure to check the box next to Include A System Image Of Drives: (C. We recommend scheduling at least a weekly system image backup, perhaps on Friday night. To restore an image, you may need to create a system repair disc, and you'll find a link for this process on the left navigation bar.


Like Fine Wine

Give credit where it's due. It's actually getting harder to write these tuning tips stories as the years go by because, much as we may like to grumble otherwise, Windows is getting better over time. Add to this the relative improvement in hardware components, especially when jumping from hard disks to SSDs, and what it does for OS performance. There's still a lot of value to be had in optimizing Windows 7 - you will save minutes and hours over time. But the bang you get for your tweaking time seems to be eroding. Honestly, we wouldn't want it any other way.

by William Van Winkle

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 06/24/2010 07:31 PM
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PorscheRacer14
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Awesome! I'd like to add a few things onto this from my years of use in Windows, and from reading other guides over the years.

Creating a Swap file (Paging file) larger than 4GB for most users, is pointless. Run system monitor in Windows 7 and have it colelct data as you open up games, programs and so on. You'd be surprised in how little of a swap space it actually uses. In the short sense here, I'm trying to say that if you have 8GB of RAM, making a 12GB Pagefile is wasteful. 4GB is plenty enough for tha majority of people out there. Unless you're using your computer for server size data base sets and so on, 4GB works good.

If you have an Ultimate version of Vista or 7 and 4GB or more of RAM you can also enable "Lock Memory Pages" in the Local Group Policy Editor. Press the Windows key and then type in gpedit.msc to bring up the snap-in console. You need to be an adminstrator with the required privelages to edit settings in there. Under Local Computer Policies, click Computer Configuration, then click Windows Settings, then Security Settings, then Local Policies, and finally, click User Rights Assignments. Scroll down till you find Lock pages in memory. Double-click it to bring up the security settings for it. You need to assign a user or group that has the privelages to run and acecss the memory pool and page-file. This process will keep page-files in memory, rather than dumping it to the hard drive. Only do this if you have a lot of memory. 4GB is the bare minimum in my use of it. If you run demanding games and programs, you better have 6GB or more. If you're doing large data sets, well, you'd have a server system and insane amounts of RAM, or the capability to do so. If you're stumped in what users to add to enable this function, add your user account, Administrator, Everyone, Local Service, Network and network service. Those groups would benefit the most if you don't want everyone to use this feature. Obviously, if put in everyone and your user account, everyone can use it. You still need your user account name even if you put everyone in. I can go on and explain why, but I'm already getting long-winded here.

Disable windows aero and switch to classic mode for benchmarks (except Futuremark ones where aero is required).

I'll add more later on, as there is significant tweaking that can be done in windows Vista and 7 to improve performance and create higher overclocks. Yep, trimming down windows can lead to higher overclocks and better benchmarks.

Some more like I promised. Go into msconfig.sys click the Boot tab and check off No GIU boot and check off OS boot information. I find this handy when overclocking to see if it's crashing on an overclock that should be stable, but won't load past a certain driver or something. Maybe I need to change drivers? Maybe it keeps crashing on my video driver? I can then turn the clocks down and check out that problem. I find it handy anyways.

Click the Services tab and feel free to uncheck anything and almost everything. For example, if a benchmark isn't using audio, all the audio services are unchecked for me. If it doesn't require the internet, all that is disabled (along with my LAN controller in BIOS - wouldn't want a virus while benchmarking). Only keep what you need, such as CCC if you use it, or ATI Tray Tools services if you use that instead. Firewall can go, application experience and management, background intelligent transfer, computer browser, certificate propoggation, etc.

The ones you need are the Group Policy Client, Human Interface Deviec Access, any internet ones if a benchmark needs the internet, server, workstation, Shell Hardware Detection, SNMP Trap if using the internet, Superfetch (but you can get by without, though I have found better scores using it, again if you have SSDs experiment with it), TPM Base Services if you have Bitlocker needs and Thread Ordering Service. Click the Startup tab and remove what you don't need there, which should be almost everything, unless you need CCC. Click apply and reboot. It'll be quick but look spartan. Not much there, but that's the way we like it.

I also like to go into the advanced options in the Boot tab and check off Detect HAL, PCI Lock and change the number of processors down to 1. It helps in suicide runs so it's not using all my cores to boot up with and keep the temperatures lower. Don't mess with maximum memory, leave it unchecked. Yeah, I know you wanted to click it

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Edited: 06/25/2010 at 03:07 AM by PorscheRacer14
 06/24/2010 08:14 PM
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My brain is like a sponge.

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 06/24/2010 09:42 PM
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NemesisChild
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When we were using 1GB, then 2GB memory, I always set the min/max swap file the same (1.5x installed memory).
And always ran a defrag program of the the hard drive after establishing the new swap file.
Now with 4GB memory, I just let Windows manage my swap file, seems to work just fine.

Interesting to see what other OS tweaks PorscheRacer has to offer.

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 06/25/2010 01:48 AM
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Something else I would like to add:

Benchmarking on a clean OS works better then one that has been in use for any length of time. Why? well I say this. It works better on two fronts. First is after a fresh install, you don't have a lot of the programs installed to take up space on the hard drive, which will improve seek time. Second, with out the said programs there is less load on the CPU during Boot up. This will allow for a higher overclock in a suicide run.

Benchmarking on a 32 bit OS will give you 200 - 400 Mhz higher overclock, then a 64 bit OS.

Partition your hard drive. The sweet spot for a partition size is somewhere between 80 and 120 GB for the OS, depending on the speed and overall size of the hard drive to begin with.

Loading your OS on the first partition, load only GPU drivers, motherboard drivers, and PCI network cards (only if you need them). Install only the benchmark programs and a browser of your choice for the internet, a few of the tweaks mentioned above (though simply disabling page file all together should accomplish what "Lock memory pages" would do, and it will work on any version of Windows since windows XP) and your on your way to a stellar performer.

Note: if your planning on going to war with your "daily driver" like I am, I reccomend that you build a system image of your machine as it is now. (Or how it is when you get ready to reload windows) Then when the warz is over, you simply restore form that system image and you will have your programs and game info all back.

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 06/27/2010 01:20 PM
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kleetus
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i have set up a partion and installed windows 7 32 but how do you boot into that when my bios doesnt show it drive f only raid arry

HOW DO YOU DUAL BOOT

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 06/27/2010 02:12 PM
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X-tremedreamer
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When you install the second OS on the other partition, the installer will make a boot option to let you choose what version you want to boot into.

To answer you question I need to know a little more about how your HDDs are set up. What are you running in RAID and what do you have your OS set up on?

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 06/27/2010 02:36 PM
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kleetus
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i have 2 wd 320gb set in raid 0 for 640 gb using amds on board raid controller

i installed windows 7 64 on raid 0 then i partioned 30 gb for 2nd windows 7 32

c is my main and f is my new 30 gb partition

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 06/27/2010 03:55 PM
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kleetus
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i didnt have partion active got it figured out

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 06/27/2010 04:31 PM
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PorscheRacer14
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Being the inquisitive guinnea pig that I am, and because I'm a sucker for punishment, I have tried out the above settings for your convenience. Long story short...

DO NOT DISABLE YOUR PAGE FILE! You can make it small (say 512MB or 1GB) or even put it on another dedicated hard drive, but Windows does need a page-file. If you have a lot of RAM, sure, make a small page-file and lock the pages in memory (if you can do that option) and you're laughin' at how fast windows becomes.

Ahh well, I was overdue for some reformatting, and it kicked my butt into gear to get my newish AM3 system setup.

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Multi-Core Upgrade Guide

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 09/18/2010 12:01 AM
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If hard drive/SSD longevity is a corcern then disabling the swap file must be worth a try. Due to Windows kernel limitation it's told there's a performance hit. Just make sure your peak swap file usage+physical RAM usage is never higher than 75% of total physical RAM installed as running out of RAM without a swap file means loaded apps and even drivers are likely to crash.

Edited: 09/18/2010 at 12:08 AM by K2N hater
 03/19/2011 12:51 PM
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Benchmarking on a clean OS works better then one that has been in use for any length of time. Why? well I say this. It works better on two fronts. First is after a fresh install, you don't have a lot of the programs installed to take up space on the hard drive, which will improve seek time. Second, with out the said programs there is less load on the CPU during Boot up. This will allow for a higher overclock in a suicide run.


Well I have been running bench marks all my life and have never found this to be an issue. With the exception of times I worked as a PC technician at large oil and gas companies.

The main problm is that some uses simply do not understand how to operate thier computer like an Engineer or Computer Scientist; like my self, does. Here are a bunch of a useful tips for anyone who runs into this kind of problem. The simple answer is system mangment. But How?

Taksmanager!

Windows 7 has many Microsoft 'Ready Built' system tasks in the task manager to help these types of usesers, the only thing is that Microsoft does not know how agressive the users are on theier computers. I have worked with some brilliant O&G Engineers who had PHD's etc. and didn't know the first thing about system maintence and security, and thought they were smart enough to reinstall the OS and operate the computer in our networks simply because they knew a thing or two about configuring the network to connect to Active Directory etc.

To be more 'Agressive'. Open the taskmanager using an admin account, or type mmc at the start prompt, right click and select start as admin. Then open add the task manager to the mcc concole and start tunning the system tasks that are all ready installed, and change them up to run more agressivly then what Microsoft has configured. Once you change a task I sugest you back it up to a uUSB drive by exporting the task; in the even of a future system malfunction you can easily re-import them all.

A brand new clean install on any system I have ever run the WEI index never is anything better then a 1.0 (Worst Case). After installing all the drivers, updating the BIOS, etc. I find the WIE goes to the 'nominal' level. For me it's 5.9 (slow disks) 7.5 everywhere else. After I configure the agressivness of the system maintence scheduling, I get about an 8% improvment 5.9 and everything else up to 7.7. Then I install the antivirus, and hook up to the net and allow the system to start download the updates and patches. At the end of all the updates I still have a 5.9 system, but all the other scores are now at 7.8. Nearly a perfect system. And on my system I have closly investigated the disk problems, if you run the WEI index or WINSat.exe in System32 from the command link with the -v (Verbose) option you will see where the hot spots are. For my disks, I get 7.3 to 7.8 in all areas excet one and I get 3.2. The disk index is comprised of many factors, and even the average of the individual indexes don't add yo to 5.9, they come to 7.6. I'm thinking of using a ram drive on the disks, to buffer the small 8Mb. cache they have which is the real cause of the problem.

Another hand thing to do in the taskmanager is to add an 'display message' when the task kicks off so if your working on something that is CPU intensive and want to shut it down you will be alerted that the task has started. It's also useful for security, you can google the security even ID's and create a general task that will start the system narrartor and announce that "System is being hacked Event, has just fired!"

Like the others have stated this is only the icing on the cake as far as System Managment and 'Tweeking the OS' goes. There are many things that can be automated on Win 7, and if you get dirty with some Powershell, or Bach File Scripting, you can have a computer that will whistle all day long...

I do like the other tips I have read...However some of them seem a bit risky! I would never kill a task before 12 sec. But I'm a very paitent man, you have to be when you write code and work on computers all your life... They easier to break then fix! I know I smoked $120,000 worth of junk 'inferior' MOB's etc, just in 2010 by testing the limits of what system vendors and OC's have claimed. And I'm not an Expert OC Engineer Either.

My method is to out think the problem not attack it with bruit force. That is why I have started a new project that will make direct use of the GUP and offload everything to the GPU for preprocessing before and CPU core hits it and I have plans to write a specialized driver that will make Winows 7 and Server 2008 see the Hundreds of cores in a GPU as individual CPU's. So the takmanager will look something like this:

Intel 256 Core System

Anyone dummer then a rock and smarter then a rocket scientist and tweet me if you want to join the race to 'Hot-Wire-a-Supercomputer' using GPu's and CPU's.

@ProtoBytes
AW Proto-CODE, Inc.

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@ProtoBytes
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AMD Phenom II X4 Black Edition 965, (RB-C3) 3.7 G Hz.
[45 nm, CMOS, Cu, Low-K, DSL SOI, Immersion Lithography]
NB: AMD RS880P / SB: AMD 770 [55 nm]
 06/05/2011 01:22 PM
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quotaholic
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Joined: 06/05/2011

I would have started a new thread as this seems to be a windows only thread however as a new poster I didn't have the option. I bought an Asus E35-M1-Deluxe for a base to an HTPC. Several components later and one Windows 7 SP1 I decided that windows was terrible as an HTPC OS. It's a nice product and is well suited to general desktop usage however I have played with linux for the last decade and know how to build a slim purpose designed operating system so I se out to do so. Here is my recipe:

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?t=102863

In the end I have something that boots in 25 percent the time that windows takes to boot, I never see a gui. It automatically logs in as user and starts up the XBMC application. IR remote, network shares it all associates on boot. Shortly after pressing the power button I am looking at my media collection through xbmc, every time. I do not have the cpu overhead of "everything else". More than I can say for windows.

I did all that I could to support h264 decoding in the operating system, catalyst 11.5 driver, libva, xvba, gstreamer, and I hand built xbmc from source code making sure to enable vaapi and gl. The gui is lightning fast (youtube video in linked thread), however 1080p performance is about 1/4 of what I had in windows. One cpu hits 100 percent and the other is not doing much. fglrxinfo shows that driver is installed and has associated with gl. vaapiinfo concurs. amdcccle has checkboxes in it for all media that I have, ie ntsc. glears gives me 4 digit fps. TV was set to 24fps to match my media content and still I get 15fps on 1080p content. 720p plays but barely. I could stream 45gb iso files in windows and have 20 percent cpu (across both cores) usage however in linux I cant seem to play a 10gb mkv file because one cpu is at 100 percent and the other is near idle.

The "unofficial" wiki for ati drivers does not even mention 11.5 catalyst. There are loose mentions to patching drivers up to 11.3 due to ati drivers not being compatible with linux newer kernels. ?? Any better or more accurate information or something easier to follow would be greatly appreciated. Any information regarding dependencies or required packages for the 11.5 catalyst would also be greatly appreciated. What to expect for performance out of the 64 bit linux 11.5 catalyst driver would be handy as well as the environment that it was obtained in. It seems that in linux www.splitted-desktop.com is rewriting lots of core libraries to perform better with closed source vendor drivers. Would it be recommend to utilize these third party core libraries?

I dont know much about software architecture however it seems that my driver is not doing a good job at forking to the gpu. ATI traditionally "tosses" their closed source linux driver to the public then refuses to support it. The community "radeonhd" driver did not work at all in my application. My question is this: Is there anyone on these forums that can help my cause? I have submitted a ticket to the catalyst driver team however at the end it clearly said "dont expect a reply". Gives me a warm and fuzzy... It is worth noting that the competition not only fully supports linux, has for the last decade, they even rewrite the windowing system in linux to eliminate any potential problems with their driver. Had vaapi before any software out there supported it and offered patched versions of application to leverage vaapi. Thats how the competition rolls. The only reason I did not but the competition was because the competition does not currently support hd audio on their embedded gpu's. ATI does.

So if I can get the HD stuttering problem solved then ATI stands to convert a customer. If the competition comes out with a product that does hd audio before I can get hd stuttering solved then bye bye to this headache. I would likely never look again in the direction of ATI. I mean the ati drivers turn my television screen magenta when its booting. Come on! In both windows and linux it takes 5 to 7 seconds to stop an hd stream and go back to the gui. Hate to say it but the competition is well under half that time. We dont like looking at black screens people!

This is a nice moment for ATI as they have a leg up on the competition. Intel cant produce a good gpu to save their lives. That and they contract powervr to write their i3,i5 and i7 gpu drivers so they will always lack feature and generally suck. Nvidia currently requires a pcie slot to get 1080p and hd audio. They can only do 16 bit sound on their ion platform so cheers ATI. Lets see how you leverage this positioning. Will ATI try to perform where they have not in the past or will they let their competitors catch back up and potentially pass them in the all important number game of the userbase. One hint: Look at xbmc.org boxee.com and avs forums to gauge how many users are in the HTPC segment of the market before you make your decision.

I have well over 4 digits in to my htpc currently and I will happily go 4 more. Windows will not be used as it is not designed for the purpose. Forgive my frustration however ATI advertised a nice platform for this application with their Fusion product and they do offer a linux driver for the product. If it were me I would not have released the driver with the delta's in performance that exist. Again please let me know if I have done something wrong here. I bought this "fusion" product as it could stream 1080 and do hd audio as well. Seems I am stuck on number one, HD.
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