I knuckled down yesterday at work and started building a new laptop image for some deployed users. What they’re using now isn’t stable and it isn’t fast, and much of the software is dated. So rather than patch yet again, we’re starting over. I built a 98 install, leaving out anything I could (such as Drive Converter, since we’re already using FAT32 over my protests, and Disk Compression, which isn’t compatible with FAT32 and I just know it’s only a matter of time before some end user decides he’s too short on disk space and runs it only to be greeted by a PC that won’t boot).
Law #1: The more you install, the slower the system runs, and no amount of disk or registry optimization will completely make up for that.
After I got a decent 98 install down, I did some cleanup. All the .txt files in the Windows directory? Gone. All the BMP files? See ya. Channel Screen Saver? B’bye. I got the C:Windows directory down under 150 entries without losing any functionality. There are probably some GIF and JPEG files in there, and some WAVs possibly, that can also go. I’ll have to check. And of course I did my standard MSDOS.SYS tweaks.
Then I defragmented the drive, mostly to get the directories compressed, rebooted, and timed it. 18 seconds. Not bad for a P2-300.
Next, I installed Office 2000. Once I got all that in place, Windows’ boot time ballooned to 32 seconds, which just goes to show how Microsoft apps screw around on the OS’s turf entirely too much–Office makes more changes to the OS than Internet Explorer–but the boot time is still well below what we’ve come to expect from a P2-300.
One of my coworkers had the nerve to say, “Don’t forget to run Cacheman!” Cacheman my ass. I can put vcache entries in system.ini myself, thank you very much. And I can change the file and path cache in the Registry myself, without having to use some lame program to do it. And cleaning up the directories makes a much bigger difference than those hacks do. It just doesn’t make you feel l33t or anything. Heaven forbid we should ever do anything simple and effective to improve system performance.
Law #2: Most of the tweaks floating around there on the ‘Net do little more than let you feel like you’ve done something. I condensed the useful tricks into a single book chapter. And I also told you what those tricks really do, and the side effects they have, unlike a certain multi-megabyte Web site hosted on AOL… You can do the majority of the things you need to do by practicing restraint and judiciously using just a small number of software tools.
I know how to make a fast Win98 PC. It’s not like I wrote a book about that or anything…
Oh, but how am I ensuring stability? I’m forcing the issue. Yes, I see that list of 47 software packages they have to have. Here’s Windows and Office 2000 and ACT!. Now they have to test it. Does it crash? OK. Now we’ll add the remaining 44 things, one at a time and see which one is breaking stuff. If it’s unstable by the time all of that’s done, it’s because the end users who were testing were sloppy with their testing.