Since there was no Windows 2000 version of my book Optimizing Windows, sometimes people ask me what tweaks they can use to improve Windows 2000’s performance.
It turns out there are a few things you can do to optimize Windows 2000. Here are some tips that I use on a fairly regular basis.

To remove non-critical but hidden Windows components to save some disk space, open /winnt/inf/sysoc.inf in Notepad and do a search on HIDE. Delete the word HIDE (but leave all commas in place) and now you’ll be able to cleanly uninstall things like Solitaire.

Here’s a nice trick if you have limited CPU power and want to squeeze out a few more cycles. If you want a particular program to have higher priority than usual, execute it with the command START /HIGH (programname). You can put this command in a batch file and create a shortcut pointing to it. This will buy you a little extra speed out of intensive programs like FPS games, video-manipulating software, or archivers. Don’t do this with all of your programs; that defeats the purpose. The idea is to make the computer pay special attention to one or two apps.

To save some precious CPU cycles, go into your display properties and the effects tab and disable everything. While you’re there, change your display mode. Never use 24-bit color; the 32-bit mode is faster on every video card I’ve ever seen. (32-bit chunks are much more convenient to manipulate than 24-bit chunks.) If 16-bit color is adequate for your needs, use it instead. Next, go into Control Panel, Sounds and Multimedia, and select the No Sounds scheme. In the Control Panel window itself, go go Tools, Folder Options, and pick Use Windows Classic Folders and Use Windows Classic Desktop.

To save even more, download TweakUI (search Google; Microsoft moves it all the time) and install it by right-clicking the included INF file. Now, from the newly created TweakUI control panel, set your menu speed to the fastest setting. Go to General and disable Mouse hot tracking effects. Go to IE and disable Shell Enhancements.

If practical, install Win2000 to a drive you’ve already preformatted NTFS. You should avoid 512-byte cluster sizes as they guarantee fragmentation of the MFT. Of course, the default size is 512 bytes. The minimum cluster size you want to use is 1024 bytes (1K). You’ll get slightly better speed if you go to 4K allocation units, which is the smallest practical size we got with the FAT filesystem anyway. One way to do this is to install W2K, create a small partition, install a minimal system, create your partition, then reboot and reinstall to the partition you just created. Then you can safely reformat the partition that held your initial Win2K installation.

For most tasks, the FAT filesystem is faster than NTFS (in extreme cases, up to 30% faster), though it doesn’t give you the features that NTFS does. If you work with huge files (over 2 GB), you need NTFS. But if you’re working with a marginal PC and don’t need NTFS’s security features, format your drives FAT32 or, if you can live with 4-gig partition limit, format it FAT16 which is faster still. (A 4-gig FAT16 drive won’t be readable by DOS or Windows 9x, however.) Note that the included defragmenter doesn’t like some combinations of filesystems and cluster sizes, so copy a few files over to the new drive and try to defrag before you reboot and install to that drive.

If you’re using NTFS, you can remove some of its overhead by disabling its last file access update (which it does even when you so much as look at the contents of a directory). Go into Regedit and go to HKLM/System/CurrentControlSet/Control/FileSystem. Create a REG_DWORD called NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate and set it to 1.

Similarly, if you’re using NTFS and you don’t run 16-bit apps, you can disable the creation of 8.3 filenames. Go into Regedit and go to HKLM/System/CurrentControlSet/Control/FileSystem. Create a REG_DWORD called NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation and set it to 1. Don’t do this trick if you run Access 97, and be ready to change it back if you experience odd behavior from software that worked before.

You can remove Internet Explorer from Windows 2000 using IERadicator from www.98lite.net, but if you’re going to do so, you have to remove it from vanilla Windows 2000. Installing the service packs causes W2000 to restore the “critical” IE files. I haven’t tried removing IE, then installing the service pack afterward. Mozilla is a more-than-capable replacement; if you just want something really lightweight, give OffByOne a look.

You can find instructions for disabling system file protection (which will, theoretically, allow you to remove IE) at www.winguides.com/registry/display.php/790/ but I have not attempted this procedure. It’s more complicated for Windows 2000SP2 and above or Windows XP.

You can find small and lightweight Windows programs at www.tinyapps.org. If one of these programs is up to a particular task for you, use it. You’ll save lots of memory.