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Squeezing some life out of an aging Windows 2000 PC

I can safely say I really did write the book on Windows optimization (Optimizing Windows for Games, Graphics and Multimedia, O’Reilly, 1999, ISBN 1565926773) but that was five years ago and covered Windows 95 and 98.

Windows 2000 and XP are a different animal, and are as similar to the obscure OS/2 operating system from IBM as they are to Windows 95/98.

Here’s what I did when my work computer slowed to the point that I could no longer do much work.

Optimizing Windows networks

My church’s IT czar asked me a good question the other day. His network performance was erratic and Network Neighborhood was messed up. Some computers saw different views of the network, although if you manually connected to other computers, that usually worked.

School’s out, school’s out!

School’s out, school’s out, teacher let the monkeys out! Those that didn’t leave on their own free will, thta is. I’d do a comprehensive review of the class, and maybe I still will, but I think this says it all. There were 36 people enrolled. By the time the second afternoon break was over, 14 remained.

Windows NT on hardware it has no business on

A partial retraction. OK, Southwestern Bell isn’t responsible for all my missing mail. I had a second POP3 client running that I forgot about, which was grabbing some of my mail. But my computer couldn’t find a DHCP server all day, so even though one problem wasn’t their fault, another one was. So I’m still gonna write Casey Kassum with a request and dedication: Todd Rundgren’s “I Hate My Frickin’ ISP,” dedicated to my beloved Southwestern Bell.

Running, uh, no, executing Windows NT 4.0 on a Pentium-75 with 16 MB RAM. Disclaimer: Before you start thinking things that include my name and words like “crack” or “LSD,” let me state emphatically that this was not my idea. I was only following orders. (I’m not on drugs. I’m not nuts–I’m certifiably sane. I’m not even depressed.) All that clear? Good.

That said, the stated minimum hardware requirements for NT 4 are a 486 CPU with 12 MB RAM. And I did once build a print server out of an old IBM PS/2 that had a 486SLC2/50 CPU and 16 megs of RAM. Hey, I was young and I needed the money, OK? Besides, it was a very experimental time and I didn’t think anybody would get hurt…

OK, I’m done turning druggy double entendres.

Needless to say, NT on this machine is anything but pretty. (And I’ll put a marginal machine into service as a server where no one ever interacts with it directly long before I stick one on an end-user’s desk.) The video card in my flagship PC has more memory and processing power. But we’re out of PCs, and this poor girl needs a computer on her desk (though she’s never done anything to deserve this fate), so here’s what I did to try to make life on this machine more tolerable. These tricks work much better on fast machines.

  • Pull out all network protocols except TCP/IP. I also double-checked all TCP/IP settings and made sure the closest DNS server was first on the list.
  • Use a static IP address. The DHCP service uses memory and CPU cycles, and on machines like this, every byte and cycle counts.
  • Remove Office Startup, Find Fast, and LoadWC from Startup. The first two are in the All Users start menu. The last is in the registry. All eat memory and provide no useful functionality.
  • Move the swap file to a second physical hard disk. This machine happened to have a second drive, so I put the swap file there for better performance.
  • Turn off unnecessary services. The Scheduler service and Computer Browser service normally aren’t needed. If the network never sent out notifications (ours does), I’d also turn off the Messenger service.
  • Remove unnecessary fonts. I won’t do this without her present, since I might inadvertently nuke her favorite font. But if she doesn’t use it, it’s gone.
  • Keep free space above 100 megs. Windows slows to a crawl when forced to live on a drive that’s as crowded as a mosh pit.
  • Defragment! Making matters worse, this drive didn’t seem to have a single file on it that wasn’t fragmented. I ran Diskeeper and there was more red on the screen than at a Cardinals game when Mark McGwire’s chasing home run records.
  • When you have two drives, put the OS on the faster of the two. Unfortunately, the OS is on an ancient Seagate 420-meg drive, with a 2.1-gig drive in as the secondary drive. The roles really should be reversed. When in doubt, the bigger drive is usually faster. The newer drive almost always is. I may just Ghost the OS over to the 2.1-gig drive, then switch them.
  • Switch to Program Manager. She’s probably not comfortable with the old Windows 3.1 interface (I’ve only ever met one person who liked it) so I probably won’t do this, but that’ll save you a couple megs.

Yes, when Radiohead made the album in mind… Even with these adjustments, it’s still awful. So I’m gonna see if I can dig up some memory from somewhere. That’ll help more than anything. But as tempting as overclocking may be, I won’t do it.

Time to see if I can write another song. No, not about computers. I’ve got a great concept and a couple of salvagable lines. Now I need a couple more salvagable lines, then I can start thinking about making up or (more likely) stealing a rhyme scheme. The rest will probably fall into place after that. It usually does. I totally don’t understand why my songwriting process works, but that’s OK.