Tweaking your Windows OS for Performance
by SOTO Phantm
Published : 14th September 2003
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Today, most Ghost Recon gamers are using one of three different Windows OS's to play games on. They are Win98/ME, Win2000 Pro, and WinXP Home/Pro.

What I'd like to do here is point out some simple, but effective tweaks and settings that will improve your Windows performance; hence also improving your Ghost Recon gaming and networking performance for Single Player and Multi- Player.

The first one we'll talk about is WinXP, because this is now the most prevalent of the Windows OS's and is, even as we speak, replacing Win98/ME and Win2000Pro.

WinXP Home/Pro.

Basically, these two OS's are the same to the Ghost Recon gamer and average user, which most gamers are. The only difference between the two, to speak of, is that XP Pro has all the administrative tools included for the power user and XP Home does not. Other than that, they are the same OS, except Pro is 100 dollars more. So unless you're a power user who wants all his toys, don't waste your money.

Before doing the following things, just to be safe, go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and choose System Restore. Choose Create a Restore Point, and follow the prompts until it's finished.

The first, simplest thing you can do with XP is go to Start, Run , and type in msconfig . When you go into msconfig , you want to ignore all the tabs, except the Startup Tab .
Click on it and it will open up a box that has a list of programs in it that are check marked. Uncheck all of these items. Doing this does not uninstall the program, merely keeps them from running at startup as TSR's (Terminate and Stay Resident Programs), which load up your memory on startup. If you have 256MB of System RAM or less, this can be a real hindrance when it comes to gaming. You can then run them when you choose to from the Programs' Menu. WinXP typically by itself, depending on how tweaked or not your OS is, can use as much as 147MB of System RAM, just for itself before any other apps or games are loaded. Depending on active mods, Ghost Recon requires up to 90 MB. As you can see, on a machine with 256 MB of system RAM, this can go fast and leave little leeway for workspace, especially with messaging or email programs running. When you're done un-checking everything here, choose apply , close , and choose Exit without Re-Start .

The next thing you will want to do is click Start , find My Computer , Right click on it, and choose Properties . At the System Properties Window , click on the Advanced Tab , and choose the Settings Button . Under Visual Effects you can choose one of the 4 default options. I personally run mine at Best Performance. It frees up a lot of memory. It just depends on how much RAM you want to sacrifice for useless visual effects. Choose to your liking. Click apply, go back up, and click on the Advanced tab. Make sure that Processor scheduling and Memory Usage , are both set for Programs .

At the Virtual Memory section, click the Change Button . Now this is important, especially if you are multi-booting with another OS or have several Hard Disk Drives (HDD's). In the box, your drives will be listed. By default, Win XP assigns all remaining available HDD space on the Windows drive, with a minimum of 768 Megabytes and a maximum of every thing free space wise on the drive, to Virtual Memory. This can actually slow performance down big time, especially on large drives in use today. Windows will scatter all the files it's using over that entire unused area of the drive, meaning longer fetch times. Highlight the drive that Windows is installed on, usually C, and choose the custom size option. In both value boxes, enter 768 and click OK . This will limit the Swap File to 768 MB instead of all the free space on the Drive. Do NOT restart yet.

Another word on speeding up HDD access times. Double click My Computer , then Right click on the drive that has Windows installed on it, and choose properties . At the bottom, make sure the Compress Drive box is unchecked and Allow Indexing is checked. Click the Disk Cleanup button and as soon as the menu box comes up, uncheck everything except Temporary Internet Files. This will keep the HDD from constantly searching for files to delete and leave you the option to do it manually when you are using your PC for important stuff like fragging in Ghost Recon! ! - This tip provided by Snakebite1967.

The next thing we are going to do is disable all unnecessary services that load up and use valuable resources, mainly RAM. There are two ways you can view and disable Services in XP Pro and one way in XP Home. The first way works in both OS's.

Go to Start, Control panel, and Administrative Tools . On the Left hand side, at the bottom, you will see an entry called Services . Double click it. This will open up the Services Control Panel where you can view and disable services. Go down the list and, before disabling and stopping any service, review the description next to it. Do NOT disable any Remote Procedure Call Services or TCP/IP Services . Do disable the Remote Access Services, The Messenger Service for security, and the Messenger Service to eliminate a lot of pop-ups . Other Services are at your discretion, just read the descriptions and dependencies very carefully. If you find you need something that you disabled, go back in and set it to automatic again. You haven't hurt anything.

The second way to get into the Services Control Panel only works with XP Pro, because the Admin Snap-ins are only available with the Pro version. Go to Start, Run , and type in services.msc .

Once you have gone through here and completed your service selection, close the Services Control panel . Do NOT reboot yet.

I CANNOT stress this point enough! ! Before starting any of these tweaks and changes; before you make one registry alteration; when you open regedit, go up to File, choose Export, and export your Registry to a safe location, in case of a mistake. If a mistake is made, it's not the end of the world! ! You can then boot Windows to Safe Mode and restore the registry by double clicking on the exported file you made, which will restore it, or by right clicking on the exported file and choosing Restore option.

Also, remember that after you alter the Registry, System Restore will NOT work again until you create a new Restore Point through Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and System Restore . System Restore uses the Registry to Restore and can't do so once it's been altered . So, once it's been altered and you're sure everything is working to your satisfaction, create a new Restore Point. Likewise, if you have to restore your old Registry Backup file, you will also need to create a new Restore Point.

Open Regedit by going to Start, Run, and type in regedit . Navigate to the following keys.

Hkey_Local Machine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version and navigate down until you see between 1 and 4 Run folders called Run, Run Once, Run Services, and Run Services Once . NOTE: Your Windows setup may not contain all of these folders . In the right hand pane, delete any keys of programs you didn't leave in msconfig to run on Windows start up. This doesn't harm the program in any way , just keeps it from starting up when Windows does.

This should free up a great many system resources that will help GR and all your apps run to their full potential and load faster, as well.

The other thing that must be done at least once a week for light users and 3 times a week for power or heavy users is Scandisk and Defrag. Windows XP is notorious, especially with NTFS for fragmenting, especially during heavy use.

For those of you that are new to OS's and tweaking and the ins and outs of the OS, this is what defragging does. When Windows uses files or runs apps, it has a nasty habit of just popping the info back on the drive wherever it wants to, instead of with the rest of the program. So what defragging does is to put the files back in a nice, continuous, orderly fashion so that seek and fetch times are faster. In other words, it groups program files back together as they should be.

That's about it for windows XP. Please tell me what you all think. All feedback is welcome. If I can help anyone who gets stuck or you have specific questions, my contact info is listed. Just PM or email me to let me know you want to add me to a messenger service, so I don't block you by accident, and tell me who you are. If you don't, you'll get blocked, because I get a ton of anonymous stuff and undesired people trying to add me.

In the coming week, look for a similar tutorial on Windows 98/ME, since it is still very common. As well as one for networking online MP and LAN party setup. If there is enough demand for one, I will also put one together for Windows 2000.