Gerrards Cross Computer Club

Windows support and diagnostic tools

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Page updated 5 October 2008

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Overview

This page was created to support a talk given at the Gerrards Cross Computer Club. The topic was "Improving Windows Performance".

There are many areas where performance can deteriorate. Diagnosing the reason is never easy and can take experience and usually a lot of time and effort. Somtimes it is easier to reinstall - this is when the diagnosis would take longer than the time taken to resotore the computer to a working state. 

The time take to reinstate the computer depends on how good your backups you have are (you have taken a backup haven't you? - more on this topic next month).

There a number of tools which can be used to investigate issues with Windows. Note that these have been tested on XP but not all have been tested on Vista.

Tools that work

The recommended tools are listed in the following table. They are all free. If anyone can suggest any more then please let me know and I will update this page. If there are any brave (foolhardy :-) ) Vista uses that can remove some of the question marks again please let me know. Most of them should work.

Program/URL XP Vista Description

JKDefrag

GUI

Y Y

A free deframenmtation program that does a much better job than the Windows tools. The basic program runs from a command line i.e. in a CMD Window. 

There are several GUI front ends that make it easier to use. The one shown is the simplest.

PageDefrag

Y

N

One of the Sysinternals programs, now owned by Microsoft

This program will defragment the Page file (and some other system files) that JKDefrag is unable to defragment as the files are in use. It requires a reboot and the defragmentation takes place during the reboot.

Autoruns

Y

?

One of the Sysinternals programs, now owned by Microsoft

This program allows you to examine what programs are run during the boot process. More than that it allows you to stop programs being loaded and reinstate them. It makes a Registry tweak that is reveOne of thOne of the Sysinternals programs, now owned by Microsofte Sysinternals programs, now owned by Microsoftrsable.

LoadOrder

Y ?

One of the Sysinternals programs, now owned by Microsoft

This program shows the order in which programs are normally started when Windows Boots up. Note that some device drivers are "plug and play and do not necessarily start at the same time,

What's Running

Y

?

This program shows what is actually running on your computer. You have used Task Manager (ALT+CTRL+DEL) I presume. When you run What's Running you realise that Task Mnager only shows part (a small part) of the story.

Booviz

Y

?

This was originally a Microsoft program but is no longer available from their site. some download links resulted in corrupt files when I tried them.

The program produces a very comprehensive map of the boot process. Interpreting it is the challenge!

Installation instructions for this program can be found here.

perfmon.msc

Y

?

This is a tool that is already on your computer. It can show whether your disk is being heavily used and in particular whether your Page file is being accessed.

You run it by entering the program name into the Run box accessed from the Start menu.

CCleaner

Y Y

This program can perform a number of actions to help maintain your computer. It needs to be used with case, particularly the Registry cleaning function.

The program includes:

  • Ceaning out temporary files
  • Uninstall (quicker than Windows Add/Remove programs
  • Registry cleaner - removes invalid registry links

SIW

Y

?

A program that produces a comprehensive report on what is in your computer. This can be useful to identify things that you did not know were there.    

Belarc

Y

?

Another computer reporting tool.

Other steps you can take

Remove Windows temporary files

This won't directly improve performance unless your disk has filled up with such files and become fragmented. They accumulate over a period of time and many of them are never deleted!

Remove Internet temporary files

These are held in a different place to windows temporary files. The size of this store is limited by Internet Explorer but (in my opinion) the default size of 50 megabytes is far too high. I change it to the minimum which is 8 megabytes. This applies to IE7. IE 6 would allow you to set this lower.

Firefox does have a mechanism for controlling the cache size but I am not a regular user.

The purpose of these files is to hold a local copy of pages you have visited to make returning to them faster. There is a trade off between the number of files held, the speed of your Internet connection, and the time it takes to check the cache each time you access a link on a page. 

My own experimentation shows no noticeable speed improvement with cache size greater than 2 megabytes so I make it as small as possible (thank you Mr Gates for constraining my choice!)

Remove unused fonts

I have not yet tried this but it has been reported that removing fonts can make a significant different. I think they breed in the computer and I don't know where many of them came from!