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Part II: Unleashing Windows 98 Customiza... > Performance Tuning: Optimizing Memor...

Chapter 9. Performance Tuning: Optimizing Memory and Disk Access


Speed, it seems to me, provides the one genuinely modern pleasure.

Aldous Huxley

In Chapter 1, “Preparing for the Windows 98 Installation,” I spent some time musing about why our workaday computer chores seem to take just as long as they ever did, despite the fact that our hardware is, generally speaking, bigger, better, and faster than ever. The answer to this apparent riddle is related to Parkinson's Law of Data: Data expands to fill the space available for storage. On a more general level, Parkinson's Law could be restated as follows: The increase in software system requirements is directly proportional to the increase in hardware system capabilities. A slick new chip is released that promises a 30 percent speed boost; software designers, seeing the new chip gain wide acceptance, add extra features to their already bloated code to take advantage of the higher performance level; then another new chip is released, followed by another software upgrade—and the cycle continues ad nauseum as these twin engines of computer progress lurch codependently into the future.

So how do you break out of the performance deadlock created by the immovable object of software code bloat meeting the irresistible force of hardware advancement? By optimizing your system to minimize the effects of overgrown applications and to maximize the native capabilities of your hardware. Learning how to optimize memory, hard disks, and devices is the key to unleashing your system's performance potential, and that's exactly what I'll show you how to do in this chapter.

Before discussing those tools, you should know that Microsoft claims Windows 98 should be faster than Windows 95 and should consume fewer resources. Here's why:

  • The number of chores Windows 98 performs at startup and shutdown have been reduced or even eliminated in some cases. This should result in faster startups and shutdowns for most machines.

  • The Windows 98 Memory Manager module has been optimized. Microsoft claims the new Memory Manager uses less memory and smaller swap files.

  • The Windows 98 Memory Manager also includes a utility called Winalign. This tool runs during the Windows 98 Setup, and its purpose is to realign the clusters within a file so that they begin on certain predetermined boundaries. This enables the Memory Manager to optimize how these files are loaded into memory.

  • Windows 98 supports the Intel MMX chip via DirectX 5.0. This should supply a noticeable speed increase in some graphics-intensive applications, particularly if you don't have a good 3D graphics accelerator in your system.

  • Disk Defragmenter does a better job of optimizing your hard disk. In particular, Disk Defragmenter can monitor the programs you use most often and arrange the clusters of those programs so they are contiguous and thus easier to find and load.



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