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TACKtech Corp. > Articles > Software > Tips, Tricks, Tweaks, and Setting

Other Speed Increases (TTID #11)

Author: TACKtech Team   Views: 23,340 /  Created: January 1, 2001
Defragment your hard drive. You can use the Windows 9X defrag utility. If you happen to have Norton Utilities, and you use Norton Speedisk (Note: some systems using the Intel UDMA drivers hav been know to have problems with this utility corrupting data), you can set it up to move your files around for optimal start-up. It is important defrag once a month or so. If you've been using Windows 9X for a while, you may notice that your disk drive will start thrashing at seemingly random intervals. It's disconcerting to say the least and a serious performance drag at times. There are actually several potential causes for this.

One possible cause of disk thrashing is that Windows 9X will occasionally change the swap file (virtual memory file) size based on the current system requirements. You can stop this from happening by setting the maximum and minimum swap file sizes to the same number. A conservative rule of thumb is to set it to 2.5x your installed memory, though if you have more than 128MB, 1.5 to 2x is more than enough. This will create a permanent swap file that won't be resized. After you've done this, and then rebooted, you'll want to defrag one more time. Note that if you have two physical hard drives, putting the swap file on the second (non-boot) hard drive can also speed up access to virtual memory. Do not do this if you have a single physical drive with two partitions.

Another culprit is Windows 9X's disk cache. In the old days of DOS, you had SMARTDRV, but that has been replaced by VCACHE. VCACHE is a program that caches hard-drive data in system memory. Occasionally, VCACHE can get pretty big. This can have two simultaneous adverse effects. First, the disk will begin to thrash as VCACHE gets bigger and programs are forced to swap to virtual memory. Second, you have less memory for your programs. One solution is to limit the size of VCACHE. You do this by editing the file \windows\system.ini. Search for VCACHE - you'll probably find it as a header with no entries underneath. Ideally, you'd like VCACHE to be about one-fourth of your system RAM up to 64MB. If you have more than 64MB, leave it at 16MB. The key is to make it a fixed number for minimum and maximum. Add the following two items underneath the VCACHE heading:

MinFileCache=16384
MaxFileCache=16384

Do this only if you have more than 16MB of system RAM.
You may want to play around with this setting a bit over time, but remember that any memory that VCACHE uses isn't available for your programs. On the other hand, if VCACHE is too small, you'll notice more disk activity every time you load your system.

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