Getting the most from your computer

Speed Up Your Computer

If you do not understand some terminology check our glossary page.

So you want to speed up your computer. Well then you need to understand a few things first. If you are trying to speed up the computer for Vista, your not going to do it. But if you just want some your computer to run little faster, we can help.

I will try to explain all this in a way that most will understand. So please do not believe that a BUS is a bus as in an automobile, or that your CPU has driving lanes in it. I am going to use simple demonstrations and easy numbers for you to follow.

The speed of your computer is controlled by few different items. :

1) The CPU
2) Hard Drive
3) The BUS
4) File System - FAT / NTFS
5) Memory
6) Temperature

Now you can have a 400 MHz AMD KII CPU, a 7200 rpm UDMA hard drive, Windows 98, and my little old 233 will run as fast as yours does, why?

Let's look at each item. But first let's understand how each item works, then we will put it all together.

1) The CPU: This is the brain of the computer that's why they call it the Central Processing Unit. A program contains code in a machine language that is sent to the CPU. The CPU then reads this language and processes each command. The CPU is pre-coded (I use the word pre-coded to make it easy to understand) to read each one of these commands, meaning that the machine language is a very simple code consisting of ones (1) and zeros (0). A series of 1's and 0's may tell the CPU to place the next series of 1's and zeros on the stack. So the pre-coded part as an example is the CPU knows that ten 1's and a 0 means to extract. ( This is an example; it is not ten 1's and a 0). So the CPU does not need to read a full line of code to do this any longer. The old 486 processors took a long time to extract a file because it was not pre-coded. It did not know the command without reading and following every byte.
The next part of the CPU you need to understand is how many channels does it have. Picture a 4-lane highway in New York during rush hour, compared to an eight-lane highway. Naturally the traffic moves faster on eight lanes than on four lanes and producers less friction on each lane. And the last part of the CPU is the Cache. Information can be stored in the CPU Cache; just like RAM; except reading from Cache on the CPU is at least twice as fast.

2) The hard drive: Picture a record player with the record being the hard drive disk where your files are stored. The arm of the record player is the pickup arm in the hard drive. But the hard drive can have several records and arms stacked on top of one another. Each arm follows the same movement as the first arm.
Now let's say you have a 15 gig hard drive and let's not consider the rpm speed yet. Now let's go open a program. Click on a shortcut, the CPU tells the hard drive to move the arm to the FAT to locate the file. The arm then moves to the first cluster of the file, then to the next and so on till the whole file is found. Then the CPU tells the arm to go get so-and-so.dll. So the arm goes to the FAT and then repeats the process till all files needed are found. The CPU also must put information into the Swap File, more moving of the arms; more time spent starting your program. But remember Windows is working, controlling what is going on. So the CPU and the hard drive must also go get files and process them as well, all at the same time. Now the hard drive motor is producing heat and fiction as well as all this information being feed through the circuits produces friction. Raising the temperature.
So the faster the RPM the faster your program opens. If you place your Swap File on a different hard drive, if you have two, then the Windows hard drive does not need to handle the Swap File. Hence increased speed.

3) The BUS: The BUS is the connection between your hard drive, as well as other hardware, ISA, PCI, and the CPU (via the mother broad). So naturally the more on the bus the slower it is. Picture a public transportation bus with 55 people on it. If it has 100 horsepower then it is going to move slower than a bus with 200 horsepower. So the higher the MHz is the faster the information can get to the CPU. The more information traveling, the more fiction. Because more horsepower is needed to move it. Now how many people fit on the bus at once? Ah, a bottleneck, not enough seats available till someone gets off. The BUS speed will do more for performance than increase the multiplier. If you increase the multiplier, increase it one level only.
How all this works is simple math. You have a 133 MHz processor, and your BUS speed is 66, your multiplier is set to 2.0 This means that 66 x 2 = 133. So you must have a processor rated at 133 MHz. If you increase the multiplier one level to 2.5 the processor is forced to handle 166 MHz. But if we leave the multiplier at 2.0 and increase the BUS to 75 MHz the processor works at 150 MHz. Increasing the BUS may not work with your processor. Believe it or not, in this example the 150 will be faster than the 166 because more information can pass the BUS. Since the per Vista processors are so cheap today you might want to do both and have the processor working at 200 MHz, but remember you're really pushing this processor. So keep it cool.

4) File System: There are many file systems available but only 3 for Windows and that depends on the operating system you are using. Windows 95 original release uses only one type of FAT, also known as FAT16. OSR2 and Windows 98 use both FAT and FAT32. Windows 2003, XP and Vista uses FAT32 and NTFS. Windows 2000 uses FAT, FAT 32, and NTFS. But most of using NTFS on XP or 2000. Let's work with FAT and FAT32 first so that NTFS can be explain quickly. Now that we have learned about the hard drive and how it works; let us take a look at how the File System affect the speed of the computer. FAT32 uses 8 clusters of 512 byte sectors to store files on. This means that if you save a file that contains 1,234 bytes it is stored in the 8 clusters. Using up 4,096 bytes of hard drive space. If you are using a hard drive large then 16 gigs, then the 4,096 inceases to 8,192, and so on. Since the file is only 1,234 bytes the rest of the space is free for this file only to grow. If you use FAT or FAT16 Windows stores your file that is 1,234 bytes in 64 clusters of 512 sectors, 32768. This means that the arm on the drive must read more clusters (a larger area of the hard drive) to read the same file. NTFS does not use this type of file system. NTFS can be told to store a 200 byte file in a single sector of 512. The maximum file storage on NTFS is 4,096 bytes, even at this size NFTS is going to be much faster.

5) Memory: This is your RAM and your Swap File. RAM is about 20 times faster then using a Swap File. There are no moving parts in RAM and the RAM is on the motherboard so the information does not need to past through the BUS. Instead it comes out of the CPU and directly into the RAM. Let's look at this. Let's say the information passing through the CPU is today's newspaper; and you are the CPU reading the newspaper. Now you are reading the paper you are making notes in a notepad about what you just read. Someone comes along and asks you a question about something in the paper; you start off telling them what you remember about it. Then you open your notepad to get some more information; the notepad is the Swap File. Now it takes you longer to reread your notes then it did for you to recall what you can from memory.

6) Temperature: Well last but not least. FRICTION is the key word here. Friction makes heat, and heat makes the molecules spread apart. So let's think about this one. When we talk about electricity we think of a house. Your home has a line coming in to feed the electricity to your appliances. This line is larger in size than your stove line (if you have an electric stove). Why, they both are 220 volts? Because of the amps. Amps tell us how much electricity we need. Now if we used a stove line (about 8 gauge) to feed the house with electricity, it would get very hot with all that current being pushed through the line. So to handle the heat we use a larger line (1 or 0 or large gauge depending on where you live and your demands). So it handles more current and stays cooler. Well as metal builds heat its like a bridge in the summertime that expands, the molecules move away from one another. This effect in your computer is causing the information sent over the circuits and wires to have to jump from one molecule to the next (not exactly but you understand). This also means that less information can be inside the CPU at any one time.
The first item to check is the CPU core voltage, too high of a voltage will increase the heat or burn out the CPU. Too low will cause the CPU to stall under large loads.
B) The next thing to check is the venting and fans inside the computer. We want the power supply fan to suck air out of the power supply; not blow in. If it blows in it is adding heat to the inside of the computer.
C) We also want a CPU fan and Heat Sink on our CPU. Be sure to use a thermal compound and not a thin foil plate.
D) The next fan we want is a box fan that blows out not in. The fan will suck cool air in from the small opening in the box. You should make a vent near the bottom if the box does not have one. The idea here is to place the box fan as high up as we can and use or create a small opening as low as we can in the box. Heat rises so let's get rid of it.
E) If we have more then one hard drive, make sure that they are separated as much as possible so they can breath cooler air.

Putting It All Together

OK, let start! Let's say we got an older 166 Pentium, two 2 gig hard drives, 32 Megs of RAM, 12 KB Cache, Windows 95 B (OSR2), and a 33 modem, and we use our computer mainly for work. (Boy, this computer is really old, but you'll get the idea).We do not use a scanner and we don't work with large graphics. We want to upgrade our computer; but we only have a few dollars.

I would do all things that I can do that do not cost money first. Let's start with the CPU. The 166 MHz is probably set to a BUS speed of 66 already. If not, let's set it to 66. If we set it to 75 now we have a 200 MHz CPU; or if we move the clock speed (multiplier) up on level (it is probably set to 3.5 to 4.0) we will make the 166 MHz a 200 MHz. If we moved both the BUS and the clock one level each, we would have a 233 MHz CPU. You may have to increase the CPU core voltage one level also to get Windows to boot. If we moved both, we are going straight out to the store and buying $8.00 CPU fan. A really good CPU will cost about $40.00 to $75.00. This is a fan that sits on top of the CPU, and our 166 MHz is now going to start producing a lot of heat, So keep it cool. While we're at the store let also buy a fan card or rear cabinet fan to take the hot air out of the cabinet. This is going to cost us about another $12.00.

The next thing we are going to do is to make both our hard drives masters. This means that we will have one hard drive attached to each hard drive controller. This will stop any bottleneck of data transfer to the motherboard. We will be making our CD-ROM(s) the slave(s). Now we can change the hard drive ribbon cables. The 40 pin cables with 40 wires to 40 pin and 80 wires. The extra 40 wires are used for cleaning up data transfer, allowing the data to move quicker. If we buy two new cables this will cost us about $20.00.

Now let's look at our Memory. If we have only 128 Megs of RAM, both chips will probable be exactly alike. I am speaking of SDRAM, 168 pin, if you have DDR type the rules still apply. We want to increase the amount of RAM on the motherboard because Windows changes the way it uses memory once it has access to more than 32 Megs in windows 9x and 128 in Windows 2000 and XP. So we need to locate al least another 128 Megs. Increasing the onboard RAM from 128 Megs to 256 Megs will show you the largest increase in performance. I mean, an amount over the Meg limit will make a noticeable difference. Going from 64 megs to 128 Megs will not be that noticeable at all. But it doesn't hurt to have more RAM. Now let's go shopping for RAM. Using two different speeds of RAM will cause the faster RAM to run at the slower speed. So we are not gaining anything by buying faster RAM. Also you may start have General Protection Faults with the mismatched RAM. If you use DIMM (168 pin) if you have PC100 do not waste the money on PC133. Now if you have 128 Megs or more, or you are constantly running low on resources review the page on memory.

With the extra RAM that we know Windows is not going to use wisely, we will set up our Swap File on a RAM drive. To help you determine if you can create a RAM Drive, and to tell you how much RAM you need; use the Memory Utilization utility that comes with our software "QikFix". IF QikFix tells you you need 2 maximum RAM of 224 after several days on monitoring, then you can install a total of 256 Megs of RAM and create the RAM Drive for your Swap File. We only made QikFix for 9x and ME, so if you have XP or 2003 you need to use the Taskman to see how memory is used. Learn how to get the most from your RAM and set up your Swap File.

No let's address our File System. What I will do is clean up my hard drive of all the junk I do not need. Paying close attention to the Fonts folder. If I do not use the Font or Windows does not require it, I get rid of it. To help you figure out which Fonts you want to get rid of use the View Fonts feature and then open the Windows Explorer to the Windows Fonts folder, on the Explore menu bar select "View" then "List Fonts by Similarity". Now you can see which fonts are candidates for deleting in the Explorer.

Then I'll check all my hardware settings and drivers. I want no errors and the latest drivers for speed. With all this done I want to convert my FAT16 to FAT32, and convert your FAT#@ to NTFS if you have XP or 2003, Then last item I need to do is to defragment my drives. This I will do every other day if not every day.

Before you jump out on the Internet to buy something check the place out carefully. I have had a bad experience with and a great one with I ordered 2 RAM chips from EggHead, and when I received them and plugged them in I found that they were only 1/2 the megs each. I called and complained, naturally I was told it was my machine, not their RAM. Well I did not settle for that answer. I got hold a manager and found out that they did have thewrong chips being shipped out in error. So if I wanted I could pay a second time and they would reship me and then issue a UPS pickup. Upon receipt of the RAM they would issue a credit. So I agreed, low and behold the new RAM came in and what do you think, right, their where still the wrong chips. I call the manager and was told that they could not help me. I would have to pay again and wait for a credit. "Why? ", I said," this is the second time!" and I was told that they cannot guarantee what RAM I would get again because they bought a box of chips from some place and that they have no idea if they truly are all same chips. So I asked why are you advertising them if you don't even know if you have them. Anyway, I returned them all and they charged me all the shipping, which they make money on.

On the other hand I ordered a 128 Meg chip from and when I installed it, it was dead. I called and after hearing their 15% return policy, I sent it back expecting to be ripped off again. Well I was wrong, they replaced it and did not charge for shipping or anything else. I was amazed! So if you need something check, them out. Their prices change daily, but I now buy all my hardware from them with no problems.

So here you have it.


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