BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1998

  

 

BOOT CAMP 006

THE NEED FOR SPEED

When your new Windows 95 PC left the factory it’s highly unlikely that it was set up for maximum speed and performance. Manufacturers and vendors tend to be cautious and adopt the safest, most reliable configuration. This is partly to stop you pestering their technical support helplines with problems that you’ll be able to sort out yourself, once you’ve gained a little experience; it’s also quicker, and cheaper for them to do it that way. However,  it means that your computer might be persuaded to perform certain tasks a little bit faster, and speed up the action on some graphics-intensive games.

Before we get to the bits you can tweak yourself, it’s worth pointing out that the size of your PC’s random access memory or RAM has a big impact on how quickly it does things. Windows 95 works best with 32 megabytes of RAM; if your machine has less than that, have it upgraded. Memory chips are cheap at the moment and it only takes a few minutes to install the new circuit boards. Doubling your PC’s RAM capacity from 16MB to 32MB, say, should cost less than £40 and it can yield a speed increase of up to 50%. We’re not suggesting you do it yourself -- though it’s actually quite easy -- but the shop where you brought your PC from should make only a nominal charge. You will also have someone to blame, if a problem arises. 

There’s several things you can do to the Windows 95 operating system, to pep-up your PC, and they  shouldn’t get you into any trouble, well, not much... First make sure your hard disc drive and CD ROM are working at maximum efficiency. Right click on the My Computer icon on the desktop, select Properties and then the Performance tab. Hopefully you will see a message saying that your machine is ‘configured for optimal performance’ but it’s as well to check. Click on the File System button and check the Hard Disk tab. There you will see a window that outlines what sort of PC you have -- make sure it is correct -- and a slider, that determines how the hard disc is used. If it’s not already set to ‘Full’ change it.

Next click the CD ROM tab, and set the ‘supplemental cache size’ slider to Large, assuming of course that the box below is correct and that your CD ROM is a quad-speed model or higher. It almost certainly will be if your PC is less than a year or so old. Click on OK and you will return to the System Properties window.

Now click on the Graphics button. Ideally the Hardware Acceleration slider will be set to Full, if not increase the speed, but be aware that this can cause problems on some systems. If you experience erratic behaviour, or programs freeze, move  it back to an intermediate setting and see if that works.

As you use your PC and load more programs,  the hard disc drive will get cluttered with redundant files. They slow down how quickly information can be read from and to the hard disc drive. Removing those files will make the machine run faster and we’ll be looking at how to do it in a couple of weeks time. If you can’t wait you might be interested in some programs that will do the job for you quickly and safely, and automatically optimise your PC. The best known are Quarterdeck Clean Sweep, Cybermedia Uninstaller, Cross Atlantic Nuts And Bolts, and IMSI WinDelete. They mostly cost between £25 to £35 and are money well spent.

One part of the PC set-up that manufacturers almost always ignore is the BIOS or Basic Input Output System. It’s the program that runs as soon as your PC is switched on, telling it how to communicate with things like the hard disc drive -- where all of your programs are stored -- plus how much and what type of memory your machine has. It’s a fair bet that some settings could be improved on most machines. Unfortunately the BIOS is off-limits to newcomers. In any case most of what you will see is incomprehensible, but there’s nothing to stop you having a peek. As soon as you’ve switched on your PC you should see a message that says something like, ‘to enter set-up press....’. It may be the ‘delete’ button or some other combination of keys. Do it and you will be presented with a

set of menus. Don’t touch anything but if you like, you can make a permanent record of your PC’s BIOS current settings by using the Print Screen function on the keyboard. Keep it safe, you never know, it might come in handy one day. When you’ve finished choose the ‘exit without making any changes’ option.

TOP TIIP

Computers can seriously damage your health! Inappropriate seating is a major contributing factor to back pain. If you are going to be seated in front of your PC for more than a hour or so each day get a proper chair. Purpose designed office chairs, with adjustable height and back support are ideal, and they’re not expensive.

Make sure the screen is at the most comfortable height -- e.g. eye-level and that the brightness and contrast are properly adjusted. If you get a lot of reflections on the screen, from bright lights or windows a clip-on anti-glare screen should help.  

Keyboards can cause a lot of problems, especially the cheap ones that come with a lot of PCs these days. Fast typists and those used to mechanical typewriters can find the short, sharp keystrokes of a PC keyboard uncomfortable, it can even lead to  painful repetitive strain injury or RSI. If you’re going to be doing a lot of typing think about buying an ergonomically shaped keyboard. Wrist support pads can help relieve the strain, though if problems persist you should consult your GP.

Don’t sit staring at the screen for hours on end without a break. Stand up from time to time, walk around, maybe do some stretching exercises

JARGON FILTER

BIOS -- basic input output system

A set of instructions that tells your PC what it is connected to, and how to communicate with devices like hard disc drive and memory chips

OPERATING SYSTEM

The operating system or OS is a program, or collection of programs, Windows 95 and DOS (disc operating system), that that manages all of your PC’s resources -- RAM memory, disc-drive, display screen, etc., -- and controls how files are stored and retrieved.

RAM -- random access memory

Your computer’s working memory, where programs store information when they are running. The bigger it is, he less time your computer will have to wait to get data from the hard disc drive.

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