BOOT CAMP 356 (14/12/04)




Following on from last week’s introduction to solving the problem of a slow booting Windows XP computer we continue with some more tips and tweaks that should help to get your PC ready for use inside a minute.


This week’ selection can be used with both the Home and Pro versions of Windows XP; they are aimed at novice and intermediate users so the gains tend to be fairly modest but they are all reasonably safe and easy to carry out. Nevertheless, don’t forget to backup all of your irreplaceable data beforehand and as usual you try them entirely at your own risk.


One of the many possible log jams during the Windows XP boot up sequence is font loading and over time you can accumulate several hundred of them, most of which you rarely, if ever need. Fonts seem to breed and they are installed willy-nilly by programs on your PC and by visiting web sites. If your tally now exceeds 200 or so then it is worth thinning them out and this should claw back a few more seconds from your boot time. The trick is not to delete unwanted or unused fonts but to move them to another folder so that if you do need them again they can be easily reinstated.


Start by creating a store folder for your redundant fonts in Windows Explorer. You’ll find the main fonts folder in: C:\Windows\Fonts, so go to File > New > Folder and call it ‘Fontsold’ or something similar then open C:\Windows\Fonts and drag and drop the ones you don’t want into C:\Windows\Fontsold. The only ones you should not move are the Windows ‘core’ fonts, which are needed by Windows and most major applications and they are: Courier New (TrueType, Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic variants), Arial (TrueType, Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic variants), Times New Roman (TrueType, Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic variants) Symbol (TrueType), Wingdings (TrueType), MS Serif and MS Sans Serif. When you have finished turn off your PC, reboot and check the start up time against your benchmark (see last week’s Boot Camp) and make sure that everything is working properly.


If you need to restore a font you should do that from Control Panel (Start > Control Panel > Fonts), click the File menu, select Install New Font and retrieve the file from your ‘Fontsold’ folder.


Windows XP uses a trick to increase the amount of memory it needs to load essential files during boot up by hiving some of them off to the hard disc drive into a ‘swap file’ or ‘virtual’ memory. If your hard drive has been partitioned into two or more ‘logical’ drives, and you have plenty of room on a partition, you can speed things up by increasing the size of the swap file and moving it to another partition.


By default the size of the swap file is controlled by Windows, usually quite conservatively, so you should find that by increasing it to between 2 and 3 times the size of your RAM memory (between 1 and 2Gb if you have 512Mb of RAM, say), you should notice some small but worthwhile improvements.


The configuration settings are well hidden so pay attention…Right-click on My Computer, select Properties then the Advanced tab, under Performance click the Settings button, select the Advanced tab then under Virtual Memory click the Change button. You can now select the partition where the Swap File will be kept and change the maximum size of the file. Click Set then OK to make the change, reboot and check your boot up time against your benchmark.


Still on the subject of memory, your PC’s RAM memory plays a crucial part in the boot up process and whilst Windows XP will run with only 128Mb of RAM I wouldn’t consider anything less than 512Mb. Increasing your computer’s RAM memory will also improve overall performance and it’s a cheap and simple upgrade with 512Mb modules selling less than £50 from online sellers.


There are several different types of memory module so it is important to make sure you get the right sort. In general it is better to have one or two big modules rather than several smaller ones, even if it means making the existing modules redundant (you can always sell them on ebay or fit them into another machine). You’ll find the details of your PC’s memory module in the motherboard manual that should have come with your PC or consult the manufacturer’s Help and Support department. For the record the two commonest types in use today are 168-pin DIMM (older PCs) and 184-pin DDR DIMM (most recent models).


Fitting a memory module really isn’t difficult but it is a lid-off job and if you’ve never done this kind of thing before it’s best to call in the experts. If you fancy having a go yourself then have a look at Boot Camp 315.

Next week we’re wheeling out the big guns for the benefit of advanced Windows users, which could yield for some major reductions that could dramatically shorten the boot up time of your XP computer to less than 15 seconds!


Next week – XP Tuning Tips, part 3





Double Data Rate, Dual In-line Memory Module



Random Access Memory, a computer's working memory, where Windows and running programs store files and data that needs to be accessed quickly



Dividing a single large hard disc drive into two or more separate (logical) drives, so a 120Gb drive, for example, could be split into two 60Gb partitions designated C: and D:




Until fairly recently Microsoft offered an excellent free tool for monitoring Windows XP boot up processes. ‘BootVis’ generates a detailed log graphically showing how long each stage takes and this information can be used to identify the bottlenecks. Unfortunately it is no longer available from the MS web site due to incompatibility with processors that use ‘hyperthreading’ technology -- an update is promised but it has yet to materialise. However, a few web sites still have it, try:

Installing it on an unsuitable PC isn’t harmful, it just doesn’t work.


Part 1 3

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