by October 11, 2003 0 comments



Once in a while, everyone enjoys computer games. But it can be pretty frustrating if a monster slaughters you every five minutes because your machine isn’t fast enough. Unfortunately, you can’t keep upgrading your machine every time a new resource-hungry game arrives. So you have to improvise with whatever you have. One of the things you can do is to tweak your OS for better performance. Windows XP has lots of settings that can be played around with to squeeze out every ounce of performance from it. This can really be useful if you’re on a slower, outdated machine. We installed it on a Celeron 600 MHz machine with 128 MB RAM and onboard graphics, to see whether the tweaking really makes any difference. The results were noticeable, if not stunning. We basically optimized it for playing games, and found that the tweaks can actually make graphics’ intensive 3D game playing smoother. 

The difference in performance with the XP optimization is noticeable when lots of characters appear in the
game

We checked for the performance improvement in two ways, one by playing an actual 3D game, namely the The Incredible Hulk and then using the 3DMark 2001 benchmark. In both cases, we first tested with the default XP installation with Service Pack 1, and then with the tweaks. 

Optimizing XP
The default installation of Windows XP Prof/Home Edition starts many services in the background, which you could do without, as they eat up a significant amount of your system RAM. Depending upon your hardware, the default installation runs about 30 to 35 services in the background. If you want to optimize XP purely for gaming, then you just need to enable 7 of these services and disable the rest. In addition to this, you also need to do a few other things to optimize XP. Let’s look at them one by one. 

In My Computer properties, click on the Advanced tab, go to the Performance option, and click the Settings button. Here, choose the Adjust for best performance radio button

Right click My Computer and select properties. Click on the Advanced tab, and from the performance option, click the settings button. This will open a performance window. Select the Adjust for best performance radio button and click OK. 
Remove everything from the task bar, such as clock, sound, etc.

Disable all programs that automatically start when the system boots up, such as messenger, other system tools. To do this, run msconfig from Start Menu>Run. Select the Start Up tab to see which programs load during system startup. Uncheck all the check boxes here. 

Finally, go to system services and disable all except the ones mentioned below. You can access these services from Start>Control Panel> Administrative Tools> Services. This will open the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which will show all services installed on your system. Note that this will run only the bare minimum services required by XP to function. Even critical third party services like anti-virus, firewall, anti-spam will be disabled. So you need to be very careful when using the machine. Make sure you’re not connected to the network or accessing the Internet after this. Also ensure that you don’t use any floppies during this time to prevent any possibilities of virus infection. Note down the status of all services before disabling them. This way, you can always restore your machine back to the original condition in case of a problem, or at least run the critical services like anti-virus, firewall, etc. (See box).

WinXP services to
enable
Service
Name
Set
To   
Application
Mgt
Manual
DHCP
Client
Automatic
Event
Log
Automatic
Network
Connection
Manual
Plug
and Play
Automatic
Remote
Process Call (RPC)
Automatic
Remote
Process Call (RPC) Locator
Manual
Windows
Audio
Automatic
Windows
Installer
Manual
Windows
Mgt Instrumentation           
Automatic
Windows
Mgt Instrumentation
Driver
Extension
Manual
Workstation Automatic

After disabling the services, reboot your machine, and it’s now ready for action. 

The results
We found that while playing The Incredible Hulk, there was a significant performance improvement. This was noticeable in scenes where the graphics became very heavy, such as in instances when lots of characters came to fight with the Hulk. This was further supported by the 3Dmark 2001 benchmark score. It was 377 without the optimization, and changed to 388 after the optimization–a difference of 11 points.

Some of these tweaks can help improve the overall performance of the machine, and not just games. All you need to be careful of are the services that come up when you install third party applications. Keep track of these services to make sure that they’re not unnecessarily hogging up system resources. 

Anil Chopra and Sanjay Majumder

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