Ten Tune-up Tips For Windows 98 Performance
If you do any Internet surfing at all, you’ll undoubtedly find quite a few people disappointed with the performance of Windows 98. If the truth be told though, very few of those doing the complaining have spent even a few moments to learn about the use and care of their Windows operating system. Windows 98 is one of the most sophisticated operating systems ever created for home and small business use. In a scant several years we’ve moved from orange and black video screens running DOS through the somewhat colorful Windows 3.11 and on to a whole new experience, Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows 2000. Regardless of what anyone says, whether that experience is good or bad is entirely up to you.
Both the Windows 9x and Windows 2000 operating systems are much more complex than their predecessors ever were. When you consider this complexity, and the fact that both of these operating systems try to be all things to all people, add a general lack of knowledge, you have all of the right ingredients for disappointment.
The best place to learn about Windows 98 is to start with the basics. Depending upon who loaded your Windows 98 operating system for you, you may have either a default installation or custom installation, and neither of which will provide you with the optimal configuration for your computer. With this in mind, we will discuss ten ways in which you can optimize and tune Windows 98 without having to be a computer wizard.
Tip 1. Reduce desktop clutter along with the number of programs running.
Most people aren’t aware of the fact that each shortcut icon on their desktop gobbles up a few of those precious Windows resources. When you have a large number of those shortcut icons, the resources necessary to keep them there can be quite large. In addition, if there are more than just a few programs starting at the same time Windows starts, they too are eating up precious resources. Windows resources, what are those?
Every now and then you will hear someone refer to the term “Windows resources”, so let’s take a moment and discuss just what they are. Windows resources are comprised of two things, the actual physical memory (RAM) in your computer, as well as available or unused hard drive space. Without getting into an elaborate discussion about Windows memory handling, the Windows operating system combines the physical memory in your computer with available hard drive space to create what is referred to as “virtual memory”. Windows uses your computers actual physical memory for data that it is currently being processed, and stores in virtual memory, in what is referred to as a swap file, data that it doesn’t need right away, but may need to access quickly. This virtual memory, or swap file, is created by Windows on your hard drive. In essence, when Windows is finished with certain data in physical memory, it stores it temporarily in the swap file on the hard drive until it is needed again. This back and forth movement of data between actual memory and the virtual memory is where the term “swap file” comes from, the swapping of data from much faster physical RAM memory to the slower, but yet quickly accessible, virtual memory. Let’s start by getting rid of some of that desktop clutter.
Reducing Desktop Clutter
Of course it’s convenient to have all of those shortcut icons on the desktop. It makes it easier to access the programs and other things that you use most often. On the other hand though, having all of those shortcuts robs Windows and other programs of resources that are needed to process the information that you are working on. And, before you ask, no this isn’t a limitation of the Windows operating system, it’s a function of available hardware resources and the realization that anything you see on your computer screen by way of shortcuts and system tray icons etcetera, requires some memory resources to put them there. Windows tries to help by creating Virtual Memory, but sometimes even that is not enough. If you have a computer with loads of physical memory, 128MB or more, this resource drain may be barely negligible, but if your computer has 32MB to 64MB of memory, this loss can be dramatic.
Okay, so what are the alternatives? If you think about it, can you really access all of those desktop shortcuts while you have something else open on your desktop? Of course not, you have to minimize or close anything that is open just to see the desktop and then click the shortcut. Why not take advantage of the Windows menu option? Let’s presume for the moment that you have 20 to 50 shortcuts on your desktop. That’s allot of wasted resources, but there is an easy solution that will make the shortcuts instantly available anytime you need them and save resources too!
Let’s build a Menu accessible via the Start Button!
- Right click on the Start Button, and then click Open. This will open the Start Menu window.
- Next, in the upper left hand corner of the Start Menu window, click File, then New and then click Folder. Now name the new Folder something recognizable like Shortcuts and then touch the Enter key.
- Now right click and hold on this new folder and slide it out onto the desktop and drop it there. Select or choose Move here when you release the mouse button. For now, just minimize the Start Menu window.
- Now, using your mouse, drag each one of the desktop shortcuts you want to move off of the desktop onto the new Shortcuts folder you just made and drop the shortcut onto it.
- When you’re done moving the shortcuts into your Shortcuts folder, reopen the Start Menu window and drag the Shortcuts folder back into the window and drop it there. Select or choose Move here when you release the mouse button.
Now you should have a nifty little Start Menu item like the one shown below in Figure A, and a clean desktop! You can even get a little more creative by adding sub-menus.
Reducing the number of programs that start when Windows starts.
One of the most effective methods of having Windows 98 operate more smoothly and run faster is to reduce the number of other applications that start at the same time you start Windows 98. While you may think that when you start your computer, Windows 98 (or Windows 9x, NT or 2000 for that matter) is the only program that is being started. Not true! When your computer starts, and Windows begins loading, there are a number of other programs loading right along with it. Some of these programs are part of or directly related to Windows. Some are necessary to provide you with all that you need to perform your desired tasks, and some are unnecessary and only start because of the way they were installed. Those programs that aren’t directly necessary to the proper function of the Windows environment do nothing more than gobble up resources such as processor (CPU) cycles and memory that could be used by other programs you may want to use.
There are a couple of ways to see what programs are running within your Windows operating system, the Windows Task Manager and the Windows System Configuration Utility. We’ll give you the quick and dirty one first, the Windows Task Manager. We call it quick and dirty for no other reason than it only shows you acronyms for the program that is running, without descriptions. To open the Windows Task Manager, simultaneously touch your [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [Delete] keys. See Figure B below. Some of the programs that you will see are necessary to Windows, such as Explorer, which is the interface you see when the desktop opens, and Systray, which is the System Tray at the bottom of the screen that contains items such as the Start Button etc. You may also see programs that may not be necessary to the function of Windows itself, but are necessary to its health, such as an anti-virus program. You may also have programs starting that are necessary to attached peripherals, such as a scanner, that must start when Windows starts to enable you to use it.
As you can see from the Task Manager shown in Figure B above, this list can become quite lengthy. We moved the right slider bar to the center to give you a point of reference. Programs shown in the Windows Task Manager are started from one of several places. As an example, they can be started from the Windows Registry, the Windows Initialization file, (WIN.INI), and from the Windows Startup Folder. Since these particular Web pages are devoted to Windows Basics, we’ll leave the Windows Registry alone for the moment and concentrate on some of the easier methods to reduce the number of programs that start.
The obvious next step would be to identify which programs are necessary and need to be started, and those that aren’t necessary until you require them. As noted above, the Windows Task Manager really doesn’t identify the program itself, it just shows you an acronym for the program. Some of the programs appearing on the list may be those that you are currently running while reviewing this Web page, such as WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Excel, Internet Explorer or Netscape. Then there are those that start automatically at boot that you may or may not want to start. The first place to start looking is the Windows Start Menu.
The Windows Start Menu folder contains programs that load automatically during the boot or startup process. In order to access the Startup Menu, click the Start Button, click Settings, then select Taskbar & Start Menu. Now click the Start Menu Programs tab and then click the Advanced button. This will cause Windows Explorer to open the Startup folder as shown in Figure C. Each of these items run automatically when Windows starts. To remove any of the items listed here, click once on the item to highlight it and then click delete. Obviously you don’t want to delete anything with which you’re not familiar to avoid damaging any applications that depend on a specific component, so the key here is to identify each item. Three of the most resource hungry applications that we are aware of is WordPerfect “DAD”, their applications director, the Microsoft Office Find Fast and Norton’s Disk Doctor. If you have anyone of these, eliminate it and you’ll see an increase in performance.
Most times the descriptions are adequate enough so that you can tell what they are, but other times the description isn’t quite enough to be helpful. In the event this is the case, here’s a trick you can use to test the removal without actually removing anything and doing any damage. With the Startup Folder open, right click and hold on the item and slide it out onto the desktop and leave it there. Now restart your computer and test it by open the programs you use routinely. If everything works, just delete the item from the desktop. If you’re still unsure, leave it on the desktop for a while and use the computer until your certain everything works as it should. If, after a couple of weeks, everything is working as it should, delete the item.
When you look a the large number of programs listed in the Windows Task Manager (Figure B) and compare those against the Windows Startup Folder (Figure C), you can’t help but notice that many of the programs shown in the Task Manager aren’t reflected in the Startup Folder. This generally occurs because the program’s installer has made an entry either in the Windows Initialization file (WIN.INI) or added an entry to the Windows Registry.
Let’s take a look at these initialization files first before we look at the Windows System Configuration Utility and the Windows Registry.
Click Start, and then click Run. Now type in SYSEDIT and then click OK. Doing this will bring up the System Configuration Editor, and into the Editor will be loaded five (5) system configuration files. You should see them in this order, AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI and PROTOCOL.INI. Each of these five files has its own editing window, along with the ability to minimize, expand and close the window. See Figure D.
For now, click the “X” in the upper right hand corner for both the AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files. The next file you should see is the WIN.INI file. This is the Windows Initialization file. It’s a leftover from Windows 3.x. At the very top left (See Figure E below) you should see two lines, load= and run=. If a program were being loaded through WIN.INI, then one of these two lines would have and entry immediately after the equal (=) sign.
To disable the loading of the program, all you need to do is add a semi-colon to the beginning of the line, then click the “X” to close and choose to save the changed file. You haven’t deleted anything, just prevented it from starting when Windows starts.
If you have gotten this far and only found a minimal number of programs in the Startup Folder and nothing in the Windows Initialization (WIN.INI) file, then we will need to dig deeper to stop some of these programs from loading.
Now let’s take a look at the Windows Registry and the Windows System Configuration Utility.
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