Windows Millenium Tweak Guide
Posted: September 28, 2000
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
Now that I have had the final version of Windows Millennium Edition (WinMe) sitting here in my hands for a good month or so, and have had the chance to play around with it a good deal, I am going to start to fill you guys in on how to tweak the thing into next week. And unlike some of the previous WinMe guides that I did based off of some of the earlier betas, these guides will cover the features that I previously "overlooked" to make the guides backwards compatible with Win98. Luckily for you guys, there are a lot of new "tweakable" options, plus some safety options that will make tweaking easier and safer as well (of course, disabling the safety options is one of the performance tweaks, but we'll go into the pro's and con's of that a bit later). Now, to start the tweaking!
Now, I will be writing an all inclusive WinMe Startup Tweak Guide eventually, but I wanted to hit a few quick points here about starting up your computer under WinMe - it's damn fast. And I mean DAMN fast - on my Celeron 400 @ 570 MHz my computer boots in under 50 seconds (total). However, as a tradeoff, we no longer have real boot files such as autoexec.bat and config.sys - those settings are now ferreted off somewhere in the registry, and the only way to get to them is to use the System Configuration Utility. Go into System Information (which looks a lot different now…) and select Tools => System Configuration Utility. Now, there are several new options within this little program that I will be covering at a later date, but for the time being, just head over to the Environment tab. The settings in here are similar to the ones used in the autoexec.bat and config.sys files, but they no longer use an equal sign [=]. So, for example, if you originally had Stacks=0,0 in your startup files, you will now need to add a new variable (New button), put in the variable (in this case, stacks) and then the value (in this case, 0,0). Go through your old autoexec.bat and config.sys files and insert any of these performance settings into the Environment tab using this method.
The new system restore option is wonderful in some ways and horrible in others. It's nice because it creates a backup of all of your system files at a specific point in time and allows you to go back to those files whenever you feel the need (due to system instability or some other problem). It's bad, evil, and all that jazz for two reasons - it puts some extra overhead on the system during startup (and a few other times, depending on whether or not you have it set up for automatic backup - which it is by default), and it takes up a significant amount of hard drive space.
System Restore Continued...
If you plan on using System Restore as it was intended, you are going to first want to go into the System applet (Performance Section - File System) and choose how much of the hard disk you are going to allow the program to use for System Restore. There is a Min/Max slider that changes values depending on the size of your hard drive. Since this setting eats up a LOT of space on your hard drive, I would recommend setting this far to the left - however, if you have lots of extra space and want to allocate more space to it, go ahead. Be forewarned, however, this program tends to quickly start to eat up extra space and if you only have a few hundred MB's left on the partition WinMe (where the restore directory is located) is installed on, you may find yourself running short on space.
If you want to remove System restore from your system (as much as possible at this point - as I find more out about it hopefully I'll be able to explain how to fully remove it from the system), first set that aforementioned slider all the way to the left and restart the computer. This reduces the leftover footprint of system restore (there is a relatively large one). Then go back into the system applet performance section, select the troubleshooting tab, and use the checkbox to disable system restore. Once you've restarted the computer, System Restore should be disabled.
Sounds and Other Short Order Tweaks
This is one of those tweaks that almost everyone does after awhile because having a sound every time you click on the mouse gets extremely annoying. However, the process is oh so slightly different. Now, instead of having a separate Sounds applet in the Control Panel, it is included in the Multimedia applet (duly renamed Sounds and Multimedia…). Just go into the Sounds section and select "No Sounds" from the drop-down menu like before, click apply, and there you go - presto chango no sounds.
To speed things up a bit when you are working with windows, go into the Display applet and go over to the effects tab. Under visual effects, disable everything except "Show icons using all possible colors." This will speed up menus, moving windows around, and a few other things as well.
WindowsUpdate (or at least its derivative, Automatic Updates) has founds its way into the Control Panel. You can use the Automatic Updates applet to determine whether or not you want the computer to dynamically check for and download updates for your computer. There are three possible settings for this - "Automatically download updates and notify me when they are ready to be installed"; "Notify me before downloading any updates and notify me again before they are ready to be installed"; and "Turn off automatic updating, I will update my computer manually." Unless you are pretty lazy and don't care to check WindowsUpdate for your system updates, I would recommend choosing the third option - which should speed your computer up a bit (it won't periodically check for updates).
"The Big One" Revisited
Well, you now have two options when it comes to aligning your files on the hard disk so they can be loaded as easily as possible into memory (with the least overhead). The first, and easiest way, is using a program called Otuneup.exe that comes with Microsoft Office 2000 (I know it's in the Professional Edition, I'm not sure about the Small Business Edition). If you have it, use it - it's safe and easy. The second option, which there are a lot of reported problems with (it's a risky tweak - I take no responsibility if it screws up your computer), is to use walign.exe. Here are the instructions that I included in one of this guide's predecessors:
Here's the tweak that drove me to re-write this tweak guide. It can improve operating system and application speed by up to 10% by aligning your files for Windows to make them run faster (the computer dynamically aligns all files loaded into memory anyway, so doing it beforehand saves CPU time) - so listen up. Windows has a little program that is included with it called walign.exe. Originally this guide included step-by-step instructions on a variety of ways to use this program, but since then several things have come to my attention. The first of these things is that if you don't have Office 95/98 installed (that I missed because I have the full version of Office installed), the program will not work properly for you. There is, however, a registry trick that will fix this problem for you. So why did I remove the step-by-step instructions? Because there is an even easier way to align your files. Windows Magazine has written a little batch file and registry patch package that works wonders. It even includes an undo option of the optimization fails. Here's how it works:
- Download WMAlign.zip and extract the package to it's own directory.
- Merge the registry patch to your own registry unless you have a FULL copy of Office 95/98 (not Small Business Edition or stand-alone Word/Excel). Office 2000 includes it's own optimization program, so if you are using that, you will need to install the patch as well.
- Move the batch file to the directory you wish to optimize.
- Open a DOS window and go to the directory you wish to align and type in wmalign *.dll *.exe.
- Check the WMAlign.txt file to see which files didn't align properly and restore those from the UNALIGN directory. Also keep this directory in case you ever need to patch the program because the aligned files are not patchable.
- Defragment your disk to optimize the newly written files.
Cool, huh? Special thanks to "Random Kaos" for this information. If you want to take a look at the original Windows Magazine article, you can check it out here.
Either way will work (I've done both), but the first way is easier and safer. However, at the same time, the second way allows you to include your own files to be aligned by either using the command line or editing the winali.ini file - so it's up to you. Either way, good luck!
TweakUI 1.33 (which is actually for WinNT/2k, but works just fine with Win9x and WinMe) is an awesome tweaking applet that this guide wouldn't be complete without. This program can tweak something in just about every part of the user interface (hence the name…). I could go on for pages and pages on tweaks that can be done within TweakUI, but I'm just going to focus on the ones that will make the greatest speed increase.
Under the mouse tab, I would recommend setting the menu speed to fast - this will allow you to browse through the start menu and any right-click menus as quickly as possible. In the general section, disabling all of the 'effects' will increase system performance by disabling extra animations and features within the operating system. Here you can also prevent applications from stealing focus (say you get an ICQ message while you are typing in Word - the message won't pop up but will instead flash in the task bar) - a setting which I highly recommend you use. Under the shell tab, disabling Shell Enhancements (such as the quick launch bar) will increase performance, but I would recommend leaving "detect accidental double-clicks' enabled to prevent you from double-clicking when you only intended to select an icon or feature. You might also consider disabling some of the show settings for the Start and Favorites menu to clean and speed them up. If you have to automatically log on to a network (like I have to here at school), you might consider setting the computer to automatically log on under the logon tab - as this will speed up boot times.
Yeah, I know, I've killed this topic. Not only have I killed it, I've embalmed it, buried it, dug it back up, resurrected it, and then killed it again. If it weren't for the fact that it is such an important topic, I would let it lie - but I can't. Updating to the newest video, sound card, network card, modem, etc…, drivers can dramatically increase performance - and while the drivers included with WinMe are nice, they aren't always optimized for speed. If you are having trouble finding new drivers for a particular piece of hardware, check out windrivers.com - they just might be able to help you out.
Well guys, there you have it - the WinMe Tweak Guide. Hopefully, this guide will help you guys that are venturing into the world of WinMe get the best possible performance out of the system. Because WinMe is still basically the same OS as Win9x, don't be afraid to go through some of the old tweak guides and try out some of those tweaks until I get new, updated WinMe tweak guides out (based on the final release version).
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