Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 144 / SEPTEMBER 1992 / PAGE 40

Ten tips to speed up Windows. (Column)
by Clifton Karnes

Windows has never been criticized for being too fast. It's a simple fact that to accomplish Windows' GUI magic, the operating environment must jump through hoops while juggling an assortment of diverse elements. This hoop jumping and juggling takes time, mostly in memory access, disk access, and pixel pumping. Most of us have looked for ways to improve Windows' performance. Here are my top ten suggestions to boost Windows' speed.

Upgrade your software. Upgrade to DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1. The latest version of DOS was designed with Windows in mind, and the two work very well together. If you upgrade your Windows version to 3.1, you'll get faster disk I/O, faster video drivers, faster printing, and generally snappier performance.

Upgrade your hardware. If you don't already have a 386, get one. And upgrade your memory to at least 4MB. With memory weighing in at $40 a megabyte, it's an inexpensive option.

Upgrade your hard disk to a 1:1 interleave, 100MB or larger drive, with an access time of less than 15 ms. Windows applications are large and they access the disk often, so the larger and faster your drive, the happier Windows will be.

If you're using 3.1, run Fast Disk, Windows 3.1's new 32-bit disk access driver. Setup may install this for you if you have a Western Digital or compatible controller, but you can check by running Control Panel and clicking on the 386 Enhanced icon, followed by Virtual Memory and Change.

Use EMM386.EXE. Use the latest version of EMM386.EXE, the Windows/DOS memory manager, and configure it correctly.

If you're not running a PS/2 or a monochrome monitor, give EMM386 some extra UMBs by including the memory addresses E000-EFFF and B000-B7FF. And if your DOS apps don't need expanded memory, be sure to use the NOEMS option. With these parameters, your EMM386 line would look like this:


If you're using an expanded or extended memory board, configure the board for all extended memory, and use EMM386 to emulate expanded memory.

Use SMARTDRV.EXE. Version 4.0 of SMARTDrive, which comes with Windows 3.1, is a real cache, and it's fast. The default is for SMARTDrive to cache writes (which will give you the greatest speed increase). If you have 4-8MB of RAM, use the following parameters:

SMARTDRV.EXE 1024 1024.

Note that you install this version of SMARTDrive in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file, not in CONFIG.SYS, and note that it loads high automatically.

Fine-tune CONFIG.SYS. In addition to your EMM386.EXE line, make sure your CON FIG.SYS contains the following lines:


/E:512 /P

If you're on a network, use FILES=60. BUFFERS=10 assumes you're using SMARTDrive or another cache.

Use a permanent swap file. The only reason not to use a permanent swap file is if disk space is at a premium. A permanent swap file must go on a physical volume--not a logical one (such as a Stacker or network drive). If you have a choice of physical drives, put your permanent swap file on your fastest drive, and make it 4096K or larger.

Optimize regularly. SMARTDrive's performance will be impaired if your disk is fragmented. Optimize your hard drive once a week.

Fine-tune SYSTEM.INI. To make sure your apps run as smoothly as possible, put the following lines in the 386 enhanced section of your SYSTEM.INI:

SysFileChange=NO NoEMMDriver=YES.

Use a low-resolution, low-color graphics mode. In Windows, the higher the resolution and the greater the number of colors, the slower the display.

A resolution of 640 x 480 is much faster than 800 x 600, which in turn is much faster than 1024 x 768.

With colors, the difference in speed is even more dramatic. A 16-color mode runs rings around 256-color modes. If you must run in high resolution, high color, or both, use a software speed-up, such as WinSpeed (Panacea; $79.95), or get a graphics accelerator card.

RTFM. Read the Friendly Manual! After you've used Windows 3.1 for a couple of months, start reading the manual. After you've finished, start reading the Microsoft Windows Resource Kit (Microsoft; $19.95). It's a book (of over 500 pages) and disk combo that features comprehensive technical information on almost every aspect of running Windows.