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Aug 13, 2010

How to Tweak Windows XP for Gaming

This is a nice tutorial on tweaking XP.

Table of Contents

* Disabling useless processes & Windows features.
* Optimizing your Windows Page file.
* Cleaning up your system.
* Configuring your systems BIOS for maximum gaming power.
* Updating your system drivers.
* Tweaking your nVIDIA card.
* Tips.
* Conclusion.

1. Disabling useless processes & Windows features.

Windows XP has came with quite a few new but extremely useless and memory hogging features that constantly run in the background and slow your system down.

Some of the features that should be disabled are automatic updates, system restore and remote assistance.

To disable these 3 fairly useless services...

1. Hit Start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Select Performance and Maintenance
4. Select System
5. Select System Restore Tab
6. Check "Turn off System Restore"
7. Select Automatic Updates tab
8. Select "Turn off automatic updates"
9. Hit the Remote tab
10. Uncheck "Remote Assistance" & "Remote Desktop"

Now that the three main Windows features that severely hog your PC's power are disabled, its time to move onto the numerous other Windows processes that further drag down your system.

1. Hit start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Select Administrative Tools
4. Select Services

Now there should be a large list of services and a lot of them are running on your system right now.

Lot are vital for running Windows and a lot are completely useless.

The average PC user will have about 27 of these processes running all the time, more than half of them she/he does not need.

Now for a standard PC with maybe a printer & a broadband connection and no fancy networking, routing or any advanced peripherals and wireless devices, the following services should be set as disabled.

To disable a service, double-click it and set the Start up Type drop-down menu as "Disabled" then click "apply" and "ok" and move onto the next.

Automatic Updates
COM+ Event System
Creative Service for CDROM Access (If you have a Creative sound-card)
Cryptographic Services
Distributed Link Tracking Client
Distributed Transaction Coordinator
DNS Client (Do NOT disable if your on a Dial-up internet connection)
Error Reporting Service
HID Input Service
Indexing Service
IPSEC Services
MS Software Shadow Copy Provider
NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing
Network DDE
Network DDE DSDM
NVIDIA Display Driver Service (For nVIDIA card users)
Performance Logs and Alerts
Portable Media Serial Number
Print Spooler (Only if you dont have a printer)
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
Remote Registry
Routing and Remote Access
Security Accounts Manager
Shell Hardware Detection
Smart Card
Smart Card Helper
System Event Notification
Terminal Services
Themes (If you are not bothered about fancey looks for your desktop)
Upload Manager
Wireless Zero Configuration
WMI Performance Adapter

Note that everyone system is different so don't be wondering why some services in the list above are not on your list.

Now that you have disabled those Windows services, its time to clean up your start up programs and system tray...

1. Hit Start
2. Hit Run
3. Type "msconfig" without the quotes and hit enter
4. Hit Startup tab
5. Click on "Disable All"
6. Press Apply then Ok and answer YES to reboot your PC.

Now you don't have all that junk starting up when Windows starts and I can guarantee you that you'll notice a phenomenology power boost that will be equally as noticeable in games.

2. Optimizing your Windows Page file.

Windows uses whats called a page file to act as RAM for file swapping duties and the-like & is vital for games.

The page file itself is hard drive space taken off your hard drive and kept in the page file itself so for example if my hard drive is 20GB and I set my page file to 1GB then my HDD would suddenly become 19GB in size.

To edit Windows page file...

1. Click Start
2. Click Control panel
3. Click System
4. Click Advanced tab
5. Click "Settings" for the "Performance" section
6. Click Advanced tab
7. At the bottom, click "Change"
8. Check the "Custom Size" box
9. Set your page file using the following guide...

If you have...

128MB of RAM -> set to 1500MB
256MB of RAM -> set to 1000MB
512MB of RAM -> set to 700MB
1GB of RAM -> set to 500MB

3. Cleaning up your system.

Now its time to give your system a spring-clean and free from unused invalid light bulb that litters many PC users systems and over time can lead to configuration problems and nasty software conflicts and slightly slow application response rates.

You'll need to download the following free programs and install them...


Spybot S&D

Reg Seeker

Light bulb Cleaner

Cacheman (A must-have utility for people with 512MB RAM or less)

Hijack This

Now then, to get the most out of these program, you must configure them correctly...

Ad-Aware and Spybot S&D are pretty well configured to begin with so i'll go straight to light bulb Cleaner...

1. Open light bulb Cleaner
2. Click Windows tab
3. Tick all boxes except "Menu Order Cache & Windows Size/Location Cache
4. Click Applications tab
5. Tick everything
6. Click Issues tab
7. Click everything
8. Click Options button
9. Click Settings tab
10. Uncheck the box that reads "Only delete files in Windows Temp folder older than 10 days"
11. Click ok and exit the program.

Now open Cacheman...

1. Click on the Settings button
2. Click the "RAM" icon
3. Under "Memory Amount", set it to "User defined" then move the slider as far to the right as it goes
4. Uncheck all four boxes but leave "Extreme recovery mode" checked
5. Click the "Optimization" tab at the top
6. Check both "Disable executive paging" & "Unload DLL's from memory"
7. Exit the program and answer "yes" to save settings and answer yes to the reboot prompt.

Ok now that you've tweaked your programs to work at there best, its now time to use them...

NOTE: No other programs should be running while you run the programs so bookmark this page and exit IRC or whatever other programs you have running and come back here when your done.

Open and run the following programs in the following order...

Spybot S&D
light bulb Cleaner
Reg Seeker
Hijack This

Ok now your back, your PC should be a lot more clutter free but these programs never do a complete job of it so its now time to manually clean your Windows up...

1. Look on your desktop and delete any icons & shortcuts that you no longer need or use or have its software uninstalled
2. Go into your start menu and do the same thing
3. Go into Control panel
4. Go into Add or Remove programs
5. Uninstall any programs that you no longer use or want from the list
6. Go into your Program Files folder typically located at C:Program Files
7. Delete all files and folders that relate to programs or games you uninstalled or do not want any longer.

4. Configuring your systems BIOS for maximum gaming power.
Accessing your systems BIOS varies from PC to PC but typically its a good 10 second hammering of the Del or F1 key while Windows is booting up.

BIOS vary from motherboard to motherboard but modern gaming boards will have a lot more options in them than basic motherboards like Dell PC's have which is why I'm not going to be specific, rather just point out the general things to change that I think most PC's will have.

AGP Aperture size should be set to the highest possible.
AGP mode should be set to 8.0 or how high it can go
AGP Fastwrite should be enabled
USB 2.0 controller mode should be set to "Fullspeed" if you have USB 2 ports on your PC

Any performance enhancing options that many, many gaming boards have should be set to there maximum for example my Asus K8V SE board has an option where I can set the overall speed of my PC to "slow", "normal", "fast" or "turbo". Obviously the Turbo option is going to produce more thermal output on my CPU, RAM & motherboard but its not really enough to worry about especially if you have fans in your case.

5.Updating your system drivers.

Updating your systems drivers is vital for squeezing as much performance out of it as possible, especially sound card and graphics card drivers.

Here is a list of driver links for the different components from all the major manufactures...

Graphics card



Sound cards

Creative Soundblaster

Windows Updates

1. Hit Start
2. Click on Windows Update icon

Now it will take you to the Microsoft website and will scan your system and come up with a list of recommended updates.

Lot of these updates are rubbish and unnecessary. I cannot be specific about what not to download and what to download since everyone PC is difference but updates such as language packs and stuff like that.

Critical update patches for Windows Media player and stuff like that should be downloaded and so should Microsoft .NET framework since a lot of software nowadays relies on this code.

Remember that uninstalling previous drivers before installing new ones is highly recommended since it ensures a bug-free cashless install.

Here's how to PROPERLY uninstall drivers...

1. Go into add/remove programs
2. Uninstall the driver you want from the list
3. GO into your Program Files folder and delete all folders and files associated with the driver you have just uninstalled
4. Delete any start menu entries associated with the deleted driver
5. Run Reg Seeker
6. Run light bulb Cleaner
7. Reboot your system and then install the latest driver

I would of made links to motherboard drivers but I find updating mobo drivers to be quite a risky and an often unsuccessful procedure and to cover it in this guide would take up far too much time.

If you would like to update your BIOS, there are many guides out there, one I recommend would be BIOS Guide from the trusty tweak website which I highly recommend also.

6. Tweaking your nVIDIA card.
I'm sorry ATI owners but I have only had experience with nVIDIA cards so my instructions wont be perfect to follow but should be ok as the two cards GUI is pretty similar.

To access your nVIDIA cards options...

1. Right-click on your desktop & select Properties
2. Click Settings tab
3. Click advanced button
4. Click on the tab that reads your graphics card name, i.e GeForce FX 5600 for me.
5. On the pop-up menu on the left, click on Performance & Quality"
6. Set Antialiasing to off
7. Set Anisotriopic filtering to off
8. Set Image quality to high and if your card is good then set to maximum
9. Set v-sync to off
10. Set Force Minimaps to "none"
11. Set Conformant texture clamp to off
12. Go into the Direct 3D section
13. Set Max frames to render ahead to 0

Your card is now set to give the best balance of image quality and performance.

7. Tips.

Here are some tips to maintain your PC at its full potential forever...

1. Run them programs often, especially when you've been making a lot of changes or have been installing/uninstalling a lot of software on your PC.

2. Run Cacheman before you play games and recover as much RAM as possible so you can get smoother gameplay.

3. Setting games to "High CPU Priority" in Windows Task Manager can sometimes give noticeable performance gains.

4. Try to keep your files and folders organized so that your PC is as clutter free as possible.

5. Exit all programs and applications such as MSN messanger or IRC before you play games to maximize gaming performance.

8. Conclusion.



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