Fact or Fiction? Busting Common PC Optimization Myths

Guest writer Tibor Schiemann, President and Managing Partner of TuneUp, the developer’s of TuneUp Utilities, shines a light on some commonly held computer tune up myths. Checkout which ones you believed.

image People are often looking for ways to improve their PCs’ performance or speed, but not all of the tips out there really work. In fact, some are outright wrong and can even slow down your system. Let’s go through some of the most popular, enduring myths.

Windows Prefetch folders:

The Prefetch folder memorizes the data a program needs when it starts, so that your system can easily get this data and load the program more quickly. There’s a theory lurking around that deleting this data saves memory. But the truth is, this forces the PC to search for the information it needs every time you want that program to start, causing it to actually slow down.

Some people believe that Windows automatically loads Prefetch information for all of the programs you’ve ever started on your computer into memory, filling your RAM with unused data.

But this isn’t true. You don’t need to delete this folder because, contrary to popular belief, if you don’t run a program, Windows does not access the Prefetch information. And what’s more, Windows only maintains a maximum of 128 entries in the Prefetch folder and automatically cleans itself.

In fact, TuneUp has even tested this. We looked at the boot-up performance, as well as the load times, of the three, most used applications—Outlook 2007, Windows Media Center, and Internet Explorer 8—on a particular PC, before and after cleaning out the Prefetch folder. We actually found a noticeable slowdown after removing the Prefetch contents.

The “Dr. Watson” program:

“Dr. Watson” is a debugging tool for applications. If a program crashes, “Dr. Watson” jumps in, collects data and, if you choose to do so, manually transfers this data to support personnel to diagnose the problem. The data is stored in a file and can be immediately sent to Microsoft. There is a rumor that “Dr. Watson” slows down your computer.

But based on a productivity benchmark we conducted with PCMark Vantage, we found that there weren’t any noticeable differences, regardless of whether “Dr. Watson” was enabled or not. “Dr. Watson” doesn’t affect performance in Windows XP, and it’s not even a factor if you’re using Vista or 7, as it doesn’t even exist in these newer Windows versions.

“Secret” CPU settings:

There’s another myth circulating in the Windows community that a “secret” CPU setting can improve boot-up time. The rumor claims that Windows Vista and Windows 7 only use a single processor core during the boot-up process. Yet almost all of the machines built today have at least two, four, and sometimes even six processor cores. So, it may make sense to think that, by enabling the other cores, you can speed up the boot-up time.

However, TuneUp tried to enable the other cores on three different machines and didn’t find any difference among the PCs’ boot-up times, even when we just used one core. Your best bet is to leave this setting alone. We found out that sometimes modifying this setting may actually cause a user’s machine to crash, and instead advise that you stay as far away from this “tweak” as you can.

People are always looking for ways to optimize their PCs and are sometimes susceptible to schemes that sound good initially, but can actually harm their machines. TuneUp will continue to look into credible ways to enhance PC performance and let you know what works best. To keep up with our tips, check out our blog.

Note: I posted a full review of  TuneUp Utilities 2010 here on Tech Thoughts, in October 2009, in which I said:

TuneUp Utilities 2010 is one of the very few commercial applications that I have, or would recommend. Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of free software, there are times when only a commercial application will meet all of my needs in one interface.

This program is overwhelmingly inclusive, and provides virtually every tool and applet, that a computer user is ever likely to need.

You can read the full review here. Alternatively, you can download a fully functional 30 day trial version Of TuneUp Utilities here.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, downloads, Guest Writers, Slow Computer, Software, Software Trial Versions, System Utilities, TuneUp Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

8 responses to “Fact or Fiction? Busting Common PC Optimization Myths

  1. vhick

    Thanks for some tweaking myths Sir Bill. For XP OS, I refer to this website http://home.comcast.net/~SupportCD/XPMyths.html for additional tweaking myths.

    TuneUp is really really good. I have TuneUp 2009 and used it since TuneUp 2004. You can look at Iobit Toolbox here http://www.iobit.com/toolbox.html. Its portable and seems very promising depite of being beta. I hope it still free until final release.

  2. John

    Hi Bill,

    Giving Tune up a spin and it seems very good, but it has only given me a 15 day trial?

    Can I also say “GO THE DUTCH”


  3. Ranjan

    Ummm…,,, The ‘Secret CPU setting’ worked for me and many of my friends too…

    • Hey Ranjan,

      I’ve enabled “multi-cores” on startup through MSConfig and tested it using Soloto – haven’t seen any change in boot time though.


  4. Thanks for providing for these useful information. I never thought that the prefetch folder is useful to windows.

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