Tag Archives: Tibor Schiemann

Four Windows Boot Optimization Tips You Can Trust

Guest post by: Tibor Schiemann, President and Managing Director, TuneUp.

Does it take an eternity for your PC to boot up? Have you trolled the web for some tips on improving it? Unfortunately, there are some really bad tuning advices out there, but here are four Windows boot optimization tweaks you can definitely trust.

Turn off unnecessary start-up programs. Third-party applications can slow things down quite a bit depending on your system, so go through the list of start-up entries and get rid of the programs you’ll never use or need. This won’t just help improve boot time; it should also reduce the number of annoying pop-ups informing you to take various actions.

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I actually tested this tip by disabling 19 start-up entries on one system and 25 start-up entries on another. It was surprising to see that neither machine had significant improvements in terms of boot time, but I noticed that my systems were much more responsive right after logging on and during general use. This is because disk usage significantly decreased once these start-up entries were turned off.

Since much less is going on during the boot-up process with the start-up entries disabled, you can start working with your computer much more quickly after logging on. You’ll also regain both CPU and RAM resources, which will help speed up the applications you’re actively working with. While you probably won’t notice a huge improvement in boot time like in my test, this tip will help you be more productive and conserve system resources.

Disable devices in Device Manager. PCs and laptops come with several built-in devices or other components that you may not need, such as a Bluetooth transmitter, an Ethernet adapter, a web camera or a sound chip. Windows does not need to reserve interrupt requests (IRQs) and memory resources and load up drivers if the devices are disabled, so turning them off should improve boot time.

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I again put this tip to the test and used Device Manager to turn off several devices, including a webcam, virtual DVD drives and all USB ports and controllers. Boot time went down by a couple of seconds on both of my test machines once the devices were disabled. This tip also had a neat side effect—it helped me preserve battery power on the laptops.

Get more RAM for your PC. This is always a good thing to do, but does it really help improve boot time if you’re just upgrading from 1 GB to 2 GB or from 2 GB to 4 GB? Since core Windows system files, drivers and basic services all amount to less than 1 GB, boot time shouldn’t be affected. However, more RAM should drastically reduce swapping memory to the disk.

I used msconfig to limit the total memory used by my test systems and see how upgrading RAM affected boot time. As expected, the computers’ start-up times steadily improved as more GBs of RAM was added, and on an Asus tablet (Core i5, 4 GB of RAM, SSD drive), boot time decreased noticeably.

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Tweak your BIOS, which may slow down boot time due to unnecessary checks or settings. To combat this, set boot priority to your hard disk, for example, and disable booting from your DVD drive, USB port or network; by doing so, you should be able to shave a couple of seconds off your system’s boot time.

Try to find the “Boot” category in your BIOS, and set your PC to look only for a bootable operating system on your hard disk. But, don’t forget to set it back in case you decide to install a new operating system or run a USB rescue environment. Also, try to find the “Quick Boot” option and set it to “Enabled” to skip the boot analysis of hardware components.

These are the four most effective (and safe) ways of improving Windows’ boot time. Visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows (http://blog.tune-up.com), where we’ve sifted through misleading optimization tips and tuning information, to learn more and make sure that you are maximizing PC performance.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Education, Guest Writers, System Tweaks, TuneUp Utilities

Tackle One of the Top PC Performance Killers: Low Disk Space

In this article, guest writer Tibor Schiemann, President and Managing Partner of software developer TuneUp, (the TuneUp Utilities 2011 folks), takes the mystery out of why low disk space can slow your computer to a crawl.

imageNo matter how fast your PC is, low disk space can slow any computer down, especially newer ones with fast, solid-state drives (SSDs). In fact, low disk space is typically the #1 reason for a sluggish machine, and one that is even overlooked by IT pros. In order to tackle this issue, it’s first important to understand why low disk space significantly slows down programs, affects SSD drives, increases load times and causes dozens of error messages.

Windows and most third-party programs need disk space to breath. Windows, for example, needs space for its paging file, which extends a PC’s physical memory (RAM) in case it runs out. When there is low disk space, the paging file can’t grow when required and impacts PC performance. Low disk space can also reduce SSDs’ speed, as it requires these flash-based disks to read single data cells into memory before writing new data. This will even crash read/write performance.

Depending on its demand, the paging file dynamically increases and decreases in size. Imagine if your PC’s disk space were to fall below the 500 to 1000 MB limit. Once the paging file tries to increase and hits the disk space limit, you can expect terrible performance, and your system will most likely crash.

Windows isn’t the only system depending on at least a couple GB of free disk space; many applications create files to store data temporarily. PhotoShop, for example, is known to create a “scratch disk” when running. This disk has a dynamic size ranging from a couple of hundred MBs to several GBs. Expect PhotoShop, or any other application for that matter, to run poorly or not at all once this temporary file takes up the rest of your hard disk limit.

Unfortunately, this problem persists on modern machines as well. Take a netbook, a low-budget notebook or even a high-end machine with an SSD drive. Your music libraries or even stored photos might just be enough to hit the limit quickly—add the regular size of a typical Windows installation (20 GB) and applications, and you’re working at the limit of their disk’s capacity.

Of course, I wanted to test this theory to make sure that low disk space is, in fact, a serious performance threat. For the tests, I used an Intel Penryn C2D with 3 GHz, 4 GB of RAM and an SSD. In order to run low on disk space, I simply duplicated a couple of files that were several hundred MB until I hit the disk space limit.

Surprisingly, once my disk space sank below the dangerous 100 MB mark, the PC didn’t suffer. This is probably due to the fact that both my RAM and the default paging file compensated for the current memory need. However, things got shaky once I started to work more heavily. Programs and applications suddenly wouldn’t start, and those I was currently running didn’t react. For example, iTunes didn’t respond to any clicks—it froze yet kept playing music in the background.

And the PC’s performance continued to take a turn for the worse when I maxed out disk space. The boot procedure took more than twice as long, according to XPerf from MicrosoftsWindowsPerformanceToolkit. Since many of my regular programs refused to launch, I couldn’t benchmark the start-up times for many applications. After trying Outlook, PhotoShop, Indesign and even Live Messenger, I was finally able to get Internet Explorer 9 to launch. But, time basically stood still the moment I clicked on the web browser icon—nothing happened. After about 13 seconds, the web browser appeared on the screen and started to load a website, and that was all I could do—the system was unusable.

Given my test results, low disk space is certainly a performance killer. Luckily, there are several tips to follow that can help you quickly rescue your system from low disk space. First, TuneUpUtilities 2011’s Gain Disk Space feature can be used to remove unnecessary files and old backups, while TuneUp Disk Space Explorer can help you find huge data hogs. It’s also helpful to do some routine maintenance and use Microsoft’s Windows Disk Cleanup tool. Additionally, uninstall unnecessary Windows features and remove large programs that you no longer need to free up your machine’s disk space. This “FiveWaystoGetRidofDataClutter” blog post provides step-by-step instructions on how to implement these tips.

It’s important to keep a close eye on the amount of free disk space your computer has. When disk space starts running low, make sure to take the necessary steps to improve performance and get your machine back up and running again in no time.

For additional tips and tricks on maintaining PC performance, I invite you to visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows (http://blog.tuneup.com).

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Computer Tune Up Utilities, Guest Writers, Hard Drive Maintenance, Integrated Tune Up Solutions, Software, System Memory Management, System Utilities, TuneUp Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

A Recipe for Success: Six Ingredients for Maximizing Windows XP Mode Performance

Guest writer Tibor Schiemann, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of software developer TuneUp, (the TuneUp Utilities 2011 folks), walks you through Windows 7 XP Mode – what you’ll need, and how to maximize performance while running Windows XP virtualized.

imagePart of Windows 7, Windows XP Mode (also known as “Virtual Windows”) is designed to make the transition from Windows XP as smooth as possible. It runs a full copy of the former Microsoft operating system in the background, so that Windows 7 users can install and run applications that are not compatible with Microsoft’s latest operating system. However, there are some performance issues users can run into when using Windows XP Mode.

Prepping for Virtual Windows on Your PC

To run older applications under Windows XP Mode, you’ll first need Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate; it doesn’t matter if it’s the 32-bit or 64-bit architecture.

Then, in terms of hardware, I recommend using at least a Core 2 Duo 2 GHz processor and having 2 GB (or more) of main memory and 20 GB of free hard disk space for Windows XP Mode. Simulating Windows XP takes up a lot of resources because you are basically running two operating systems at the same time—your Windows 7 and the virtualized XP.

One bit of advice though—it is best to go with a processor that has a hardware virtualization feature, which allows Windows XP Mode to run nearly as fast as the true operating system. Without hardware virtualization, you will likely notice slower performance when working with older programs. To find out if your PC already supports this feature, download the Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool.

Before getting started, you’ll need a few additional downloads. These include one for Windows XP Mode itself and another for the software for simulating Windows XP inside your Windows 7 system. For users without hardware virtualization on their PCs, an update is also required.

Fine-Tuning Windows XP Mode’s Performance

In its default setting, Windows XP Mode is not tuned for optimum performance, and not all of the important features are necessarily enabled. There are many resource-draining elements because these are needed for the “real” operating system but not for the virtualized one. Here are the six most essential steps for maximizing Windows XP Mode’s performance and functionality.

  1. Share an Internet connection. Running your older Windows XP application might require a working Internet connection. To see if Windows XP Mode is connected, launch Internet Explorer. If the browser’s default website does not appear, click on “Tools” in the Windows XP Mode window and then “Settings”. Go to “Networking” and select your network adapter rather than the default setting. Hit “OK”, wait and try it again.
  1. Use Windows Update to install the latest software settings. Once your virtual computer is connected to the Internet, download the latest updates by clicking on “Start” and going to “All Programs/Windows Update.” Install all of the pre-requisite updates, and once you’re finished, select all of the “High Priority” updates using the “Custom” view. Then, go to the optional software category and install the updates that are necessary for Windows XP Mode machine.
  1. Disable sounds. To do this, go to “Start” and then “Control Panel”, and click on “Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices”. Hit “Change the sound scheme”, select “No sounds”, and then click on “No” and on “OK”.
  1. Use Turbo Mode. This TuneUp Utilities feature is perfectly suited to a virtual environment. With one click, it disables many Windows XP Mode features that aren’t necessary and only consume memory as well as processor resources, such as automatic defragmentation, maintenance tasks and synchronization features. This stuff is important for actual Windows XP PCs but not for running older programs.
  1. Install your old programs. Insert the CD or DVD with your Windows XP program, go to “My Computer” and install it like normal. If it’s a program you downloaded, you’ll need to access the hard disk drive on your “real” computer. To do this, go to “My Computer” and look at the “Other” category. These physical drives are easily accessible for sharing files between your “real” PC and “Virtual Windows”. (Note: In some cases, running a setup installer from one of these shared drives might end up in an error message. If you encounter this, copy the file from your Windows 7 PC to the Windows XP Mode desktop and run it from there.)
  1. Run your old programs. Finished installing all of the legacy applications? Log off from Windows XP Mode and hit the “X” to close the virtual machine. All of the programs you installed will be available in your Windows 7 start menu. Moving forward, as soon as you launch one of these Windows XP Mode applications, “Virtual Windows” will run in the background—but the actual program feature will, in fact, appear as a regular program window under Windows 7.

With these Windows XP Mode tweaks, you’ll be able to squeeze as much performance and functionality as possible out of your virtualized machine.

For more background information on Windows XP Mode, a step-by-step guide on setting it up and common “Virtual Windows” FAQs, visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Geek Software and Tools, Operating Systems, TuneUp Utilities, Virtualization, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows XP

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