Let's Tune Up Your PC

by Tsui Siu Ki

Ever thought about tuning up your desktop PC? There are a few optimisation tricks that can make your PC run faster. In this article, we will focus on how an experienced user can fine-tune some system and hardware settings of the PC to improve system performance at no extra cost. Unless you are familiar with handling PCs, one has to be extra careful when changing the system settings.

1) Fine Tuning Your BIOS Settings

The very first thing that you can try to speed up your PC is to ‘tweak’ the BIOS settings. Beware that the BIOS settings affect the most basic system level elements of your computer. Do not make changes unless you are very sure what the result will be. If something goes wrong, reboot your PC and go back into the BIOS to revert your modifications.

Your user manual should provide you with instructions on how to access the BIOS setup screen. Usually there are at least three main setup screens, as described below:

  • Standard settings screen for setting date, time, drive types, physical memory installed, etc. Make sure all of these settings reflect actual components in your computer.
  • System settings screen for adjusting things like CPU speed, external and internal caching status, floating point unit (FPU) setting, memory shadowing, etc. Make sure that the CPU speed is set to “fast”, all caches and the FPU are enabled if present. However, be aware that though enabling memory shadowing can improve performance, it may conflict with memory managers or other system settings.
  • Chipset settings screen for adjusting the wait state setting for the chipset on your motherboard. The lower the number of wait states, the higher the system performance. If your system won’t run or it crashes in Windows after lowering the number, reset the number back to the original setting.

2) Boost Windows performance

There are many ways to increase Windows performance. Here, we shall mention some simple methods.

  • Every PC has a Windows accelerator card installed. You can unleash the power of the graphics card and boost Windows performance by installing the latest drivers. Try to get these drivers from the manufacturer through the Web and install it. If you are not sure about the manufacturer and model of the display card you are using, you can check with the display card’s user manual. Or you may find this information from the Device Manager by clicking the System icon in the Control Panel.
  • To obtain the best performance of the graphics cards, you can set the display resolution and colour depth as low as possible. In general, setting the colour depth to 16-bit high colour or 24-bit true colour should satisfy most applications and yield better performance than using 32-bit colour or above. Read your user’s manual and/or experiment with different colour depths.
  • To improve disk drive performance, Windows will use some system memory to cache the data being read and written to the hard disks. However, Windows uses too much memory for cache and leave too little for applications. To improve system performance, we can limit the maximum amount of physical memory used by adding the following lines to the System.ini file:
    The maximum cache size recommended is ¼ of your system memory. For example, if you have 64MB RAM then you can limit the maximum cache size to 16MB.
  • Windows uses a directory (usually C:\WINDOWS\TEMP) to store temporary files that are created by your system when new software is installed, or application that performs auto-save function. These files will be deleted automatically if they are not required any more. However, if applications stop abnormally, these files may not be deleted as expected. As a result, unnecessary files in the temporary directory continue to increase and take up disk space. In order to make the system run faster, it is always good practice to clean up the “Temp” directory regularly to free up some hard disk space.
  • Over time, as programs read from and write to a hard disk, information stored on the disk can become fragmented. If that happens, the disk will take longer time to find and reassemble each time the system needs to run a program. To improve the performance, run DEFRAG weekly to defragment the hard disk.
  • Close all idle background applications to free up more memory to the system.
  • Uninstall all unused applications to free up more hard disk space.
  • Use REGCLEAN program from Microsoft to clean up the Windows registry regularly. This will make Windows run faster.