Since the dawn of Windows, power-user tipsters (us included) have proffered hundreds of suggestions with the promise of improving your PC’s performance or streamlining its operation. The tip-givers have the best of intentions, but do all of those tweaks, registry hacks, utilities, and “undocumented secrets” really make any difference? To our surprise, in a number of cases, it turns out that tips that sound great on the surface don’t actually do anything when you put the screws to them. And some of those complicated registry hacks are more easily done with tools like TweakUI, saving you a lot of hassle.
We put 25 of the most commonly published XP and Vista performance tips and registry hacks to the test. Do the speed tweaks yield dividends? We clocked performance with PCMark and timed boots and shutdowns repeatedly after making the changes suggested in the tips. In the end, we found that many tips were right on the money, but some were outright wrong or just a waste of time. Some tips fell into the gray area in between, offering some improvement but perhaps not enough to merit the trouble of the hack to begin with.
Read on for our results. You’ll never tweak the same way again!
As I’ve noted before, when you’re not playing action games, the killer GPU in your PC is basically a case heater. For the most part, it uselessly sucks power and radiates heat as you perform mundane computing tasks: web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet calculations, MP3 playback. GPUs are the most underutilized resource in PCs.
Finally, that’s changing. AMD now bundles its ATI Stream parallel-processing software in the latest ATI Catalyst graphics drivers. As users download and install these free drivers, they automatically prep their systems to run ATI Stream programs that leverage the GPU as a massively parallel processor. Before, users had to download ATI Stream separately. AMD is following Nvidia, which began bundling its CUDA parallel-processing software with display drivers in 2007.
So, did you know that Worlds.com invented massively multiplayer gaming and has a pair of patents to prove it?
It came as complete news to me, even though I wrote a column on massively multiplayer gaming back when the genre was just beginning. Apparently, Worlds.com created some kind of branded virtual spaces that used avatars and scalable chat, got somebody in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rubber stamp its nonsense applications, and now is going to sue the entire MMORPG industry into submission, starting with NCSoft, possibly because it has less frightening lawyers than Blizzard.
Since childhood, I’ve bitterly wondered why I don’t have a jet car, or my own robot assistant and constant companion. I would call it Sally, and Sally would keep me organized and help me fight crime at night.
Part of the reason my future has failed me is abuse of the patent system, the part of IP that protects and fosters technological innovation. You can’t copyright an idea, but patents give you a limited time to develop and grow an idea yourself. However, the patent system hasn’t changed much in 300 years, leaving it flawed and exploitable. Nobody exploits the system better than patent trolls.
The XP Home SP1 install on my girlfriend’s old laptop was getting a little buggy, so I decided to wipe and upgrade to XP Pro SP3. She had about 16GB of music and pictures stored on the laptop, which she wanted to keep. I created a new partition in the drive’s free space and moved those files over so they’d be safe. All was well until the partition program goofed up the original XP Home installation so that it wouldn’t boot anymore. The restore function didn’t work, and loading the XP Pro CD restore function didn’t help either.
Fortunately, XP Pro recognized the newly created D:\ drive, so I installed there. Everything went fine, but the My Documents folders in both partitions were blank. Weird thing is, XP Pro shows drive C:\ as 32GB (original drive size) with only 2GB free… and recognizes the D:\ partition it is installed on as being 7GB with nearly 6GB free. I still get two boot options on start up—XP Home and XP Pro. So her files are still taking up space, but they don’t seem to be anywhere. Help!
Click to find out the answer to Andrew's question!
After reading the “Powerful Protection” Doctor question in the July issue, I started wondering what kind of performance hit I was taking from the plethora of security programs on my system. I have two Dell machines: an XPS-600 and an older Dimension 8300 (Windows XP Home, SP3 and IE7). They are connected to the net through a Linksys WRT150N router. Both units also have AOL 9.1, McAfee Security Suite, and SpySweeper. I know this is overkill, but I have no idea what to keep or what to disable.
I was installing a Windows Update on my laptop, and I left it to finish making dinner, not realizing that the automatic update wanted to restart my computer.
While I was away, the computer restarted. From there, it basically locked up. I had recently purchased a hot-swap box that was compatible with laptop hard drives, so I put it in and completely formatted it. Now I can’t do anything with it. I have been trying to reinstall from a boot CD, but I get an NTLDR Missing error. I know this is a Windows issue, and I want to install Linux. Can you help?
I have been using Firefox for a good while now, but I started having a problem with it a couple months ago. While using it, all of a sudden a box appears that says Firefox is shutting down. Sometimes, Firefox will run for a long time, but then other times it shuts down right away. When it shuts down, a box with the heading “firefox.exe” comes up; the text in the box reads, “Firefox.exe has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.”
I’ve even broken down and tried IE, but it does the same thing with the same error message. I’ve also tried Opera, and it seems to work OK. I have uninstalled and reinstalled Firefox and have even gone back to a previous version but that didn’t help.
If a computer can exist without hardware, as we learned in last month’s white paper about virtual machines, can it be useful without application software? It can if it relies on the concept of cloud computing.
Cloud computing describes a data-processing infrastructure in which the application software—and often the data itself—is stored permanently not on your PC but rather a remote server that’s connected to the Internet. When you need to use the application or access the data, your computer connects to the server through the Internet and some of that information is cached temporarily on your client machine. What do clouds have to do with all this? The cloud is simply a metaphor for the Internet, based on the symbol that’s used to represent the worldwide network in computer network diagrams.
After many years of heating my room with an air-cooled PC, I’m thinking about building a water-cooled system. Since most rigs have blocks for just a CPU and maybe two videocards, I need some advice on how much pressure the pump needs to put out. My liquid circuit will include blocks for a Phenom 9950, two videocards, and some OCZ Flex IIs (liquid-cooled RAM). I’m worried about flow restriction from the length of the liquid circuit and the cooling effectiveness for the RAM.