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Speeding up Windows (Vista)

I prefer using decent tools that do their job elegantly and don’t disturb me. In practice, Debian and Ubuntu have turned out to be good choices for operating systems. But like many of us, at work I have no choice but to use a toy OS—Windows (eek!) Vista (double-eek!).

It’s a well known fact that Windows installations will gradually rot. As my work-Vista was getting slower and slower, I googled for all kinds of tuning tricks: removed unnecessary startup programs, turned indexing off completely, removed all “cool” visual effects, defragmented disks, put power settings to “high performance”, cleaned registry, and so on. But all these tricks made little difference. Eventually my Vista was so slow that it was not even funny.

Then I found a setting that actually made difference. The general folklore says that swapping only begins when there’s no choice—when the RAM memory is full. But it’s simply not true, in the case of my Vista at least. It was swapping all the time, even when Task Manager shows that there’s plenty of memory free. It was easy to check this from the Resource Monitor’s Memory section: massive amount of “Hard Faults”, which essentially mean that things that were supposed to be accessed via RAM were accessed via the hard disk—that is, swapping.

I have no idea why it works this way, but the fix is simple: Go to Control Panel → System → Advanced system settings, click Settings... in the Performance panel, choose Advanced tab and click Change... in the Virtual memory panel. Remove tick from the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives box. Select No paging file for all drives and click Set. Windows complains with some warnings, but don’t care about them. Reboot the computer (even though Vista curiously does not suggest rebooting this time!) so that the settings become effective.

After this fix, my Vista became actually quite snappy and usable. Note though, that it’s wise to monitor your memory usage for some time after trying this trick. If the memory gets full and there’s no swap available, some pretty nasty crashes could happen.

Last modified: 2009-12-19 11:56 +0200

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