OK. So you’re running Windows and over time, you’ve started to notice things are starting to slow down extensively. Boot up and log-in start to take minutes instead of seconds. This tutorial will show you how to speed up your Windows install (and clean up a lot of the mess) over the life of the Windows installation.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to refer to a Windows 7 install, although, the concepts are the same for most windows installs.
There are 2 main factors to increasing windows performance. I’ll address both of them in this article; Hardware and Software.
Add More RAM: Adding more RAM (Maxing out the RAM capabilities of your Hardware) is going to give you the most bang for your buck. This reduces swapping on your machine and that is a big plus. Expect an immediate improvement with 15 min. worth of work. RAM is cheap these days. I would recommend Maxing it out on your machine.
Install an SSD: Ahh, the panacea of serious performance. Solid State Drives (SSD) are just incredible. They move data at insane speeds. Boot up your OS, open apps, documents, etc. at hundreds of Megabytes per second. The other benefit? You don’t have to be so gentle with your machine. I throw my laptop on the table all the time without worry about bumps and bruises to the platters on a traditional mechanical drive.
Upgrade the CPU: This one is pretty important. Go for not the newest, but the generation below the newest. Get as many cores as you can. If you have the RAM and the SSD, you’ll find that your bottleneck will either be IO to/from the disk or CPU. I’m currently CPU and IO bound on windows. I have a Macbook Pro with a Pegasus R6 drive running windows 7 x64. My SSD doesn’t push data fast enough to the drive to make my backups consistently faster. There is a way around that, but I’ll discuss that in the software section. Reading from the Promise R6 is just insane. Close to 1 GBps (That’s 1 GigaByte not gigabit). Unfortunately, the CPU is what’s holding it up even with 8 cores of i7 sweetness.
For you Transcoder Geeks out there (Video / Audio), I would have to say GPU transcoding is the way to go. If you’re doing average amateur transcoding and not pro transcoding, I would recommend an Nvidia CUDA accelerated card. You don’t need to buy the top of the line, just the best you can afford that handles CUDA. As for transcoding software, we’ll discuss that in the software section. I would recommend AMD, but there is very little that actually supports it out there now so for now, I’ll have to defer.
What about USB? If you’re running a PC, I have to tell you that until Thunderbolt is officially available for all PCs, (unless you’re running Mac hardware **snicker** see my last post about the promise), you’ll want to get USB 3.0 into the mix. If you’re lucky enough to have the ports in your computer, you’re set. If you have a laptop, get a USB 3.0 expansion card. If you’re a desktop user a GOOD USB 3.0 card is very important. Also, don’t skimp on the USB hub as well. A crappy USB hub will slow you down more than it will speed you up.
I prefer and use the LaCie Hub4 USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Hub. It’s a quality hub that does the job. Photographers take note. If you deal with Memory cards, get a good reader. I shoot Nikon and use CF cards so I bought the Lexar dual slot USB 3.0 reader. Can I say it’s just absolutely amazing? Fast as a rocket.
If you’re doing lots of encryption / decryption I’m going to recommend a good Encryption setup using a . They’re not that expensive, but boy do they make a difference.
Software Tweaks that make a huge difference:
OK. So let’s say the cash isn’t in your budget right now, because the economy just sucks and we know that the year before elections, everyone makes promises they have no intention of keeping. So let’s just concentrate on the software tweaks that make a huge difference.
Clean up the Registry and DAT files: You know those .DAT files in your user profile? Notice how they just get bigger and bigger? Well, those files have a habit of recording everything you do on your computer (hence their size). This coupled with the registry bloat and you’ve got a complete and utter mess on your hands. Now we’ve all seen registry cleaners out there and half of them don’t work, but there is one that does. It’s the Auslogics Registry Cleaner and The Auslogics registry Defragmenter (Both Part of the BoostSpeed Suite). They simply just work. My dat files reduced themselves in size from over 700 MB to 40 MB. Pretty serious difference, huh? As for speed of the computer? Let’s just say that It’s as fast as the day I installed the OS.
Defragment your drive: This provides a significant increase in your drive response and faster load times. Use the built in windows defragmenter. While it will take hours to do, it makes a huge difference. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE AN SSD DRIVE. It doesn’t do anything on SSDs but wear the drive.
Lock the Windows Kernel into memory: This makes a huge difference and is as easy as just simply editing a registry key.
As an administrator on your machine, start up regedit and go to the following location:
1. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory Management
2. DisablePagingExecutive will be on the right. Set it to value one by double-clicking on it. This keeps the kernel in RAM and speeds up the machine quite a bit. Less Paging=less thrashing=faster computer.
Uninstall unwanted programs: There have been many times you’ve installed and uninstalled programs. Use Revo Uninstaller to uninstall your unwanted programs. Don’t use the windows uninstaller. Use REVO. It gets rid of excess registry entries and files.
Turn off items that automatically start up in your windows startup routine: The best way to do it is to go to a command prompt as administrator and type msconfig and just uncheck the things you don’t need started up like update managers and the ilk. This makes a huge difference and can actually cut minutes off your windows start-up as well as reduce paging as well as make your computer “snappier”. You’ll notice an immediate difference.
Update your Drivers: updated drivers do two things; reduce bugs and give you more functionality or better performance. So update your drivers religiously. Especially video drivers and storage drivers. NEVER use BETA drivers.
Clean out your hard drive: I do this every week, but once every few months is fine too. The fewer files there are on your computer, the fewer index entries there are on your hard drive index table. This means faster access. Get yourself an Amazon S3 account and upload those files to an S3 Bucket. It’s redundant and super cheap while allowing you to access those files when you need them. In other words, archive it! or just get an external hard drive and offload the data to the hard drive (although it doesn’t provide for data redundancy and protection).
Run Scandisk on your System Drive and All connected hard drives once a week: This helps prevent any errors which filesystems are prone to have causing data corruption as well as performance decreases. You’ll thank me for this one.. I promise. How do you run scandisk? open My Computer, right click on the drive and go to the tools tab. If it’s the system drive it will ask you to schedule it for the next startup. Click yes. Keep in mind depending on the size of your drive, this could take a long time (upwards of an hour) so do this overnight.
For Specialty Users:
This is a section specially dedicated for what I call the specialty user or power user. You use your computer to it’s full potential or for specialty purposes.
Here is where I will address how to get even more out of your computer for your purpose.
For Video Editors and Transcoding: You’ll need more drives. You shouldn’t be using a laptop, but a desktop workstation. Get Xeon Processors and the best Nvidia graphics card you can afford that supports CUDA. Use applications that support CUDA computational capabilities. Just click on this link to see a few of them.
As for the Drives, you NEED RAID. Get yourself a great hardware raid card. Not an el-cheapo raid card that supports RAID in the driver, but actually on the card. I recommend 3ware cards. Best of breed in my book and all I ever use. As for which level of RAID you should use, It depends. I’m a power user who’s into performance + redundancy so I always do RAID 1+0 (not to be confused with RAID 0+1) which is a completely different and useless animal.
Read up on RAID here and decide which level of RAID you need. The 3ware cards will most likely support it. As for motherboards, I recommend SuperMicro Boards and Cases exclusively. Why? Check out the specs and how they’re built. Better than anything I’ve seen on the planet.
****NOTE / WARNING: NEVER RUN RAID-0. There is no redundancy and you will eventually come to regret it. If you need the speed, RUN RAID-1+0. That’s what I do exclusively. While it costs an ARM and a LEG, I’ve had system uptimes of 5+ years with ZERO DATA LOSS****
Remember, chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Buy Quality!!!!!!
Server Configurations: While this is a tough one to deal with, it really depends on your server. If running Microsoft, you’ll need to keep 2 things in mind. RAM and Processor power. XEON Processors with multiple cores and virtualization technology. Trust me on this one. A good motherboard with a proven solid chipset. Do your research on the chipset!!!! Do not use a low quality server board. You will regret it in the future. A good server board will be in the 500-1000.00 USD range. Don’t skimp. System Downtime costs more than that!
RAID: Multiple drives with redundancy. Hardware RAID only. Again, see my page on RAID.
Here’s a common misconception and a mistake most NON-Enterprise Architects make. RAID is NOT BACKUP. So get yourself a good backup solution and make sure it works. I recommend one off-site + one onsite. You can never be too careful. Unless you don’t care about your job.
Here are a couple of tips:
Database Servers: RAID 1+0 gives you redundancy + performance. God Bless 3Ware.
Application / Media / Web Servers: Raid 1+0 or RAID-5. If you’re serving up content, RAID-5 is fine. If you’re writing as much as you are reading to the drives, add tons of memory, a fiber channel interface or use SSDs in a RAID configuration. Then tune the crap out of it and use Amazon’s CDN to help reduce the load on your server. It’s cheap, reliable, and extremely bulletproof. Don’t make the mistake Netflix made by assuming one CDN choice from an unproven company is a good solution. Use someone else’s infrastructure whenever possible for Content Delivery. It’s cheaper and will be better than anything you could possibly do on your own (budget wise).
Believe it or not, if you use linux (a proven server linux like Redhat or CentOS), your machines will run without hiccups once configured and tested thoroughly.
A properly configured linux server coupled with a good CDN will keep you running with very high uptime and reliability. Don’t assume that just because you’re a Microsoft shop, you have to run Microsoft Solutions. Linux and Microsoft are converging slowly. Use the tools you can and you can save yourself an insane amount of money.
If you need help with a solution, I’m always available for consulting. Just check me out on linkedin and you’ll see I’ve got the qualifications.
Non-PC Hardware that makes a difference:
Network Switches and Cards: Get a good NIC card. Intel Chipsets rock! As for switches, get a non-blocking switch that handles Gigabit Ethernet. I’m a power user so I’m using Used Cisco gear wherever possible. You can pick it up for cheap and just buy the Service Warranty for it and you’re covered. I love having 4 hour replacement gear in the middle of the night. Best warranty in the business.
Firewalls: Don’t even consider running a computer network or computer without a firewall. It’s a disaster. You will be hacked. Read up on my Firewall post and save yourself some money and headache.
Important Note: There is no such thing as set it and forget it. You have to do maintenance on a computer to make run well. If it’s your business, I suggest doing maintenance once a week or once a month at a minimum. If you have a hard time finding a good sysadmin, contact me and I’ll happily work out a deal with you to work with your IT infrastructure. Don’t assume that the local PC guy you find on craigslist is going to be good. Most of them have no enterprise experience and will use you as a learning experience. NOT a good idea. Find yourself someone who is multi-faceted with credentials. You won’t be sorry.
I also have a post on recommended products for Linux, Windows, and Apple platforms. Click here to read it.
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