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msconfig - my #1 XP tweak
Old 16th August 2005
Lives for gear
cdog's Avatar
msconfig - my #1 XP tweak

Friends sometimes bring over their PCs or laptops (Macs get checked at the door... no riffraff in here - I kid! I kid! )

So, the first thing I do when they let me get my litttle grubby hands on it... well first thing I do is a fat bong hit, but after that, my basic msconfig tweak.

There are approximately 3 bajillion tweaks you can do to get a little more juice out of XP, but this is my #1 tweak.

I use this tweak for any computer - mine for audio and gaming, friends for gaming, friends for their studio PCs, my mom's email machine, all of them.

It is easily reversible if you have any issues.

It involves turning OFF a bunch of crap that eats your resources, one of the worst of all being virus guard type programs.

But before we do the tweak, we must make the machine safe to operate on the internet by installing Mozilla Firefox and hiding all links and shortcuts to Microsoft Internet Explorer, and explaining to never ever download ANYTHING from an unsolicited email or untrusted website.

If Macafee is not installed, consider dowloading AVG Free and running that once, and download Ad-Aware (also free) and run that. This will remove CRAPWARE.

Explain to the user that you need to run these programs once a week. MANUALLY.

Download Mozilla Firefox. Install. Label the resulting desktop shortcut in all caps "INTERNET" so there is no confusion. Imprort all favorites from I.E. when prompted etc. This will save the user from ever getting a LOT of spyware, malware, virus crap that thrives on the carcass of I.E.

Now, before the main tweak, this is a DAW minitweak:

Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Performance

On this first page select "Adjust for best performance" This makes Windows look "old school." Perfect for our utilitarian mindset.

Click on Advanced tab. If you're doing anything other than music, leave this page untouched. If you ARE running a DAW on this machine, under "processor scheduling" select "Background Services." For gaming, email, photo/video editing, select "Programs." Simple as that!

OK, now the msconfig tweak.

Goto the start menu and select "run" - it should be right above "turn off computer."

type "msconfig"

hit enter

click on the "services" tab

There will be a little "Hide All Microsoft Services" box you can check. CHECK IT.

What will be left on the list is some crap you think you need but really you probably don't and it just eats your system resources.


NEXT click on the "Startup" tab at the top.

See all that crap? Uncheck all of it with not a hint of mercy for such items as "iTunesHelper" "MSMSGS" and all of the sort. Joy!

Now click on APPLY. Windows will ask you to restart the computer. Do so.

When the system restarts it will ask you if you want the system configuration utility to launch everytime you boot, let it launch the first few times you restart to make sure you're happy with the changes. Then, when you're comfortable with the changes, leave it set so it does not display at startup.

Now watch as XP boots faster, programs launch quicker, and responsiveness is improved. Games can be run in higher resolutions with better framerates (battlefield 2 went from OK to great on a friend's Dell XPS laptop after this tweak).

There are a lot of other tweaks you can do, this is just a very simple, very effective, very reversible tweak that everyone should try.

Now lets hear your favorite XP tweaks!

Old 16th August 2005
I have my system tweaked down pretty hard (112 MB load profile), but I have to urge a smidge of caution when removing services willy nilly. Yes, most of what you'll be removing is, indeed, crapware, 'loader' programs, auto updates, etc, that ostensibly load apps faster or check for updates, and so on, that are usually unnecessary and often slow down your overall system but may even slow down loading of the programs they're ostensibly "helping."

But there are sometimes third party background services or apps you may need. (For instance, my MOTO 828 mkII FW interface has an app that has to load from the startup folder, as far as I can tell.)

Media players are some of the worst offenders. Quicktime, WMP, Musicmatch, RealPlayer (the worse!) etc, have 'loaders' that boot with your machine and run in background, but that offer little advantage and may (like in the case of RealPlayer) be spying on you. In some cases, dismantling these loaders cans sometimes speed up the loading of their main apps. (Do yourself a favor and get rid of the Realplayer. Get Real Alternative instead. There's also a Quicktime Alternative that can cut down on some of the mayhem many users experience from buggy QT installations.)

'Auto updaters' are also big offenders. You need Windows Auto Updates to do the online Windows Update nowadays (changed a few months ago) but it can soak up from 6 to 12 MB of system RAM just sitting there waiting. So I turn it on before doing a Windows Update and turn it off when I'm done.

Other programs leave behind various spyware and updaters, as well. The Sun Java runtime installation leave a big, bloated SOB of an updater program loade and running on your machine, sucking down 12 or more MB. Why? Because Sun might want to update your Java runtime without asking you and they want to be able to do that any time, day or nite. The assholes. I have to have the stupid runtime, but I made sure I pulled that updater out by its freakin' roots. Sun are really idiots. Jerks.

Also, hiding MS services may prevent you from finding and removing some usually unnecessary services. (Seems to me like I recall reading that an absolutely minimal setup might have as few as two or three services running. THAT's mean and lean. You probably can't or won't want to tweak your system downt that hard, but there's a lot that can be switched from "auto" to "manual" in the services manager.

When you find a background service running you don't recognize you can google the filename. (Watch out for 'catcher sites' that try to get ahold of you and not let go. I've had to force a close down IE when one of those popped a modal dialog that wouldn't let me go until I made the site my homepage. Not good at all. Anyhow.) Find a good "What is this file" site and bookmark it.

Here are two good sites that will guide your optimization efforts:
Old 16th August 2005
heres a couple of batch files you can make to shutdown crap you dont use while recording

open a new text document

type in

NET STOP "Automatic Updates"
NET STOP "Network Connections"
NET STOP "Network DDE"
NET STOP "Print Spooler"

exactly as shown.

save file as

then do the opposite

make a new text file with the following

NET START "Automatic Updates"
NET START "Network Connections"
NET START "Print Spooler"

save this file as

run these before recording, when you are done restart them

frees up alot of resources
Old 16th August 2005
Lives for gear
7 Hz's Avatar
As above, but I don't turn off antivirus (AVG) as I would rather have it on, and it never causes me any trouble. Likewise for Sygate firewall.

I have checked out a program called nLite that looks at a copy of a windows XP install disc (i.e. the files off an install disc coppied to your hard drive), then lets you add service packs / remove components ect. It can rip 100's of megs from a standard windows instalation and the space it takes up when loaded.

I used this for an experemental car computer I am makling from an old laptop + touchscreen. YMMV with how much you can strip out without XP not working on your machine. it is possible to f--k it up so the install disc nLite makes won't install XP. Some install discs it makes up only work for some machines ect ect...
Old 16th August 2005
That's really interesting, 7Hz. I'm going to check that out.

Also, keep us updated on that car computer. Sounds like a great project.

BTW, why seven Hz?

Offhand, I can only think of one thing, and it's pretty darn obscure. In fact, the only reason I offer it is that it's so obscure and slightly bizarre -- is an experimental weapon the French were experimenting with in the late 50's or 60's, according to Popular Science Magazine (in an issue back then). It was, in essence a large ultra-low frequency resonator that could put out a very, very high volume 7 Hz (or as we knew it then, c.p.s., cycles per second) signal. Supposedly the French had determined that not only would the low frequency vibrations set up oscillations that could rupture internal organs, but that 7 Hz was the frequency of some important brain wave that would, in essence, paralyze the victim's brain functioning before it killed him. According to the article, the model they were testing, mounted on the back of a small military vehicle, could kill every living thing within approximately five miles. Pretty wack, huh? I find myself wondering, these many decades later if, perhaps, there hadn't been an April 1 on the front of that issue.
Old 17th August 2005
Lives for gear
7161's Avatar

hmmm well if you turn off msmessenger in the start section it'll just reset itself & then you'll have 2 versions in your start, and honestly?... turning off services etc is a bit of a myth as it doesn't do anything much all in real terms of 'improving performance'. BG Services is a good tweak tho especialy for Logic cos it allows logic to redline the CPU meter without crapping out, and setting windows to classic basic look also helps cos it removed animations

the way to remove messenger from starting is to rename the messenger folder and then turn it off in the start (even remove it via the registry if you like) but if you rename the folder it cant resurrect itself
Old 17th August 2005
I'm pretty sure you can disable Messenger in the Services Manager. (Start Menu / Administrative Tools / Services... at least I think that's where it is in the default XP install. Honest to gosh, I've been tweaking on this machine so long I have no idea anymore what it looked like when it started. Except that it had something like 43 services and 7 apps running after bootup. (It's a Dell laptop.) I spent a couple hours the second day I had it pulling stuff out. It's just ludicrous the crap that big outfits like Dell, HP, etc, put in the boot profiles of their machines. (Mind you, I like this Centrino laptop very, very much. But I doubt it would seem half the machine if I'd left all that crapware running.)

And, I have to say, since this machine started out as primarily a business machine (I did make sure I got a 7200 rpm drive, though), I've run it with a lot of profiles. Yes, it can get down to a game of inches on some of these tweaks, but I feel very strongly that my machines run fast for their class because they're generally running lean and mean. And when they're not, I definitely feel it.

A few years ago when I was still recording on a 500 MHz Pentium-3, I was getting higher track counts than some people with 1.8 GHz P4s and the like. I figured then it was because my machine was tweaked down hard and theirs weren't.

You're right, some of the little stuff probably doesn't buy you much. And some things that might seem frivolous, are worth the expenditure of resources. I give up about 2 MB of RAM and concomitant processing resources so I can run the Windowblinds skin manager. The skin I use these days (Soft Crystal) is very subtle but easier for me to use on my laptop in a variety of lighting conditions, while still looking considerably cooler than either the classic Win98 that most folks seem to favor or the [shudder] default XP skin. (Okay, the later, silver variant of the XP skin is tolerable, as it picks up the classic windows color scheme, as does my fnew ave, Soft Crystal.)

But then, again, when we're talking about, say, wasting 12 MB of real RAM so that Sun Computers can have their auto updater running 24/7 in background on your machine (as I found myself after installing their Java runtime), and maybe doing that a few times with media player loaders and various background utilities, you know, there's little reason not to get rid of the obvious parasites.

We're not just talking about RAM, here, you know. Those programs, utilities, and services are loaded into RAM because they're designed to be active, and that means making calls to the system while you're trying to record. There's usually a fair amount of headroom in today's systems. But that stuff adds up. And at a certain point, the burden may cause you to adjust that headroom, increasing buffers -- and thereby increasing various latencies.

Me... I have my system down to a place where I don't have to turn things on and off (except to turn the Auto Update on for the monthly Windows Update). This is still a multi-purpose machine, doing database and web dev, as well as audio production and lite video editing. So it's got to be ready to go all the time. But, like I probably said above (there are so few things I have to brag about these days) my load size is a relatively (I think) trim 110-112 MB (out of a possible 1.25 GB, which would have been largely untouched before I got BFD. But I've seen my usage push 1 GB when I had a huge set of soundfont samples loaded (an 80 MB GM set, etc).

Anyhow... it's like adjusting carburetors, man. Once you start...
Old 17th August 2005
Gear Nut
vikingdude's Avatar

Originally Posted by 7 Hz
I have checked out a program called nLite that looks at a copy of a windows XP install disc......
Looks like a really cool program, the Unattended Setup sounds like a nice feature, guess it means you can just start the installation and then leave? Bet you could make a really nice lean version of windows with that program.

Let us know how the program works out.
Old 17th August 2005
Lives for gear
7 Hz's Avatar
Originally Posted by theblue1
BTW, why seven Hz?
Yup, that story is why I chose 7 Hz I have a 7 Hz tone loaded into my sampler 24/7, so if any musician pisses me off in the studio, I will 'accidently' send this to their cans and melt their brain!

Anyway, back OT, I use XP Anti-spy to rip out messinger and other nonsense
Old 17th August 2005
I thought so... heh

Those must be some impressive headphones, though...
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