TweakHound's Super XP Tweaking Guide

My Thoughts On Tweaking XP And This Guide


On Tweaking XP

   This is just my personal opinion on tweaking XP. You'll hear people opine on this issue and the opinions vary from "Leave it alone" to "Tweak the heck out of it" and everything in between. You know what? They all have valid points!

   If you think tweaking XP in and of itself is gonna (as an analogy), turn a Geo Metro into a Ferrari FXX, sorry, it ain't gonna happen. Tweaking done in the full context of this guide (this includes maintaining your system) can provide a slight but noticeable speed boost, tighten security, increase stability, and improve the user experience. Lets expand on the earlier car analogy a little bit...

- Maintaining your system is just like a regular oil change and tune-up. Same car, just runs smoother and is less likely to break down.

- Tweaking your system for performance is like installing a set of headers and a freer flowing exhaust system. Still the same car, just tweaked to get a little more horsepower and little better gas mileage.

- Tweaking your system to your personal preferences is like adjusting the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors, and setting all your radio stations. Again, same car, just adjusted for comfort and usability.

   How much you decide to tweak your machine is a matter of personal preference. The truth is that, in general, Windows XP is a remarkably well running and self-tuning OS. Microsoft can only take it so far because of the differences in both computer hardware and personal preferences. Fortunately, tweaking your machine can be rather easy with the right information. That is what this guide is all about, giving you the information you need so that you can decide which tweaks you do and don't want to use. Which brings me to my recommended "tweaking levels"...

   These are simply general recommendations. I've got 5 boxes running XP at the moment and their "level" is actually a combination of various levels depending on the function and user of the machine. For instance: I put a gig if dual channel DDR memory in my wife's P4 computer. Taking into consideration what she does on her machine and the power of the machine, I left all of the "eye candy" on. Another example: I repaired a laptop for a friend and reinstalled XP for her. It's an old, slow computer with only 128MB of RAM and no CD Burner but it's all she's got for now. So, I turned everything off, all the eye candy, sounds, most of the features, etc. This brings me to "features"...

   XP was built with what I'll call the "Everyone Group" in mind. That means everyone from novices to super-geeks. Novices and most general users just want to sit in front of their computer and have it work. To make it easy for the novices to operate required many things left on that could be considered a waste of resources (this left several holes in XP which SP2 attempts to close, or at least help close). They also wanted to enhance the experience for these users by making XP pretty to look at and do cool things like "slide" windows. But one person's features are another person's bloat.  Both the boon and the bane for XP is that the "Everyone Group" has "full control" of the options on how they want to run XP. Again, armed with the right information, it is remarkably easy to tune your machine to your wants and needs. This brings me to the hardware side of things...

   Me, I hate all the eye candy, personalized menus, and all the rest of the things that most would consider "user friendly" features so I turn them off. This is a personal preference based on how I like the look and feel to be. It has nothing to do with my hardware. For example, I've got a 3.4GHz P4, a gig of RAM, a 74GB Raptor hard drive, and a Radeon 9800 Pro video card. This machine can handle all the eye candy,  play the newest FPS game, have an instant messenger on, web pages open etc, and have room to spare. I gain very little speed wise by turning the eye candy off unless I want to run the game at some super-high resolution and detail level (there are lots of folks out there who do). Having the right drivers for your hardware is the number one thing you can do to make XP "faster". The second thing is keeping your hard drive "healthy" by periodic cleanups and defragmenting the drives. 3rd party apps like Raxco's Perfect Disk are much better solutions than Windows built-in defragmenter and offer the option of defragmenting the page file. Beyond that the ROI (return on investment) of other tweaks is on the downside of the bell curve. By that I mean that for any difference to be noticed, it is necessary for multiple tweaks to be applied. The effectiveness of these tweaks completely depends on how a user actually uses a machine. For instance, messing with the memory settings or the page file is useless if you never use it all.

   There is one thing I would like you to keep in mind. I've always believed that Sir Isaac Newton's 3rd Law, commonly phrased as "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction"  applies to just about everything in life. It applies to tweaking as well. Every time you make a change it costs something. For example, turning all the eye-candy off can result in more available system resources but may lessen the user experience.

My whole point to this rambling is this...

   Before you apply a tweak, read about what it does and evaluate your machine and what your wants and needs are before applying. The idea is "Your computer, your way."


On This Guide

   TweakHound's Super XP Tweaking Guide has evolved quite a bit over the last few years. It is as much a labor of love as anything else. I have put hundreds and hundreds of hours of work (and way too much money) into it. Researching, testing, benchmarking are all just parts of putting this guide together. This guide has proven very popular and has even been translated into at least 2 different languages, with my permission. This brings me to a little rant I need to get off my chest so please excuse the indulgence...

  The number of people who have ripped off my work* and tried to pass it off as their own is disgusting. More often than not it is someone in a forum trying to act like a big shot. Why is it they steal someone else's hard work? Are they not intelligent enough to do the work themselves? Are they just lazy? Does it make them feel important? Personally I think they all suffer from penis envy. Anywho...rant off...




*How do I know my work is being stolen?

1 - Usually because people contact me with this info.

2 - Using Google with selected search strings.

3 - Using Copyscape.

4 - See pages with nearly the same info contained in mine that appear after mine do. I usually see these because of #1.

5 - If you see the phrase "tweak & optimize" anywhere relating to a guide, software, or operating system. Guess where it appeared first?!