Have you ever wondered how much faster you could make your PC? Here are eight techniques that computer speed freaks use to squeeze every ounce of performance out of their systems.
1. Overclock your PC and graphics card: When you overclock your CPU, you set it to run it faster than its certified speed. This is usually okay because the CPU is designed to go beyond its stated velocity (chip makers build in a little cushion). With many PCs, you just increase the front-side bus speed and/or the CPU multiplier settings in your PC Setup program (which you enter by hitting <F1> or <Del> after you turn your system on but before Windows loads).
Keep in mind, however, that overheating a processor–or any other chip, for that matter–can destroy it. Always do your homework before you alter your system.
2. Push your RAM timing: Lower the CAS Latency setting, typically from 3 or 2.5 to 2. This makes your memory faster, but it can also cause lockups on systems that use lower-quality memory chips. “CAS” stands for “column address strobe.”
3. Stop saving power: Disable any power-saving settings in your PC Setup program. These may slow hard drives, the CPU, or other system components.
4. Isolate your swap file: Your PC’s swap file–or virtual memory–puts data onto the hard drive when your system’s RAM gets full. Unfortunately, accessing data on a hard drive is much slower than accessing data stored in RAM. A PC that frequently accesses the swap file for data may suffer a noticeable performance hit.
The best way to speed up swap-file access is to place the file on a second hard drive–ideally one without any other program or operating system files. If you can’t put the swap file on its own hard drive, place it in its own drive partition to minimize fragmentation, which also slows memory access.
5. Toss your swap file: If your PC has at least 1GB of RAM, you may be able to speed up your PC by disabling the swap file in your virtual memory settings. Simply click No paging file in the Virtual Memory dialog box (see Figure 1). To open your virtual memory settings in Windows XP, right-click My Computer, click Properties, Advanced, choose the Settings button under “Performance”, click the Advanced tab, and select the Change button.
6. Get dual drives: Add a second hard drive configured as a RAID 0 array, which will increase your data transfer speeds. Many midrange and high-end motherboards support RAID 0.
7. Check your AGP settings: Make sure the AGP Speed setting in your PC Setup program matches your graphics chip set’s maximum (4X, 8X, and so forth). If your PC supports AGP 4X or 8X, enable AGP Fast Write, which allows graphics data to bypass system RAM.
8. Open the gate: Pick the fastest speed for PC Setup’s Gate A20 Emulation setting, to shift the source of a memory timing routine from the slower keyboard circuitry to the faster chip-set circuitry.