Tweaking Windows XP for Gaming

This is a nice tutorial on tweaking XP.
Table of Contents

* Disabling useless processers & Windows features.
* Optimising your Windows Page file.
* Cleaning up your system.
* Configuring your systems BIOS for maximum gaming power.
* Updating your system drivers.
* Tweaking your nVIDIA card.
* Tips.
* Conclusion.

1. Disabling useless processers & Windows features.
Windows XP has came with quite a few new but extremly useless and memory hogging features that constantly run in the background and slow your system down.

Some of the features that should be disabled are automatic updates, system restore and remote assistance.

To disable these 3 fairly useless services...

1. Hit Start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Select Performance and Maintenance
4. Select System
5. Select System Restore Tab
6. Check "Turn off System Restore"
7. Select Automatic Updates tab
8. Select "Turn off autoamtic updates"
9. Hit the Remote tab
10. Uncheck "Remote Assistance" & "Remote Desktop"

Now that the three main WIndows features that severly hog your PC's power are disabled, its time to move onto the numerous other Windows processers that further drag down your system.

1. Hit start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Select Adminastrative Tools
4. Select Services

Now there should be a large list of services and alot of them are running on your system right now.

Alot are vital for running Windows and alot are completely useless.

The average PC user will have about 27 of these processers running all the time, more than half of them she/he does not need.

Now for a standard PC with maybe a printer & a broadband connection and no fancey networking, routing or any advanced pheriples and wireless devices, the following services should be set as disabled.

To disable a service, double-click it and set the Startup Type drop-down menue as "Disabled" then click "apply" and "ok" and move onto the next.

Automatic Updates
COM+ Event System
Creative Service for CDROM Access (If you have a Creative soundcard)
Cryptographic Services
Distributed Link Tracking Client
Distributed Transaction Coordinator
DNS Client (Do NOT disable if your on a Dial-up internet connection)
Error Reporting Service
HID Input Service
Indexing Service
IPSEC Services
MS Software Shadow Copy Provider
NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing
Network DDE
Network DDE DSDM
NVIDIA Display Driver Service (For nVIDIA card users)
Performance Logs and Alerts
Portable Media Serial Number
Print Spooler (Only if you dont have a printer)
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
Remote Registry
Routing and Remote Access
Security Accounts Manager
Shell Hardware Detection
Smart Card
Smart Card Helper
System Event Notification
Terminal Services
Themes (If you are not bothered about fancey looks for your desktop)
Upload Manager
Wireless Zero Configuration
WMI Performance Adapter

Note that everyones system is differant so dont be wondering why some services in the list above are not on your list.

Now that you have disabled those Windows services, its time to clean up your startup programs and system tray...

1. Hit Start
2. Hit Run
3. Type "msconfig" without the quotes and hit enter
4. Hit Startup tab
5. Click on "Disable All"
6. Press Apply then Ok and answer YES to reboot your PC.

Now you dont have all that junk starting up when Windows starts and I can guarentee you that you'll notice a phonomenol power boost that will be equally as noticable in games.

2. Optimising your Windows Page file.
Windwows uses whats called a pagefile to act as RAM for file swapping duties and the-like & is vital for games.

The pagefile itself is harddrive space taken off your harddrive and kept in the pagefile itself so for example if my harddrive is 20GB and I set my pagefile to 1GB then my HDD would suddenly become 19GB in size.

To edit Windows pagefile...

1. Click Start
2. Click Control panel
3. Click System
4. Click Advanced tab
5. Click "Settings" for the "Performance" section
6. Click Advanced tab
7. At the bottom, click "Change"
8. Check the "Custom Size" box
9. Set your pagefile usng the following uide...

If you have...

128MB of RAM - set to 1500MB
256MB of RAM - set to 1000MB
512MB of RAM - set to 700MB
1GB of RAM - set to 500MB

3. Cleaning up your system.
Now its time to give your system a spring-clean and free from unused invalid light bulb that litters many PC users systems and over time can lead to configuration problems and nasty software conflicts and slightly slow application response rates.

You'll need to downlaod the following free programs and install them...

bulb Cleaner
(A must-have utility for people with 512MB RAM or less)
then, to get the most out of these program, you must configure them correctly...

Ad-Aware and Spybot S&D are pretty well configured to begin with so i'll go straight to light bulb Cleaner...

1. Open light bulb Cleaner
2. Click Windows tab
3. Tick all boxes except "Menue Order Cache & Windows Size/Location Cache
4. Click Applications tab
5. Tick everything
6. Click Issues tab
7. Click everything
8. Click Options button
9. Click Settings tab
10. Uncheck the box that reads "Only delete files in Windows Temp folder older than 10 days"
11. Click ok and exit the program.

Now open Cacheman...

1. Click on the Settings button
2. Click the "RAM" icon
3. Under "Memory Ammount", set it to "User defined" then move the slider as far to the right as it goes
4. Uncheck all four boxes but leave "Extreme recovery mode" checked
5. Click the "Optimization" tab at the top
6. Check both "Disable executive paging" & "Unload DLL's from memory"
7. Exit the program and answer "yes" to save settings and answer yes to the reboot prompt.

Ok now that you've tweaked your programs to work at there best, its now time to use them...

NOTE: No other programs should be running while you run the programs so bookmark this page and exit IRC or whatever other programs you have running and come back here when your done.

Open and run the following programs in the following order...

Spybot S&D
light bulb Cleaner
Reg Seeker
Hijack This

Ok now your back, your PC should be alot more clutter free but these programs never do a complete job of it so its now time to manually clean your Windows up...

1. Look on your desktop and delete any icons & shortcuts that you no longer need or use or have its software uninstalled
2. Go into your start menue and do the same thing
3. Go into Control panel
4. Go into Add or Remove programs
5. Uninstall any programs that you no longer use or want from the list
6. Go into your Program Files folder typically located at C:Program Files
7. Delete all files and folders that relate to programs or games you uninstalled or do not want any longer.

4. Configuring your systems BIOS for maximum gaming power.
************************************************** *
Accesing your systems BIOS varies from PC to PC but typically its a good 10 second hammering of the Del or F1 key while Windows is booting up.

BIOS vary from motherboard to motherboard but modern gaming boards will have alot more options in them than basic motherboards like Dell PC's have which is why i'm not going to be specific, rather just point out the general things to change that I think most PC's will have.

AGP Aperture size should be set to the highest possible.
AGP mode should be set to 8.0 or how high it can go
AGP Fastwrite should be enabled
USB 2.0 controller mode should be set to "Fullspeed" if you have USB 2 ports on your PC
Any performance enhancing options that many, many gaming boards have should be set to there maximum for example my Asus K8V SE board has an option where I can set the overall speed of my PC to "slow", "normal", "fast" or "turbo". Obviously the Turbo option is going to produce more thermal output on my CPU, RAM & motherboard but its not really enough to worry about especially if you have fans in your case.

5.Updating your system drivers.
Updating your systems drivers is vital for squeezing as much performance out of it as possible, especially sound card and graphics card drivers.

Here is a list of driver links for the differant components from all the major manufactuers...

Graphics card

Creative Soundblaster

1. Hit Start
2. Click on Windows Update icon

Now it will take you to the Microsoft website and will scan your system and come up with a list of reccoemnded updates.

Alot of these updates are rubbish and unncessary. I cannot be specific about what not to downlaod and what to download since everyones PC is differan but updates such as language packs and stuff like that.

Critical update patches for Windows Media player and stuff like that should be downloaded and so should Microsoft .NET framework since alot of software nowadays relies on this code.

Remember that uninstalling previous drivers before installing new ones is highly reccomended since it ensures a bug-free crashless install.

Heres how to PROPERLY uninstall drivers...

1. Go into add/remove programs
2. Uninstall the driver you want from the list
3. GO into your Program Files folder and delte all folders and files associated with the driver you have just uninstalled
4. Delete any start menue entries associated with the deleted driver
5. Run Reg Seeker
6. Run light bulb Cleaner
7. Reboot your system and then install the latest driver

I would of made links to motherboard drivers but I find updating mobo drivers to be quite a risky and an often unsucsesfull procedure and to cover it in this guide would take up far too much time.

If you would like to update your BIOS, there are many guides out there, one I reccomend would be BIOS Guide from the trusty website which I highly reccomend also.

6. Tweaking your nVIDIA card.
I'm sorry ATI owners but I have only had experiance with nVIDIA cards so my intructions wont be perfect to follow but should be ok as the two cards GUI is pretty similer.

To access your nVIDIA cards options...

1. Right-click on your desktop & select Properties
2. Click Settings tab
3. Click advanced button
4. Click on the tab that reads your graphics card name, i.e GeForce FX 5600 for me.
5. On the pop-up menue on the left, click on Performance & Quality"
6. Set Antialiasing to off
7. Set Anisotriopic filtering to off
8. Set Image quality to high and if your card is good then set to maximum
9. Set v-sync to off
10. Set Force Minimaps to "none"
11. Set Conformant texture clamp to off
12. Go into the Direct 3D section
13. Set Max frames to render ahead to 0

Your card is now set to give the best balance of image quality and performance.

7. Tips.
Here are some tips to maintain your PC at its full potential forever...

1. Run them programs often, especially when you've been making alot of changes or have been installing/uninstalling alot of sfotware on your PC.

2. Run Cacheman before you play games and recover as much RAM as possible so you can get smoother gameplay.

3. Setting games to "High CPU Priority" in Windows Task Manager can sometimes give noticable performance gains.

4. Try to keep your files and folders organized so that your PC is as clutter free as possible.

5. Exit all programs and applications such as MSN messanger or IRC before you play games to maiximise gaming performance.

8. Conclusion.

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