Tune Windows XP Performance

This page is intended to give you some hints how to improve performence of Windows installations. The main porpose of these tweaks is to enhance workstation performance, however some might be usefull for servers as well.

If you find a mistake or have suggestions for improvement feel free to contact me.

GUI - Graphical User Interface and Themes

Since we want speed instead of beauty...
  • Disable XP Themes
    1. Right click the desktop and select Properties.
    2. In the dropdown listbox under Theme:, select Windows Classic
    3. Apply.
  • Disable XP Visual Effects
    1. Open the System Control Panel applet.
    2. On the Avanced tab, select Settings in the Performance frame.
    3. On the Visual Effects tab, select Adjust for best performance
    4. Apply.


NTFS is the recommended file system for Windows XP and provides a number of benefits in terms of functionality, security, stability, availability, reliability, and performance. There are very few reasons to persist with FAT32.

If you use an old FAT Filesystem you can convert it with the tool 'convert'
(which is available on a standard Windows XP installation) to NTFS.
  1. Open Command line (Start -> Run -> cmd )
  2. to convert you X drive type:
    > convert x: /fs:ntfs

Note: Details about converting filesystems to ntfs can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/convertfat.mspx

Disable Last Access Timestamp

Whenever XP reads a file, it stamps the file with the date and time of the access. This feature has its place but is not required for normal use unless you rely on the date of last access for backup purposes. Timestamping a file that has just been read means that a write access has to be made to disk, so every time a read is executed, a corresponding write is also executed. This means performance loss.

  1. Open Command line (Start -> Run -> cmd )
  2. Execute the following command:
> FSUTIL behavior set disablelastaccess 1

Enable DMA Mode

Direct Memory Access, is a technique for transferring data from main memory to a device without passing it through the CPU. Computers that have DMA channels can transfer data to and from devices much more quickly than computers without a DMA channel can.

Nowadays every computer has DMA support build in - so why don't use it
With DMA enabled harddisk access will be much faster. However DMA is usally also used for CD/DVD ROMs.

An older technique to access your harddrive was PIO.

  1. Go to Device Manager
  2. deflate IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers
  3. double click Primary/Secondary IDE Channel
  4. choose the Advanced Settings tab
  5. At the Transfer mode cobobox select DMA if available

Attention: Sometimes read or write error occure on a device. When this happens too often Windows automatically switches the transfer mode back to PIO. This decreases performance significantly.
To work around this problem you can simply delete the driver for the specific device and on the next time you boot your machine it will be freshly installed and the transfer mode will also be reseted.

Memory Management - Kernel Paging and Cache Tuning

The "DisablePagingExecutive" entry in the registry prevents the kernel (the core of the XP OS) from being rolled out to the page file. The effect of this tweak is to cause the OS to cache the OS Kernel and its entourage to RAM instead of to disk, which makes XP far more responsive.

The "LargeSystemCache" registry entry forces XP to allocate all but 4MB of system memory, that is system memory, not avaliable RAM, to the file system cache. The remaining 4MB of system memory is used for disk caching, though XP will allocate more memory if it is needed.

  1. Start regedit

  2. adopt your settings:

navigate to the following key:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management]
Add the following keys:
  • "DisablePagingExecutive" = dword:00000001

  • "LargeSystemCache" = dword:00000001

  1. A reboot is necassary to make these changes work

Separate Window Processes

Contrary to popular belief, this tweak causes multiple instances of the same application to execute in their own process and memory space, not just Windows Explorer. Of course, the cost for improved performance and stability is memory since the application and its attendant DLLs are loaded separately for each instance. This tweak should only be applied if you have more than 128MB RAM.
  1. Start Windows Explorer
  2. Select Tools
  3. Select Folder Options
  4. Select the View tab
  5. Check the Launch folder windows in separate process box
  6. Apply

Processor Scheduling

This tweak is impossible to explain without getting into the technical ins and outs of binary values, bit pairs and bit masks. Suffice it to say, this part of the tweak forces short, variable length processor timeslices to be allocated to foreground processes three times more often than those timeslices given to background processes.
  1. Start regedit

  2. adopt your settings:

navigate to the following key:
Add the following key:
  • "Win32PrioritySeparation" = dword:00000026

  1. A reboot is necassary to make these changes work

Note: The Win32PrioritySeparation value of 26 is hexadecimal. this corresponds to 38 decimal.


disable unused Services

The operating system offers a lot of services, but many users don't need all of them. To save resources this services can be disabled.

To disable a Service do the following:

  1. Click Start, Run
  2. type services.msc
  3. press enter or click OK.
  4. double-click on the service you want to disable
  5. Change the Startup type to Manual or Disable and Apply
  6. Click the Stop button and wait for the service to stop - so no reboot is necessary

Here is a list of Services which I usually disable:

  • Indexing Service
  • Messaging Service
  • Help and Support

disable speech recognition (Sapisvr.exe/ctfmon.exe)

  1. Press Start-button, Settings and open Control Panel
  2. Double click Language and Regional Options
  3. Choose the Languages-tab and click Details in the Text services and input languages-box
  4. Click the Language Bar in the Preferences-box
  5. Uncheck the Extend support of advanced text services to all programs-box

last updated 02 November 2008