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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
You may have heard the saying: What Andy giveth, Bill taketh away. "Andy" is Andy Grove, former head of Intel. "Bill" is Bill Gates: We trust he needs no introduction. Andy's processors keep getting faster, soaring from megahertz to gigahertz and beyond. But computers don't keep getting faster: Bill's new operating systems keep eating up all that speed. And there you are, sitting, waiting for Windows to start up, or for that JPG to process, or that file to download, and wondering: Why can't this happen faster?
Maybe it can. Granted, many of the hardware and software tweaks that PC users relied upon a few years ago no longer work. But where old tweaks disappear, new tweaks often arise to replace them. If you want an up-to-date understanding of PC performance -- and practical techniques for squeezing out the best performance possible -- get PC Performance Tuning & Upgrading Tips & Techniques, by Kris Jamsa.
Jamsa systematically reviews every hardware component that might affect your system's performance, helping you identify your best opportunities for no-cost adjustments or low-cost upgrades. You'll find chapters on motherboards, CPUs, your BIOS and CMOS chips, RAM, cables and ports, disk drives, video cards, and much more. You'll also find pointers to today's most useful benchmark software, so you can objectively evaluate how fast your system's really running -- and check the results of the changes you make.
One of your most significant opportunities to improve performance is overclocking -- adjusting your CPU and your system bus to run faster than its manufacturers intended. Most systems are deliberately preconfigured to run slower than they might, in order to maximize reliability and avoid the risk of generating excess heat that could damage them. Using the appropriate cooling fans (and care), some users override those settings. Of course, you're operating at your own risk (and forget about little details like warranties). But if you're feeling nervy, Jamsa explains how it's done, and points you to the Web's best overclocking resources. (Oh, and when you're done, move your PC away from the wall: You'd better give it room to exhale all that heat.)
Of course, performance has many aspects. Jamsa addresses each of them. Raw processing speed is great, but if you can cut a minute out of Windows' startup and shutdown processes every day, you'll save six hours per year. That ain't hay -- and it ain't unrealistic, either. For example: are you loading hundreds of fonts that you never, ever use? Move them to another folder. Or how about rescheduling virus checks to lunch hour, instead of running them at startup? Are you running programs at startup you never use (or don't even know about?) Does your computer really need to search your floppy drive for an operating system before it goes to your hard drive?
Speaking of hard drives, have you added a new, faster, model (say, a 7,200 rpm instead of a 5,400 rpm drive)? If you move your swap files to that drive, Windows could run noticeably faster. Running Windows 2000 or XP? Spend most of your time in just a couple of applications? Maybe you can assign them a higher thread priority, to run it faster at the expense of the stuff that's running in the background. Do you have oodles and oodles of RAM? Maybe you should set aside more of it for disk buffers that reduce the amount of times your system needs to read from hard drive?
Are you stuck in a part of the country that doesn't have cable modems or DSL? Maybe you can use multilink connections: essentially, connecting to your ISP with two modems at once, for speeds up to 112K. (Hey, every little byte helps.) Failing that, you might consider trying some really arcane TCP/IP settings that are hidden within your Windows Registry (danger, Will Robinson!)
The book is full of goodies like these: stuff that most Windows users have never imagined, much less tried. If it helps you delay a system upgrade for a year, or even six months, it'll pay for itself -- dozens of times over. (Bill Camarda)
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jerseybased marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.