It ain't pretty being easy... (soopageek) wrote,
It ain't pretty being easy...

it only took a year

You may recall that in my wreck last year, that my trusty Durabook was smashed to bits and that I bought a gargantuan, behemoth known as the ASUS A7S. What you may not know is that it was a thorn in my side for a very long time. I was having some serious performance issues when playing video and audio media. I couldn't watch/listen to anything because the sound kept skipping and was jittery.

At first I thought that maybe all of the naysayers about Vista were right: that it was more than an OS, it was a POS. I decided at that point to wipe it clean and install XP. This proved daunting since this machine was not supported with any XP drivers by ASUS. Finally though, I managed to get all of the hardware working properly. And yet, I still had the same issues with audio/video. Even worse, I was getting some really weird problems with the system clock losing time, on the order of HOURS over the course of a day while running.

What you may not know is that, this past fall I bought a couple of cheapo, light-weight Dell laptops: one to replace Welf's aging HP and one to serve as a more portable alternative for me. While I love the 17-inch screen that the ASUS provides me while on the road, it's rather cumbersome as a true laptop. Taking it into a truckstop to sit in the diner was an ordeal and lounging about the house with it wasn't exactly convenient or comfortable. But I also had in mnid that, once I had the Dell in my hands, I would wipe the ASUS, reinstall the Vista Premium OEM and get with ASUS about checking out the hardware, as it still had over a year left on its two year warranty.

All the job changing and holidays got in the way of me doing anything with that until a week or so ago. In the meantime, I had been rather impressed by Vista's performance on the little Dell I was using. It came shipped with Service Pack 1, though. So, when I reinstalled Vista on the ASUS last week, I decided to take another run at trying to sort-out its woes with SP1 in place. My experience with ASUS hardware has always been good, and I was having a hard-time believing this was a hardware issue.

To cut to the chase, after updating Vista with SP1 AND after updating both the video and audio drivers I was still having the issues with playing media. I finally decided to look in the "Sound" category under Control Panel and immediately noticed that it was showing my speakers TWICE. I right clicked the first of these and chose "Test". It played its little tones with the annoying skipping and jittery-ness. When I tested the second one though, it was clear as can be. I removed the offensive set of speakers and rebooted and it's been fine so far.

Along the way in my little odyssey to get this laptop running properly, I spent a lot of time reading about Vista, especially about tweaking Vista. Despite the wee Dell's favorable performance in my eyes, there was something about Vista that irked the shit out of me: my hard drive seemed like it was constantly thrashing, especially after a bootup. This was also true on the ASUS. I know how to fix that now, so keep reading.

The biggest complaint that a lot of people have had about Vista is it doesn't feel as snappy and responsive as XP. I felt the same way, too with my first Vista epxerience. I even disabled the Sidebar and Aero hoping for performance boosts and was left feeling disgusted by the whole thing. Sure those are just pretty things, but right now I'm typing this on my ASUS with Aero & Sidebar running with a 2% CPU and under 40% 1 GB RAM being used. Maybe you already know these tips and tricks, maybe you haven't had to make the move to Vista yet. I do know that this quick and dirty tweaking job will make Vista scream if you have adequate hardware in the chassis. I've actually begun to prefer Vista over XP.

1. First of all, go to Control Panel & turn off Windows Defender. It's a useless piece of shit that does far more harm to the performance of your machine than any beneifts you may get from it. This is the number one reason why your hard disk thrashes in Vista (or XP for that matter).

2. But let's take it a step further. Either from the super-cool search bar in the Vista start menu, or using the "Run" option if you've reverted to a more classic look, type in "msconfig" and hit return. Alternately, it's located at C:\Windows\msconfig.exe (or whatever drive your Windows folder is on). A window which says System Configuration should open.

Click on the tab that says "Startup". Look through it, find Windows Defender and uncheck it. While you're here, look through and see if there are any other annoying programs listed here that are loading when you startup that you've never figured out how to keep from doing that. Now you know where to find them.

3. Next click the tab "Services". We're going to disable the following services. I'll also give a brief reason of why it's safe to do so and what you gain from it.

Computer Browser: This is a backward compatible service for pre-XP machines on a network. Unless you are operating some ancient box with Win98 on it on your home network, there's absolutely no reason to have this running and it's just wasting resources. Turn it off.

Superfetch: This is the main cuplrit on causing your HD to thash after bootup. What Superfetch essentially does is learns all of the programs and files that you open most often and pre-loads them into RAM after bootup. Depending on the amount of memory you have or how much 15-20 minutes of disk thrashing bothers you, you may consider turning this off. Once Superfetch has finished loading the programs into memory, your disk will stop thrashing and it won't be an issue anymore, however, you do have all those programs just sitting in memory all the time. You will get a performance boost from the programs you open most, but you might also see a performance gain in memory intensive applications if you have some extra memory to play with. For me personally, the jury still out. After having Superfetch off for a couple of days I've turned it back on to see if I notice a difference.

Windows Defender: Yes it's a service, too. Kill that shit.

Windows Search: No, this won't disable your ability to search the internet or your computer. All this does is disable the Windows Indexing Service. The Indexing service combs through all of the files on your computer and indexes their file names. Additionally it indexes all or portions of their contents (text, metadata, etc) and caches all of this information into a single place in memory. This way, when you search for something, it can first look to see if it is in the index in the memory cache, rather than searching your entire hard drive(s) for it. Only if it doesn't locate it in the cache, does it begin an actual search of your disk. Sounds like a neat idea right? It is to an extent, but it means that the indexing service is constantly making additonal reads from your hard disks everytime an indexed file name, or content, is changed, which means more thrashing. I recommend minimally changing the settings of WHAT is indexed if you're going to keep it. You can find Indexing Options in the Control panel. You certainly should not be indexing things like, oh I don't know, your Temporary Internet files directory. But what I really recommend is consider how often you realistically use the search function to find a file on your computer, and how important in those instances it is to you to have to have it instantaneously found. One final note: if you use Saved Searches or Virtual Folders in Vista, they both depend on this service to operate. Personally, I don't like the idea of depending on a "folder" which is generated from a cache. When I look in a folder, I want to see what's physically residing there. But that's for you to decide.

If you're a little wary of completely disabling these services, you can go to the Services Managment program and switch them all to "Manual" rather than "Automatic".

5. If you opted to disable Windows Search, let's take it one more step further. Open up Windows Explorer or My Computer and right-click on a hard disk. Choose properties. On the main properties window, all the way at the bottom, you'll see a checkbox for "Index this drive for faster searching". We've already disabled the service so it shouldn't matter, but, just to be safe... make sure it's unchecked and have it apply to all subfolders/files/etc. on the resulting screen. Do this for all the disk in your PC.

Now reboot and enjoy a much more tolerable life with Vista. While there are many, amny other way sot tweak Windows Vista, doing just those few things will make a world of difference in the performance, and may even change your opinon of it. I know it did me.
Tags: computers, gear

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