Posts filed under 'OS'

A strange way to dramatically speed up Windows XP

Summary: ‘resetting’ the XP swap file causes a dramatic increase in performance.

Notes

  1. This hack seems so stupid, and implausible that I don’t blame you for being sceptical. I suggest you TRY it OUT, and see the results for yourself. Believe me, it works, and the results are quite amazing, especially on low ram PC’s
  2. This hack works best on PC’s with under 1GB ram (In my case, I tried it on a PC with 512MB) - if your PC has 2GB or more it probably won’t make much difference.
  3. Update: someone commented that you can defragment the swap file also, via pagedefrag - I don’t think the problem is in fragmentation of the swap file but rather the simple fact that, over a few months of use, XP develops an unnatural reliance on the swap file, and tries to use it more than physical memory - by zapping the file, XP starts over again, and is much more faster. Again, I know this all sounds rather absurd, but it actually works.
  4. If you try this out, let me know!

Long boring preamble
Have you ever noticed how fast your PC is after a fresh OS/Software install? How the OS seems crisp and fast, and applications load up almost instantly?

And how… after a few months of use, your PC seems to slow down to a crawl? How even booting up seems to take forever, how launching the simplest applications causes your PC to struggle? Well I’ve always wondered what causes this ‘Windows Rot” phenomenon (aside from poor programming at M$).

What I used to do earlier, was reinstall everything on my PC every few months.

Eventually (due to product activation requirements) this became a hassle, so I now keep a backup mirror and restore it every once in a way. Still, this is a hassle, because I have to re-install any new software I was using, also restore various system settings.

Today, I was wondering to myself, does the swap file have anything to do with this problem - after all, the hard disk light starts staying on when the PC slows down - which seem’s to indicate swap file use.

So, I decided to try deleting the swap file. The beast way to do this was by setting it to a small size - e.g. 2MB, restarting the PC, and setting it back to the original size.

Here’s the procedure (simplified somewhat):
(this procedure refers to XP but you can follow similar methods in other windows versions, also, don’t attempt to drastically reduce swap file space, even temporarily, on machines with under 512MB ram)

Caution: don’t mess with your swap file unless you know what you are doing!

  1. Right click my computer, select properties
  2. Click the ‘Advanced’ tab
  3. Under performance, click Settings
  4. Click the ‘Advanced’ tab
  5. Click ‘change’ under Virtual memory
  6. Make a note of the existing swap file(s)
  7. Set the current swap file to a very small size (e.g. 2mb)
  8. Restart the PC, and resize the swap file back to its original size Initial Size equal to the 1.5 to 2.0 times your physical RAM (from a comment below!)
  9. Restart the PC once more

Results:

The results were dramatic and surprising. I think I can confirm that (for XP, on a PC with under 1GB ram) this procedure returns your PC to (almost) the original post software install stage.

Does this sound crazy? Don’t believe me? Just try it RIGHT now, and I bet you will notice a significant speed difference in your PC.

It’s just magical: applications which struggled to load earlier now load up rapidly, just as they used to when the XP installation was fresh. Everything just works faster - even simple tasks like switching between windows!

So why does this work? I’m not sure but I speculate it has something to do with the way Windows uses the swap file.

Try this and let me know what happens (post a comment here)

25 comments September 8th, 2007

Linux XP: Review

LXP  

Introduction 
Linux XP is a linux version (distro) that is designed to behave like Windows XP. The theory is that a Windows user should be able to easily use Linux XP, if they are comfortable with Windows XP.

But does it work? And what is the user likely to experience? Here are my observations:

  1. Installation: quite easy actually. Aside from setting up the partitions which might be hard for non linux users, the installation process was easy (also, the partition setup had an automatic mode).
  2. Startup: startup is in typical unix style, with lots of system info whizzing past. Eventually the desktop will load.
  3. Desktop: the initial desktop presented when LXP loads is similar to Windows XP. A lot of effort has been put into mimic the XP desktop, and it pays off: At the bottom you have the taskbar with start button (and various other icons).
  4. Menu system: Like windows, there is a start button - clicking this enables you to open various applications, also adjust various system options via a ‘control panel’
  5. Control Panel: LXP has a control panel, similar to XP. Through this you can adjust various options related to the interface, hardware, network, users, and also add/remove applications.
  6. Applications: LXP includes applications under categories similar to XP. These categories are accessories, graphics, Internet, Multimedia, and Office.
  7. Included applications include various utilities (under accessories), a PDF viewer,  GIMP (for graphics) Firefox (for surfing) and much more. Strangely, Open office was not included in the installation, which is a pity.

Possible Bugs

I found the following problems during the install/usage - whether they were due to my hardware or errors on my part I can’t say for sure:

  1. Installation: The initial boot screen displayed by the CD had garbled text (tried changing graphics card/monitor no luck)
  2. Screen resolution: After installation, the screen resolution could not be adjusted beyond 800X600 @85hz. Tried changing monitors, and graphics card but no luck.

Final thoughts:

Linux XP does an admirable job of mimicing Windows XP’s behavior, so a typical XP user may find switching to LXP very easy. At the same time, the more fundamental question I’d ask is, if you are switching to Linux, why bother retaining windows XP layout, when Linux has better options?

The second problem with LXP (in my opinion) is that it is a paid OS - i.e. you have to pay to obtain a licence. Some will say this is a good thing but it makes me wary as it goes against the principle of open source (IMO).

Lastly, LXP is still relatively unknown, isn’t as popular as some of the more well established Linux distros.

Conclusion 

Having used Ubuntu, I think it is vastly superior to Linux XP, besides being true FOSS (Free and open source) it can also be tweaked to look and feel like XP (if you want to). See my review of Ubuntu here

13 comments January 1st, 2007

OS Roundup: Linux XP: Installation

LXP desktop 
Linux XP

As we move into 2007, I’ve decided to review three operating systems: Linux XP, Ubuntu, and Vista. To kick off my reviews, I will be starting with Linux XP.

Introduction 
The main problem most ordinary people find with switching to Linux is that Linux is not Windows. Most Linux users don’t find a problem with this as they consider Linux superior - HOWEVER, typical Windows users find the idea of switching to a new OS or way of doing things simply too daunting.

Linux XP seems to be aimed at solving this problem. Basically, this OS tries to mirror XP’s look and feel. In this review I will install LXP, and see how well it functions in terms of performance, ease of use and compatibility.

Note: Unlike typical Linux distros, Linux XP is not free - you can install it and use it around 99 times after which it will require Activation - I guess they copied this feature from Windows XP also ;) . Thankfully Linux XP costs only around $19, which is relatively affordable.

Quick Installation Guide

  1. Download the ISO image of the installation disk from http://www.linux-xp.com/ - and burn that image onto a CD. Thankfully Linux XP requires just one disk
  2. Boot your PC off that CD.
  3. Welcome: At this point, you will get a welcome screen showing “Linux XP desktop 2006″ - for some reason the text was garbled on my monitor (a Viewsonic LCD). I tried another monitor, AND another graphics card, but no luck. Anyway, pressing enter here will take you to the installation screen.
  4. Partitioning: (image) next, you will be asked about how you want to set up your partitions - you have the choice to select automatic partitioning or manual partitioning. I selected manual - if you select manual, remember you have to set up (at least) a root partition (think of it as your “C:” drive) and a “swap” partition (unlike windows which uses a swap file, Linux can use a whole partition as a swap drive - this approach makes more sense really. I set up a 2GB root partition and a 1GB swap partition. (Tip: click New and select / for root partition, and enter size, click OK;, for the swap partition, select swap under file system type).
  5. Boot loader - LXP uses GRUB which is fine. Click next.
  6. Network config (If you have a network card). I just clicked next here, you can edit the options if necessary for your network.
  7. Time zone - select your time zone.
  8. Root password - this is the root account for administration - enter a password and click next.
  9. About to install: LXP is now ready to install - at this point you will get a warning that this is the last opportunity you will have to chicken out (so far nothing has been changed on your computer). Click next to continue.
  10. Installing Packages: LXP now starts the installation process - first, the partitions will be set up and formatted, after which LXP starts to transfer an image to the hard drive. Like XP, the installation process is graphical with a status bar showing completion of each project.
  11. System Installation Progress: (image) At this point, a taskbar will show installation progress.
    Note: My installation froze and popped up an error message complaining of a problem in the CDROM. I fixed this by burning another CD and continuing the installation (did not need to restart).
  12. Reboot - after installation completes, the CD will eject and you must reboot.

Coming up next: a review of Linux XP.

4 comments January 1st, 2007


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