Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Monday, September 28, 2009

Free #1 Tweak to Improve Windows Performance

Every year billions of dollars are spent by folks just trying to improve the performance of their computers. Over the last couple years there’s been a big market for “Registry Cleaners” even though there has been little evidence having a “tidy”, smaller registry makes any difference. Truth is, a few simple, free tweaks can be done which can drastically improve the speed of their computers.

Providing support for my WinPatrol program I run into a wide range of symptoms reported by our users. Some problems don’t always make sense yet a surprising number are resolved by just cleaning up the Windows Temporary Internet Folder. I haven’t read much from Microsoft about cluttered Temp Folders but my years of experience tell me if this file gets too large all kind of seemingly unrated problems can result. You might be saying “I don’t use Internet Explorer so why do I care about it’s Temp Internet Folder” option. Trust me, if you’re using Windows XP, Vista or even Windows 7, you care.

The original purpose of the Temp Internet Folder was to save time accessing web pages by storing images and other objects that don’t change on your system. Just like the HOSTs file this was a good idea when we were all on slow dial-up connections but today many dial-up connections are fast enough these features are no longer relevant. Anecdotal evidence shows the Temp Internet Folder is used for more than just browsing the Internet.

Go ahead and open Internet Explorer if it’s not already open. Click on the “Tools” menu and select “Internet Options”. Don’t worry about clicking on the Delete button on the first screen. Nothing will be deleted until the 2nd screen. Note: This is how it looks using Internet Explorer 8 which provides more options on which items you’ll want to remove.

cleaup7a cleanup7b
Click on the Settings button and you can tell Windows how much space to allocate for Temporary files. I recommend selecting the lowest amount recommended.

If you’re looking for even more performance there are some standard changes you can make that all the experts agree on.
Adding memory will always be a big improvement. It may not be free but memory prices are pretty low these days. If you’re getting a new computer and need to choose between a faster processor and more memory, go for the more memory.

The other tweak where you can’t go wrong is by cleaning up the list of programs which are loaded at startup. I’m obviously biased but you can accomplish this by downloading WinPatrol for free. If you’re not sure a program can be removed, upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS.

As I said earlier and have written before some folks will recommend a Registry Cleaner. I’m not a big fan and worry because I think there is always a small risk of removing something that may really be important.

The other tweak which many recommend is to defrag your hard drive. Some experts swear this should be part of your regular system maintenance but I’m not a big fan. It’s a personal thing and may be due to problems I’ve experienced following a disk defrag.

I will stand by my recommendation to clean up your Temporary Internet Folder and welcome comments from others who have had positive or negative results. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you Bill for again excellent basic tips. There are still too many "user settings" remaining mystery to me, despite the fact that I'm an experienced computer user. This kind of information is most valuable.

Each "operating" system should be something unexisting (transparent) for the user. Any OS should be something the user doesn't see and shouldn't care about.

How much percent of your own computer time is required for "maintenance" and solving problems ?

Why an international army of specialists making their living, only to make "operating" systems operational. Why so many software making their living improving other's lousy software ?

5:12 AM  
Blogger VraiChevalier said...

I agree. Which is probably why I have been a Plus user for several(4 or 5) years.

One thought about defragging though, Vista and Windows7 automatically defrag "on the fly" or during periods of idle time do they not? I pretty much don't bother with it any more except perhaps in preparation for installation of a second operating system (dual boot) or some such.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Reb Mordechai Reviews said...

I agree that memory has more of an impact on performance than cpu but I would always recommend someone buying a new pc on a budget to get the best cpu/motherboard one can afford from the newest technology. Memory you can always add easily without any issues after a few months. That way you end up with the best of both worlds and a more upgradable machine.

2:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You Said: Click on the Settings button and you can tell Windows how much space to allocate for Temporary files. I recommend selecting the lowest amount recommended.
I have heard just the opposite that you should increase that setting. Please explain your reasoning and the impact on any computer as you see it.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of a small temp folder. I have mine set at 8. I also have a bad habit of deleting temp files at least once a day along with doing a defrag/disc scan every week or two. I have four desk tops and two laptops, but my Vaio laptop is my favorite. It's very fast and dependable, but when it starts to slow down you notice it fast. When this starts I run the VaioCAare program which does it all. Temp files, defrag, registry and all and in a very short time ( because I do it on a regular basis) it's back to full speed.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you right-click on your drive, and run "Disk Clean-up", does it not delete the same temporary internet files, or does the one from IE delete more, or from a different location?

11:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Txs Bill, much appreciated.

I have been religiously carrying out all of the "tweaks" you recommend, and can vouch for the fact that each tweak adds good, necessary value to maintaining the speed of my computer.

Respectfully, I disagree with your view on not needing to defrag, with one caveat: only if one does not have too much information on one's disc. Beyond a certain data percentage of disc space, it's IMPERATIVE that one defrags, otherwise one is, ultimately looking for big trouble. While I successfully use Disc MD, there are a host of other defraggers which also do a fine job. I have found out, through bitter experience, that if one leaves defragging beyond a certain time limit after the purchase of a new computer, it becomes impossible to save that particular computer; one then needs to re-load the operating system - a major schlep. Windows and "defrag" should be synonomous -- at least once per week. I seriously wonder why Microsoft does not over-emphasise this point, which is perfectly reinforced by the weak defragger they include with each MS Operating System sofware package computer. Ultimately (long-term), MS's defragger does not do full justice to maintaining an efficiently de-fragged computer; it's mediocre, at best. One critically needs to purchase / download a better version. There are lots of options, as I'm sure most folk will know.
Take care,

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also recommend occasionally (6 months) clearing the contents of the prefetch folder. The next restart may be slightly slower but if you often install and remove programs it will improve the speed as the OS does not have to search through useless prefetch entries.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous riggarob said...

Does this mean, according to your reasoning, that you should click the box saying "delete temp internet files when leaving site", or something to that effect?

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Word "delete" is very deceiving. often you are just moving crap to free space. A Gutmann Overwrite, is needed to destroy so called Deleted Temps.
I also believe is free space cleanup once a month. It makes a measurable difference in speed.
5 years, 8 months, 1 day and 9 hours without a reformat, on a Blazing XPPro O/S

6:13 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

I'm no computer expert at all, but I've been using a little program for YEARS that has worked for me. It's called Diskcleaner (, and it not only cleans the Temp Files, but many other files that tend to build up and slow things down. It even can be set to run automatically when you start the computer. It's tiny, free, crazy simple to use, and it works! I always recommend it to anyone having trouble with slowness, or anyone who just bought a new computer. To me, it's just one of those "must have" programs!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'ccleaner' is another excellent FREE & SAFE tool for keeping your system clean of cookies, temp files, etc.


11:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I use Empty Temp Folders 2.8.3 and set it up to clean all "C" drive temp folder contents older than one day at bootup.
Keppsmy pc's clean

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Alibags said...

Thank you Bill for educating the masses once again.

along with Ccleaner you could also use Defragler obtainable at ' ' it has a quick defrag just putting the individual files back into place, an interim to a full defrag. This is also a free program and is faster than M.S.s own, [95 trough to Vista 'havn't tried it on 7 yet].

It will also defrag an O.S. drive that has only a few meg. of disc space left.[although this will be very slow ] Not that you ever want to let your drive get that full. Always leave a min. of 1/4 of the O.S. empty.

Changing your swapfile to a different drive or partion can on some systems improve its perfomance

6:24 AM  
Blogger Vella said...

I have always cleaned this out and i think this is a big problem for people who do not know how to do this. I also type %temp% into run and delete everything in there and you wouldnt believe how much that helps and its all temp stuff that gets missed by deleting your temp files thru IE. Now this works for XP and ME and i am told by Vista as well but i would never swear by that because i dont have, nor want, Vista. But i swear i have been using that method for 5 years and my computer is always quick and never have issues.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very helpful. I also started using winpatrol and I like it a lot. Thanks Don.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Two tips that generally get over looked -

1: Don't forget to Cold Boot occasionally (all power disconnected for 30 seconds).

2: Delete Windows temp files (%temp% from the run line or Explorer and delete all files and folders). Cures many ills.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have a problem where a message often comes up saying Low Disk Space. I am now being prompted to clean Temporary Internet Files numerous times per day. Sometimes the prompt also indicates I should delete unused programs to free disk space. Also Defragmenting will not work while I have such a small amount of Free Space. What do I do next. Getting desperate now.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Big Geek Daddy said...

Anthony: Sounds like you need a bigger Hard Drive. Try CCleaner and
Auslogics Disk Defrag. Google both to find their download pages. Both are Free. You could also move any Music, Video, and Photos to an external hard drive to free up space on your main drive.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good tip. I must have a virus or something. It said I dont have permission to go into internet options. Contact system administrator. I am the only administrator on this computer!

Stuck like chuck

p.s. If you or anyone else can help email me

4:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Music, Video, and Photos have already been removed, as well as other files shifted from the C drive to the D drive as suggested by the store we bought it from. How easy is it to increase the Hard Drive in a laptop? Thanks for your two suggested downloads.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that registry cleaners can be a problem. I tried CCleaner and it was fine. Then I tried Advanced SystemCare and discovered it removed too much from the registry. After running Advanced SystemCare, I could not change my default programs (not being able to set Microsoft Internet Explorer as the default browser for the Microsoft Windows OS?) and my screen saver no longer functioned (whenever the screen saver activated, it would immediately be cancelled).

6:18 PM  
Blogger JoJoUK said...

I've just defragmented my Vista system, using Disk Defragmenter, and am noticing an immediate improvement in performance. I used to work in computer technical support and defragging solved 90% of problems. Now I ALWAYS advise my friends and family with computer problems to defrag their hard drives. That solves nearly all their problems. Why continuous background defragmenting isn't a standard part of Windows I shall never understand.

4:52 AM  
Blogger Aaron aka Frank said...

There's another solution, and it's something I do on all new computers I build - never, ever, put your Windows files and your data files in the same place. Especially the swap file - the file used by Windows to extend the amount of memory you have. A lot of performance issues are caused by the swap file being fragmented, and only third-party tools are able to defrag this - Windows' built-in defragger refuses to touch it.

On every new PC I build I create three partitions - one for Windows (16gb for XP and 40gb for Vista/7), a partition for the swap file (equal to 2.5 times the amount of RAM) and the remainder for data files.

This has two main benefits - keeping Windows, your data and the swap file separate prevents performance issues related to your swap file becoming fragmented, and also if you need to reinstall Windows for whatever reason, you can do so without needing to back up your data (That said, you should always back up your data to protect yourself against any "mishaps" that may occur from time to time).

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Georges said...

Dear Bill,
About recommandations made by ThirdWheel, I'd like to have advised opinion on point "swapfile". The swapfile has been discussed on internet many times, which leads to controversial statements, making the optimal settings somehow impossible to make.

People edit contradictory rules.

Swapfile(s)...where ? how much on wich partitions ? how many times RAM memory amount ?

11:55 AM  
Blogger Aaron aka Frank said...

>Swapfile(s)...where ? how much on wich partitions ? how many times RAM memory amount ?

As I said in my previous post, 16gb for the system for XP (40gb for Vista/7), 2.5 times the RAM for the swap drive (Unix pundits have always used 2 but for Windows I say 2.5 so that you can set your swap file on it with double the ram and not worry about Windows whining about the drive being full - you could use 2.3 times RAM if you were frugal about space use) and the remainder for swap.

So if you have a 500gb drive for Vista on a system with 4GB of RAM, you'd go 40gb for system, 10.5GB for swap and about 415gb for data (assuming a gigabyte = 1 billion bytes for the initial drive size, all other sizes are based on a gigabyte = 1,073,741,824 bytes)

Hope this helps

6:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Finally went to a technician and after much searching he found there were multiple copies of "installation files". Freed up 11GB of space. Now I need an opinion on your suggested FREE CCleaner and Auslogics Disk Defrag, or TuneUp Utilities @ $49.95 as suggested by my tech. He has a low esteem for regular Disk Cleanup

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The odd thing for me is that all of the built-in stuff in Vista for defrag, disk clean, etc, have just been saying the same thing for the life of the pc. This one is three years old, and well, Dick Clean does accumulate some files somethimes, mostly it "says" it doesn't, and the defrag protocol is a joke. It says the same thing every time, that no defrag needs to be run because it's only 3% fragmented. How can this be with a three-year old machine? It's nuts.

Old days, (DOS days) when you ran a defrag it always took forever *but* it solved a million seemingly unrelated issues. Is there a way to do it the old fashioned way?

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Smiling Carcass said...

I prefer to manually empty my Temporary Internet Files. I do this because there is a hidden folder in there, Content.IE5. I have yet to find anybody who knows what this is for. One thing I do know is it contains an index.dat file that lists every website you ever visited and when. Even Microsoft cannot tell you what this file does- apart from keep a record.
This folder cannot be deleted and does not show up when hidden and system files are activated. I use Eraser, a free program to permanently remove files by overwriting them. I right click the Temp Internet folder and choose ‘erase’. Eraser then tells me that files in the folder are in use and offers to erase them at the next system start. Then when you open the Temp Internet folder, Content.IE5 and its contents are visible.
Another way is to use another user account on the machine to access your Temp Internet folder. Content.IE5 is then visible.
Now to registry cleaners. I have used them regularly for years, originally using the JV16 Powertool. (Not for the non tech- it can do a lot of damage if you get it wrong!). I now use a couple of simple click and go cleaners that seem to do an admirable job. The reason I use registry cleaners, contrary to the usual tech advice, is several years ago, when just beginning the never-ending computer learning curve I had a Win98 (might have been 95) machine that was slow, buggy, crashing etc. I looked for advice and was taken to the jv16 site. I downloaded and ran the (originally) free tool and the difference was immediately obvious. The registry was full of old entries that were bogging the machine down. I’ve used reg cleaners ever since and am pretty paranoid about keeping my discs and registry clean.
As for the ‘swap’ or ‘paging’ file, I have run my XP machine on 4 gig of memory and my Vista laptop with 3 gig of memory and no swap file. However, I do now use a swap file on my ‘D’ drive because I know how particular and memory intense Windows can be, and how it reacts if it doesn’t get what it wants! I removed the swap file just to see how it would run. There was not a particularly noticeable increase in speed, as is suggested by some techs, so the risks weren’t worth it.
Two good tips concerning the swap file, and I’d be interested to hear thirdwheel’s opinion on these.
First, set the minimum and maximum swap file the same, however you calculate them. This stops Windows from constantly changing the size within minimum and maximum parameters and gives a performance boost. Second, make sure you give Windows enough or it will change the size if it thinks memory is low.
Finally, these tips work for me. If you try them it is at your risk and I will not be held responsible for problems caused by following my advice.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You are so right about the temporary files issue.

Temporary internet related files, 20,000 plus, brought my wifes laptop to a grinding halt that took days to clean up.

Keep It Tight & Keep It Light

Time now to take advantage of the WinPatroll 99c.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good advice as usual,but like was said it depends how many progs u install and uninstall,how much u move things about etc. whether it's worth defragging or reg cleaning.Always use a decent reg cleaner with good reviews,eg. ccleaner,advanced systemcare,winoptimizer are a few biggies(same with defraggers,or use built in),as there are a lot of bad ones that will make things worse.Alot of them use exactly the same formulas/base code for cleaning.
Don't use regcleaners unless u think there is a need to and u've tried everything else(temp folder,defragging).
I also thought at least windows 7 does an auto defrag occasionally anyway.
Thanx for ur help Bill.

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good, but in Explorer 8 there is no Tools tab to click on. I guess I'll stick with Firefox, which crashes far less often.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Tony said...

Anonymous said "in Explorer 8 there is no Tools tab to click on". There most definitely is one. It is over to the right of the tab bar.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Latigo1026 said...

I'm still a novice even though I've had a dozen+ computers and have tried most of the "fix your startup" problems. What I really need is a program that looks at startup files and answers one question: Does this NEED to run at startup or is it OK TO DISABLE?

Or lacking that ability, perhaps tell me succinctly the how-and-why so I can make the decision for myself.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


That's exactly the purpose behind upgrading to WinPatrol PLUS. You can review your Startup Programs and just clicking on a filename will give you access to our PLUS database. Our program description is designed to help you decide if a program is something you want or not.

If you change your mind, go to the History button on the Options tab to restore programs which you remove from the Startup list.


6:51 PM  

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