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Tweaking and Optimizing Your PC for Gaming

Last response: in Video Games
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July 10, 2009 5:55:48 PM

Hey all, I'm looking for little tips and tricks to optimize my OS and my PC in general for gaming. Improving performance, stability, and decreasing the drain on system resources are my primary goals. I've got a number of tweaks myself, but I'm always looking for suggestions.

Here's a few general topics that I think either most people know about, or that are already easy to find info about:
(still feel free to still discuss though)
Overclocking (try to avoid turning this into an OC thread)
Defragging (not a whole lot to talk about here, I think)
Disk Cleanup (see above)
Add/Remove Programs (removing bogus programs, extra Windows features you'll never use etc.)
Virtual RAM (1.5 times your amount of physical RAM is still more than enough isn't it?)
RAID (RAID's pretty straight-forward without much to discuss IMO)

I'll offer the first piece of advice:
One of my favorite (though to be honest, already fairly well-known) ways to keep your OS as fast as the day you installed it, is to put it on a seperate HDD from where you install your games. For example, I have 3 HDD's: one for the OS, drivers, etc. (my C: drive) and 2 set up in RAID 0 where I install my games and other applications. (my X: drive... yes everything's better with an X lol) This also makes it so your OS isn't reading/writing to and from your HDD when your trying to game; it's got it's own space.

Does anyone else out there have any secrets they'd like to share?
July 10, 2009 7:19:19 PM

I too install games on a different drive (although a single drive, no RAID), I think it makes a difference. I have just bought 2 SSD's to run in RAID 0, which I hope will be a major gaming tweak!
AC
a b 4 Gaming
July 11, 2009 1:04:27 AM

I run my OS on a SSD, and my games on a 300GB (it used to be a lot of space...) Velociraptor (10k RPM). It makes a noticable improvement, as the OS is clearly more snappy then it used to be.
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July 13, 2009 2:58:36 PM

I heard SSD's are pretty good for the OS, but not so great as a storage or applications drive since they seem to have problems reading/writing big files. I can't wait for SSD's to get all the bugs and problems worked out, because they actually look like they could completely replace standard HDD's within just a few years.
July 13, 2009 8:30:36 PM

Well, they're in. OS boots ~50% quicker, real temp, cpu-z etc are also quicker. Haven't tried any games yet but the 'feel' is that everything works faster. I think I would notice already, if I went back to my HDD.
128Gb (2x64Gb in my case) seems a bit light though when you have installed the usual stuff. Think i might have to get another, just for a bit of extra room for games.
AC
July 13, 2009 9:19:08 PM

Interesting... Exactly what drives (brand/model) did you buy?

EDIT: Also what HDD's did you have before, and could you please explain your current storage setup? I know you said in RAID 0, but does that contain just your OS, your OS and applications, or just applications? Sorry for the barrage of questions, I'm just curious lol.
July 14, 2009 3:21:16 PM

Hi Kufan,
My current setup now is:

2 x 64GB Samsung SSD's-- http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HD...
1 x 750GB Hitachi HDD @ 7200rpm (forget the cache size)

2 SSD's are in RAID 0 configuration with a 128kb stripe size (seems to be roughly accepted optimal size, opinion is divided) I have W7 OS and applications on these drives and will put photos, documents etc on my HDD. Primarily, I want to keep gaming data on my SSD's and other apps for overclocking, with everything else that can go on to my HDD on my HDD.

At the moment I am having trouble getting my HDD to work but to be honest I haven't had time to sit down and play around with it yet(Exams etc). I am not expecting any major issues just teething probs I think.

Having bought them now (SSD's), my recommendation would be to go for maximum storage amount you can afford because it gets eaten up pretty quick and the speed differences, once you have an SSD, are probably not that much in real world terms between SSD's but they definitely smoke my HDD.

You thinking of buying an SSD or two?
AC
July 14, 2009 3:22:21 PM

P.S. It looks like the SSD's I bought are very popular, they had +10 in stock on Friday last week, they only have 2 at the moment.
AC
July 14, 2009 5:23:35 PM

I was considering one for my OS for a while. As far as actually installing/playing games on them, I don't know. I may wait for the technology to evolve more, but they're looking more promising every day.

You seem like a pretty knowledgeable person... You have any tricks on the software side (particularly the OS) for optimizing? I played around with different OS's and ran benchmarks for like weeks trying to figure out what OS and what SP would give me the best balance of performance and security. I can honestly say I still don't know. :) 
July 14, 2009 6:48:11 PM

Hi Kufan,
Thanks for your kind comment but I'm not a whizz, strictly an amateur! To me it looks like there isn't much between OS's etc if you did all that benchmarking and didn't come up with a definite answer?

For myself, I just try to keep things seperate as much as possible, i.e. photos and other large files on a seperate drive to the one I use for gaming and surfing. I have no solid data to quote to you to show that this method is quicker/more efficient, other than to say it seemed like common sense to me?!

As I said, I'm running W7 RC and I think it's brilliant. It seems to be more responsive and less clunky than Vista. Did you try W7 in your benchmarks? All that said, I think you would notice the biggest difference in performance of your OS with an SSD though over tweaks etc, but you are right, they are expensive and still a bit new for some people.
Cheers
AC
July 14, 2009 9:00:54 PM

I compared XP, Vista, and Win 7 (beta 7000 build). (all multibooted on the same HDD)
I compared both the 32 bit and 64 bit versions of each of those OS's.
I compared each of those 6 OS's before and after Service Packs.
AND
I compared them in about a dozen different categories like startup/shutdown time, how much memory they seemed to eat, installing/uninstalling Office time, moving files between a flash drive and the desktop, etc. etc. etc.

According to all my exhaustive research, there's no CLEAR winner. I tried to eliminate as many variables as possible, and I did notice a few general trends...

1) With 4GB of RAM, the 32-bit OS's were general faster than their 64-bit twin.
2) OS's were generally slower and more of a resource drain after SP's were applied.
3) Windows 7 (BETA) was generally faster than Vista, though it did lose on occasion.
4) XP ALWAYS drained resources the least and was arguably the "winner" on the hardware I was using.

These tests were done on an old Pentium 4 PC, and a newer Core 2 Duo PC (for comparing 32-bit and 64-bit side by side)

I experimented with 64-bit XP on my gaming computer for a while, but quickly realized that it was never meant for anything other than a workstation OS, and some of the drivers were a little funky, particularly my sound card, which was an Audigy 2 ZS.

For a modern gaming PC, you really don't have much of a choice other than to go with 64-bit Vista or Win 7 if you want full utilization of all your memory. If you can't tell, I put a lot of research into this particular decision. :)  I figured it was important and would majorly effect my game performance.
July 15, 2009 6:07:09 AM

Ooohh yeaah, I got some pretty dam good performance tweaks :) )
-This as far as I know only goes for Windows XP Media Center Edition SP3! I have not tried on anything else:
-I will give the name of the tweak and an explanation for it:

-Disable NTFS Last Accessed Stamp:::everytime you or any application opens a file windows updates the file's last accessed time. This means some additional work for both the system and the hard drive, therefore disableing the last access stamp increases your system's performance. For most users there is no reason to have the last accessed stamp working. This setting does not affect the last modified stamp.


-Disable DOS 8.3 name creation for files:::for reasons of backwards compatability to very old DOS programs windows still today stores so called 8.3 names of each files you have. According to microsoft, the information is practically useless and will slow down your system!

-Disable performance counters:::windows monitors and saves tons of data every second you use it. This data can be very valuable in some cases but if you are normal home user and dont wish to use the performance monitor tool of windows you will improve your systems performance by checking this option


-Improve DNS caching:::D NS caching makes browsing the internet faster, however by default windows also caches erroneous data and this can take space of vaild cache items and thus slow down your internet access.


-AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE WHICH MAKES COMPUTER WORK SUPER FAST!!! ITS BETTER THEN ALL OF YOUR HARD DRIVES TWEAKS!!! HERE IT IS:
-Force windows core to ram:::Force windows core to and device drivers to be stored always on ram and not in the pagefile (HDD). HMM....let me think whats faster RAM or Hard Drive, i think the answer is obvios

-I did these tweaks and performance is incomparable!

-Credit for text and tweaks goes to JV16 Power Tools 2009!!! (My fav app)


July 15, 2009 1:30:45 PM

blackhawk1928 said:
Ooohh yeaah, I got some pretty dam good performance tweaks :) )
-This as far as I know only goes for Windows XP Media Center Edition SP3! I have not tried on anything else:
-I will give the name of the tweak and an explanation for it:



-AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE WHICH MAKES COMPUTER WORK SUPER FAST!!! ITS BETTER THEN ALL OF YOUR HARD DRIVES TWEAKS!!! HERE IT IS:
-Force windows core to ram:::Force windows core to and device drivers to be stored always on ram and not in the pagefile (HDD). HMM....let me think whats faster RAM or Hard Drive, i think the answer is obvios

-I did these tweaks and performance is incomparable!

-Credit for text and tweaks goes to JV16 Power Tools 2009!!! (My fav app)


How do you force Windows to store stuff in RAM?
July 15, 2009 2:43:01 PM

blackhawk1928 said:
Ooohh yeaah, I got some pretty dam good performance tweaks :) )
-This as far as I know only goes for Windows XP Media Center Edition SP3! I have not tried on anything else:
-I will give the name of the tweak and an explanation for it:

-Disable NTFS Last Accessed Stamp:::everytime you or any application opens a file windows updates the file's last accessed time. This means some additional work for both the system and the hard drive, therefore disableing the last access stamp increases your system's performance. For most users there is no reason to have the last accessed stamp working. This setting does not affect the last modified stamp.


-Disable DOS 8.3 name creation for files:::for reasons of backwards compatability to very old DOS programs windows still today stores so called 8.3 names of each files you have. According to microsoft, the information is practically useless and will slow down your system!

-Disable performance counters:::windows monitors and saves tons of data every second you use it. This data can be very valuable in some cases but if you are normal home user and dont wish to use the performance monitor tool of windows you will improve your systems performance by checking this option


-Improve DNS caching:::D NS caching makes browsing the internet faster, however by default windows also caches erroneous data and this can take space of vaild cache items and thus slow down your internet access.


-AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE WHICH MAKES COMPUTER WORK SUPER FAST!!! ITS BETTER THEN ALL OF YOUR HARD DRIVES TWEAKS!!! HERE IT IS:
-Force windows core to ram:::Force windows core to and device drivers to be stored always on ram and not in the pagefile (HDD). HMM....let me think whats faster RAM or Hard Drive, i think the answer is obvios

-I did these tweaks and performance is incomparable!

-Credit for text and tweaks goes to JV16 Power Tools 2009!!! (My fav app)

Thanks you for all the suggestions. That's almost exactly the kind of stuff I'm looking for: ways to strip down Windows to the bear essentials and thus improve performance. You reminded me of a very useful tweak for improving OS performance... disabling search indexing

By default, Windows constantly scans through all of your files and creates an index so that when you search for files, it can find them faster. This obviously takes up system resources, and slows down your computer. The only downside to disabling it, is that searches take longer. I'm pretty sure you can configure it to only index certain drives or locations too.

EDIT: I've been looking at forcing Windows to use RAM instead of a paging file, and it looks like most of the discusssions are from a long time ago and the general conclusion seems to be that Windows uses physical memory before virtual. I'd like to hear more about this, especially regarding your setup. I have 6GB of DDR3 RAM, and I don't even think I need a paging file except in rare occasions.

This brings up one final question, I have 2 drives one for the OS, and one for applications. Do they both need paging files, or does just the OS need one? I admit I haven't messed around with this too much because I thought it was unnecessary in my situation.
July 15, 2009 3:01:55 PM

well...thats true, windows usually sits its butt inside physical memory anyway, but not quite everything always does, so forcing it to ram is my making sure of it :) 
-I really dont know about the pagefile on two drives, I only have one HDD! I think google or bing should do the job for you
July 15, 2009 3:10:16 PM

Ya that's where I've been looking for a while, but I didn't know if you'd know or not.

BTW, how much RAM do you have in your setup?
July 15, 2009 4:24:34 PM

As for the pagefile, only the operating system needs one.
Since you have 2 HDDs it would be better to put it on the drive that doesnt contain the op system. By doing that you will get a little performance gain as both HDDs can be working at the same time.

The system can be run without a pagefile but isnt recommended as some programs are written to use it and will act up if it isnt there. The ugly part is there isnt any real list of which ones will have problems.

February 28, 2013 6:00:30 AM

I have the exact same problem.





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