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Khettienna

A Newb's Guide to A Clean Gaming PC

I originally wrote this for my WoW guild's forums, but realized it might useful here as well. Please back up your data & enjoy.

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As many of you know first-hand, a junky PC can be a big annoyance while gaming. Having unnecessary stuff going on in the background, or just having unnecessary stuff in general, can make your game performance chug.

Here's some things you can do to clean it up on a Windows machine. If at any given point you think, "I already have a way of doing this that I like better...", then do it your way. This little tutorial was written for folks who aren't already doing this stuff. Feel free to add suggestions, however and of course, as long as they are broad enough to be helpful for and understandable by most people.

This was written for Windows XP. Most of it, if not all of it, works fine also for Vista and 7, but in some cases the steps may vary slightly. You will need be logged into Windows on an Administrator account.

1. Uninstall programs you never use.

There are two good reasons for this. The first is, obviously, to free up hard drive space. The second is to get rid of any processes from the programs that are running in the background - if you aren't using the software, then there's no reason to have its junk running! When you uninstall, first try to do it from the Add/Remove Programs thing in the Windows Control Panel. If you get an error message, put it aside for later. If you don't, also go back and make sure the program's application folder(s) was(were) deleted. Make sure you reboot after doing all these uninstalls, or any time Windows says you should during this process, as that may affect what actually gets removed or left behind.

Good targets for uninstallation: free trials, sub-par editing software that came with your computer or peripherals, crummy freeware that never did what you hoped, anything you haven't used in the last three months, multiple applications for the same function

If you don't know what it is, you probably shouldn't uninstall it unless you're prepared to reinstall Windows right now. Search online to learn about what unknown applications do, so you can know if you need them or not.

2. Move or remove files you never use.

In ideal gaming conditions, user data (documents, photos, video collections, music) is kept on a separate physical drive from the operating system and applications themselves. If you have a second physical drive handy, move all your crap to it. Whether you do or not, however, you can at the very least clean out your junk. Hard drive space doesn't directly improve game performance (unless you're so close to out that Windows has no wiggle room), but having less stuff on your drive means less stuff for Windows to sort through when it's looking for a particular thing. Furthermore, less stuff means shorter defrag times - and you ARE defragging regularly, RIGHT?!

3. Defragment your drive.

You may not realize how fragmented your drive can get. Even if you don't spend a lot of time at your gaming computer other than for actual gaming, all those updates can make a pile of red squares (fragmented files) out of your files pretty quickly. Get some good defrag software - no, the one that comes with Windows is NOT good enough - and let it do a deep/full/optimization/detailed/whatever defrag. My two picks for free defraggers are Auslogics Disk Defrag and Piriform Defraggler. The former is faster, the latter has more options and is more thorough. If you're not moving around a lot of files on your computer, continue to defrag once per week and after every major game update. If you also use your gaming machine as a workstation for other tasks, you should do it more often, particularly after moving around a lot of files.

Before we do the next step, take a moment to see what processes are currently running on your computer. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL until the Windows Task Manager comes up on the screen. Click the "Processes" tab. Count them. Sort by Mem Usage, see how much memory each process is taking. Do you really need all this stuff running to get done what you want to get done on your computer?

4. Get Piriform CCleaner & use it. http://www.piriform.com/

This freeware app is like a spray nozzle attached to a line of commercial bleach for your PC. Download & install it.

Click the "Cleaner" button on the left, if it's not highlighted already. This part of CCleaner gets rid of junk files - temp files, caches, history, cookies, etc. There are two tabs of options. The first, "Windows", is for stuff related to Windows, and you should probably leave the defaults how they are for now, unless you understand what they do. The "Applications" tab has application-specific options for stuff to be cleaned; these you can set as you please with little consequence. I recommend making sure all of the boxes under Applications are checked, at least for your first go-round. When you've got that sorted, click "Run Cleaner" in the bottom-right corner. Bye, junk!

The next part of CCleaner is a registry cleaner, and is accessed by clicking Registry on the left. There are more robust registry cleaners out there; but if you don't have one already, stick with me through this for now. CCleaner's registry cleaner is quite conservative and safe. Leave all the boxes checked, and click "Scan for Issues" at the bottom. Depending on how messy your registry is, this can take a few seconds or a few minutes. When it's done, it will prompt you to backup the registry - let it back up the registry for you, just in case. Then it will start prompting you with the issues it finds one at a time, asking you how you want it to fix them. Honestly, I just click "Fix All" and let it handle this automatically. If something goes wrong, you have a backup - but I've never seen it go wrong. If anything, CCleaner is a little safer than I personally like. ;)

Now click on Tools on the left. You will see four sub-sections: Uninstall, Startup, System Restore, and Drive Wiper. We'll start with Uninstall.

If you had any programs that gave you error messages when you tried to uninstall them earlier, try uninstalling them here. Click on one to highlight it, then click "Run Uninstaller". If you still get an error message, put it aside for later. If you had any programs that are no longer installed on your computer, but for some reason are still listed here, highlight them and click "Delete Entry". This will not delete any files, but it will remove the entry from the Add/Remove Programs dialog. Re-running the cleaners after doing this may clear them for good. There are other utilities online made just for the purpose of uninstalling stubborn software, and you may want to try one if you're having this problem often. And from now on, avoid installing crappy software to begin with!

Now for the Startup section. This is my personal favorite. Here you'll see a list, maybe a long list, of everything that is set up to run automatically when Windows starts. It is a good idea to disable anything you don't need. Don't delete, just disable. At this point, if uninstalling unneeded software and running CCleaner's two main cleaners didn't remove an entry from this list, then disabling is safest because you can re-enable these anytime later.

Here are some things to definitely NOT disable:

  • ctfmon.exe: This is a Windows service, and Windows will start it whether you like it or not anyways.
  • anything related to your anti-virus
  • anything related to your video card or other hardware

The file path on the right of each entry should give away what software an entry belongs to, if the file name itself does not. If you think after reboot you disabled something you shouldn't have, just enable it here, and reboot again. No big. Nothing here will prevent your PC from turning on and booting Windows.

The System Restore section we will leave alone for now. If you have System Restore enabled, then you are probably best off letting it manage itself. If you have it disabled, then you likely already have another backup solution or understand and accept the consequences of not having one.

The Drive Wiper section is a utility that completely erases the free space on your drive. Normally, deleted files are still there, and can be retrieved by a specialist or tinkerer with the right software. Wiping free space is a security measure, and not really something we need to do for gaming. You're welcome to do it if you want, though. If you're curious, it takes 7 passes of erasure for a file to be completely irretrievable by any currently known means.

In the Options section, you can see the different tweaks you can make to how CCleaner cleans. The defaults are fine for our purposes, and you should not change them unless you know what you're doing.

5. Services.msc & You: A Starter Manual

Click Start, then Run, type "services.msc" (no quotes) in the text field, and press Enter. A new window comes up. Maximize it so you can see everything.

This window is NOT a safe place to play/experiment unless you're willing to re-install Windows if you break it. So please, stick with me closely, or just skip to the next section if you're squeamish!

At the top, click on "Status" to sort by Status, so that "Started" services are at the top of the list. These are all things that have been automatically started with Windows and are running in the background. Some of these are integral to Windows function and security, but some of them are things that run to make superfluous applications run/start faster.

If something on this list is:

  • something you recognize and understand
  • AND part of some software you installed that is not part of Windows (like an instant messenger program, music program, etc...)
  • AND not related to essential hardware, drivers, or networking

then it may be safe to prevent it from starting automatically. A good example of this for me was the iPod Helper service. I don't update my iPod very often, and I don't have an iPhone, so there is no good reason to have this service running all the time. So, to prevent that, I double-click on the service, set the Startup Type to Manual from the drop-down, and click OK. Next time I reboot, this service won't be running. However, because I have left it enabled, it will run if I tell it to manually, or if an application wants it to. In this case, the service will start running when iTunes is launched - which I would likely do anyway if I wanted to update my iPod.

There are a few Windows services that are safe to set to Manual also, in certain circumstances:

  • If you don't print from this computer, set Print Spooler to manual. You will need to set this back to Automatic if you want to print later.
  • If you have no need for the Windows Task Scheduler (and you'd know if you did), it is safe to set to manual.
  • If you don't want your drive indexed for faster searching, you can set Indexing to manual (this is a good resource saver, but requires an extra step, below).
  • If you don't need your Windows clock synced online, Windows Time is safe to set to Manual.

There are more, but these are the simplest and safest ones to start with. You can do an online search for a more comprehensive list, if you're comfortable with it. It is a pretty popular subject with Windows tweakers.

About Indexing - you'll also need to turn off Indexing on all your drives. Right-click your hard drive from anywhere in Windows Explorer, and choose Properties from the context menu. On the General tab you'll see a checkbox for Indexing - clear it. Do this for all drives.

6. REBOOT

We've made a LOT of changes to the system. For them to take effect, we need to reboot the machine. This is a good place for me to mention the importance of rebooting regularly. REBOOT REGULARLY. K. If you don't, your PC could have all kinds of stuff running that it doesn't need and doesn't realize it doesn't need. Just like people need regular REM sleep to clear the junk from the brain, computers need regular rebooting.

When you're done rebooting, press CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up the Windows Task Manager again, and see how many processes are running. It's probably a lot less than the first time you did it. This is good.

Run a game for a few minutes to make sure all your essentials are still in good working order. You should see improved performance. If anything isn't working properly that was working before, re-check services.msc and CCleaner's Startup section to make sure you didn't turn off essential services.

If you still feel like there is stuff running in the background you don't want, but you aren't sure how safe it is to disable it or set it to Manual startup only, search online. There are entire web sites dedicated to explaining everything in your Process list - just do a search for the program name, and you'll find information. You can also just use the End Task button to kill a process to see what happens when it's not running. If Windows gets really grumpy about it, it will force you to reboot, so be ready.

At this point, you've done enough. Your PC should be clean enough for you to play games to the best of your hardware's ability. Note that cleaning your PC this way will never replace buying another stick of RAM or replacing your IDE drive with a shiny new solid state drive. It can, however, cut way down on interruptions, stuttering, and possibly crashing.

7. Things to do before every gaming session: A Checklist

If you're going to be gaming online in a team setting, or if you're going to be gaming at all for a long session, you should do these things just before you start:

  • Reboot (or at least exit all other applications)
  • Run CCleaner's Cleaner
  • Quick Defrag
  • Remove all removable disks from their drives (unless you need them to run your game)

This takes about five minutes total, once you've done your initial cleaning. That five minutes is nothing compared to the frustration your teammates will feel if you make them wait for you, and nothing compared to the frustration you'll feel in a single-player game that crashes or stutters for no good reason. Do eet.

If you need to run Windows Update or check for game/addon updates, do that BEFORE running CCleaner, as many of these applications are IE-based and will leave junk behind (e.g. the Curse client).

8. For the advanced (or adventurous) user:

Got nothing to lose, or at least feel pretty confident in your tinkering abilities? Here's some more things you can do to further streamline your PC for gaming (at your own risk, of course):

  • Try the video drivers released with your card or the ones released around the same time as your favorite game. They often yield better FPS/stability than the newest ones.
  • Reboot into Safe Mode and defrag overnight for that "deep clean" feeling.
  • Nuke your paging file, defrag in safe mode, then build a new one with the same min/max size. This way it will be all in one chunk and be static, which cuts down on drive access time.
  • Switch to a Windows Classic theme (no Aero, no partial transparency, no glass, etc... we're talking Win95-style, here) and disable the Themes service. In System Properties > Advanced > Performance, check the "adjust for best performance" box and just put back in what you can't live without.
  • See if you can set skinned applications to automatically take the current Windows theme, or look for replacement applications that aren't skinned
  • Defrag your registry (Wise Registry Cleaner is a good freeware tool for this).
  • Turn off System Restore, use a different backup method you can manually control
  • Set your Explorer options to show all files, then rifle through your user folders and Program Files folder to delete crap from software you no longer have installed
  • Do a file search for things like desktop.ini, thumbs.db, *.tmp, *.temp, *.bak, etc... and delete what you can.
  • Search for Windows service logs and delete them, if Windows doesn't have them locked.
  • Search for various application logs and delete them, if they're not locked - some AV software logs can get enormous and very fragmented.
  • Check your various utilities for options that let you delete logs and backups, and set maximum disk space to use for them.
  • If a file is locked and you want it gone, try again in Safe Mode. If it's still locked there, you probably shouldn't delete it.
  • Disable fast user switching and file/print sharing unless you need it.
  • Use TweakUI or PolEdit or similar tools to prevent caching recent docs and leaving shortcuts/histories everywhere.
  • Check Device Manager in safe mode for "ghost" devices and uninstall them (doesn't happen often since Win98, but worth a check).
  • Make sure you have the latest versions of your chipset drivers/bios firmware.
  • Start > Run > msconfig to popup a dialog that lets you more brutally cull the junk that runs when Windows starts.
  • Lots of anti-virus programs have a stealth/silent/gaming mode that at the minimum disables notification popups, and at the maximum stops or limits real-time scanning and shielding. Explore those options to reclaim some resources back for gaming.

For online gamers:

WinXP and later changes the way packets are bundled to promote efficiency while 'net browsing. Unfortunately, the method is very inefficient for gaming, where packets being bundled is actually kind of bad because a split second here or there can ruin a game encounter. Anyway, you can undo this "feature" by doing the following:

In the Windows registry, navigate to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters\Interfaces\. There you will find multiple folders with cryptic names. Select each one and take note of the information that appears in the right hand side. Compare these with your current connection (click the icon in the taskbar or go to system properties / network and get the network details). Compare these with the data in the right hand side for the folders in the interfaces. If you find a matching set, then you have found the current network connection. Right click into the right hand side and add a new DWORD value. Name it "TcpAckFrequency" and set the value to 1 (0x00000001). Reboot your system.

I'll vouch for it. I went from steady ~140ms in WoW to ~70ms over an "economy" broadband connection. Note that the game won't actually seem twice as fast (still the same number of packets sent/received in any given time frame), but bandwidth-related stuff will be a bit more stable and responsive. This can also help with chain disconnects from game servers, in the case you were being booted because your machine was hoarding packets to bundle them instead of sending them immediately.

That's it - if I think of more, I'll add it in. Feel free to contribute your ideas! :cool:

Edited by Khettienna
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Some points I wanted to make, as my own two-cents. Keeping in mind that this is not the law of the land, I don't want to say anything it outright wrong, I just want to give my input. I encourage discussion about why you may disagree, if at all. Think of it as Wikipedia, where we discuss things to help make the information more accurate and helpful!

First off. Arguably, more important thing then anything listed here or anywhere. DUST! Clean out your computer of dust about every month! It is more harmful to computers then most viruses, because a virus can not destroy hardware. It is easier and cheaper to reinstall Windows then to replace a videocard because it overheated.

To make this easier for reading, I will go step by step and suggest alternatives, explain things, or things that I personally would change.

1. My only addition would be that the best time to remove programs is after a fresh boot of the computer.

2. Very good advice to more applications to a second drive. However, it isn't really necessary to move things like photos or documents as those are not in access when playing games. They won't hinder performance at all, and if they do, it will be so small of a hit, no human could tell.

Though for safety reasons, moving them to a second storage is good in case you get a virus and have to reinstall your operating system.

So, from a gaming standpoint, not necessary. From a safety standpoint, a good idea. But the general rule is, if it is not in use, it is not taking up CPU time.

3. My only thing with this step is that Windows' Defragger has gotten a lot better. If you have Windows 7, you have a decent defragger, and unless you want each and every single bit in its absolute exact order, you won't notice the difference. And if we are in the business of saving space and limiting unnecessary programs, you can scratch a 3rd party defragger off your list.

A thing about frequency of defragging. In all honesty, you can go a year as a serious gamer and not notice the difference of a weekly defragged drive and a never once-a-year defragged drive. Seriously.

Defragging after a lot of file movement (IE: uninstalling a game) is, indeed, a good idea. But weekly, personally, is way too often. Monthly at best.

Pre-Step 4: Lets keep in mind that high memory usage isn't necessary bad. Like for me, I have Chrome running, sitting idle with 5 tabs open. It is using almost 90MB of memory. I also have a program called Tea Timer, using just over 71MB of memory. I know what those programs are and why they have high usage. Also, the number of processes is not really a good indicator of "useless" tasks. Currently i have 63 process running. My fresh boot process count is ~52. And yes, I need all those. Many of them are things Windows NEEDS to run. It is important to know that Windows 7 has many more processed needed to run then Windows XP. I could get away with 37 processed on start-up with XP, but dare not try that with Windows 7.

4. With this step, I personally think it can be... rewritten. There are a lot of directions, but no explanations. Why are people doing the things they are doing? What are the things doing? Why are they doing it?

"This part of CCleaner gets rid of junk files - temp files, caches, history, cookies, etc."

But what are the files they are removing?

- Temp files are temporary information that your computer downloads from websites. This allows web pages to load faster upon returning to them later on. This is why first time site loading tends to take a little longer. Removing them will increase load times on web pages. Though that is not to say you should never delete these files, but doing it all the time is more hindering then helpful.

- History files should be self explanatory. Its a record of the sites you have been to. If you rely on auto-complete when typing in URLs, then do not remove these. If you have book marks, then remove-away!

- Cookies are saved information about sites you go to. Every time you click that "Remember my password" or "log me in each time", your computer makes a cookie. Those flash game high scores, also cookies. Though not all cookies are information like this, (and don't worry, it is encoded) it can be problematic if you just outright clean them out.

Not to mention, every (decent) browser has its own options for cleaning out the files you want removed. There is little need for a 3rd party application to do it for you.

The registry fixing is a rarity at best. You will almost never, if ever, have issues with registry errors. For all intents and purposes, it is simply a library card catalog of where everything is installed on your computer. I stress the "simply" part though.

For the most part, any errors you may get are simply that the computer thought something was someplace, but it wasn't where it thought it should be. So unless you installed a game, then reinstalled windows (which wipes the registry) there should rarely be any issues.

The "Drive Wiper" section. This isn't a suggestion, just a bit of trivia. Even CCleaner can't truly wipe a drive. Since hard drive platters are magnetic, it is possible to recover data on any drive. However, there are many different "levels" of formatting. At its most basic, a "quick format" just replaces all the file names with "?" as the first character, thus making the files unreadable to the operating system. The deepest level of formatting, called a "level 6" format, is the deepest civilian formatting option out there. It takes over 6 hours to format a 250GB drive. My dad had to do that to several drives once.

5. As said, BE CAREFUL.

Most of this can be skipped in all honesty. The performance saved by doing these things are minute at best and will hardly effect gaming performance.

6. Let me just repeat that the process count isn't an indicator of your computer's performance. Lower is better, but not necessarily a must-have.

"replacing your IDE drive with a shiny new solid state drive"

What about SATA? XD

7.

- Unless your computer has been on for many hours, rebooting will yield little if any performance.

- Running CCleaner every time is also not necessary. Weekly at best. Again, the performance you may gain will be negligible.

- Defragging every time us pointless stress on the drive. Performance gains, again, negligible.

- This will only save on initial loading times, but from then on, it won't save much of anything.

Depending on your computer, it can take about 5 minutes to about an hour. My computer takes about 20 seconds to start up tanks to my SSDs, but a "quick defrag" on my 1TB drive (Where most of my games are) can take half an hour to an hour.

And the bit about teammates waiting for you would be related to network syncing of game information. Only a faster connection and/or a better network connection can solve that.

8. I wont go there, as that is, as stated, for the more advanced people. They should know what they are doing...

I am going to restate this!

I worded this as best as I can to try and not sound aggressive or "this is how it should be" tone. I wrote it to the best of my abilities based off what I have learned over the 10+ years of experience. I just want to be clear that all of this is up for discussion. I honestly want to know why you may disagree with what I have said. This is what I do and plan no doing for a long time, so please, feel free to disagree!

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I thought it was a thread for how to literally clean the interior of your pc! :doh: Thanks anyway, it will be useful for sure.

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Very useful, especially the link to Piriform. Literally cleaning the inside is easy - just stick a vacuum cleaner in there. Works for me! :P

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Very useful, especially the link to Piriform. Literally cleaning the inside is easy - just stick a vacuum cleaner in there. Works for me! :P

Don't use a vacuum cleaner, the very act of sucking air up a tube generates static electricity, which is NOT your friend. Use compressed air, or, whatever compound they put in those funny cans. (I use my shop air compressor..... overkill, but, hey, its free.)

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Thanks Khett.Will be using this and Blackvipers page as well getting rid of the useless crap.Am I the only one without porn?that was quite comical that it got mentioned.LOLz!!!As my friend in WA so eloquently put it when he got a laptop..."Dude check it out....a portable porn box"Anyway thanks for the steps to fixing this POS.

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Thanks for the guide Khett, this will be very helpful for people like me who don't really know what they're doing. :P

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I did a quick scan and would like to mention another point I didn't see mentioned: create and stick to a backup routine, especially if you get into creating mods. I almost lost months of work last year. I say "almost"... No, actually I did lose months of work: I spent almost $3000 to a company to recover my hard drive after it suddenly failed. From what I've heard, as prices for hard drives have dropped, failures have increased. I guess they're so cheap to replace now nobody worries about warranties or lifespan. Anyway my drive was just barely out of warranty and the drive motor just died.

We purchased a Network Access Storage system and are very pleased. Basically it's a gigantic hard drive that you back up you data to. Whether you go that route or just burn CD's for your important work, don't neglect doing backups.

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Some points I wanted to make, as my own two-cents. Keeping in mind that this is not the law of the land, I don't want to say anything it outright wrong, I just want to give my input. I encourage discussion about why you may disagree, if at all. Think of it as Wikipedia, where we discuss things to help make the information more accurate and helpful!

I like discussions! I like learning new things, and hearing different points of view. I also like potlucks. I bring what I make well, you bring what you make well, everybody brings what they make well, and it's the most amazing meal ever and there's something for everyone.

First off. Arguably, more important thing then anything listed here or anywhere. DUST! Clean out your computer of dust about every month! It is more harmful to computers then most viruses, because a virus can not destroy hardware. It is easier and cheaper to reinstall Windows then to replace a videocard because it overheated.

To make this easier for reading, I will go step by step and suggest alternatives, explain things, or things that I personally would change.

1. My only addition would be that the best time to remove programs is after a fresh boot of the computer.

Amen to both! I'll edit the OP.

2. Very good advice to more applications to a second drive. However, it isn't really necessary to move things like photos or documents as those are not in access when playing games. They won't hinder performance at all, and if they do, it will be so small of a hit, no human could tell.

Though for safety reasons, moving them to a second storage is good in case you get a virus and have to reinstall your operating system.

So, from a gaming standpoint, not necessary. From a safety standpoint, a good idea. But the general rule is, if it is not in use, it is not taking up CPU time.

Well, as I said, not directly an issue unless the OS has no wiggle room. The other differences are tiny. But it's an easy step if you have the extra hardware, and can save you good chunks of time in the long run with defragging.

3. My only thing with this step is that Windows' Defragger has gotten a lot better. If you have Windows 7, you have a decent defragger, and unless you want each and every single bit in its absolute exact order, you won't notice the difference. And if we are in the business of saving space and limiting unnecessary programs, you can scratch a 3rd party defragger off your list.

A thing about frequency of defragging. In all honesty, you can go a year as a serious gamer and not notice the difference of a weekly defragged drive and a never once-a-year defragged drive. Seriously.

Defragging after a lot of file movement (IE: uninstalling a game) is, indeed, a good idea. But weekly, personally, is way too often. Monthly at best.

I am often moving around a lot of files as part of modding. At the end of a long modding session, particularly one involving a lot of texturing and the like, or after unpacking a few large mods, I can easily find myself with hundreds of fragmented files in my game folder. I notice that difference. I also notice that when games update online (Steam, MMO's, etc.), every file they touch tends to become fragmented. I won't insist that everyone must defrag weekly or suffer terrible losses, surely, but it's really not a bad habit to pick up.

I can't speak for Win 7's defragger. Never used it! XP's defragger is pretty worthless, though.

Pre-Step 4: Lets keep in mind that high memory usage isn't necessary bad. Like for me, I have Chrome running, sitting idle with 5 tabs open. It is using almost 90MB of memory. I also have a program called Tea Timer, using just over 71MB of memory. I know what those programs are and why they have high usage. Also, the number of processes is not really a good indicator of "useless" tasks. Currently i have 63 process running. My fresh boot process count is ~52. And yes, I need all those. Many of them are things Windows NEEDS to run. It is important to know that Windows 7 has many more processed needed to run then Windows XP. I could get away with 37 processed on start-up with XP, but dare not try that with Windows 7.

Well, again, I can't speak for the differences between Win 7 and XP. I boot XP with 25 processes, and that includes everything needed for my hardware and anti-virus. But you're right - the issue isn't how many you have, it's how many you have versus how many you actually need. If you need 100, then by all means run 100! This guide was written for people who aren't experienced at all in managing this stuff, who are also using their computers to play video games and browse the web. People who fit that bill tend to have unnecessary stuff running in the background that they either aren't aware of or don't know how to turn off. I can't say for anyone what they need, or don't. But I can show them how to see it, and how to turn it off. ;)

4. With this step, I personally think it can be... rewritten. There are a lot of directions, but no explanations. Why are people doing the things they are doing? What are the things doing? Why are they doing it?

"This part of CCleaner gets rid of junk files - temp files, caches, history, cookies, etc."

But what are the files they are removing?

- Temp files are temporary information that your computer downloads from websites. This allows web pages to load faster upon returning to them later on. This is why first time site loading tends to take a little longer. Removing them will increase load times on web pages. Though that is not to say you should never delete these files, but doing it all the time is more hindering then helpful.

- History files should be self explanatory. Its a record of the sites you have been to. If you rely on auto-complete when typing in URLs, then do not remove these. If you have book marks, then remove-away!

- Cookies are saved information about sites you go to. Every time you click that "Remember my password" or "log me in each time", your computer makes a cookie. Those flash game high scores, also cookies. Though not all cookies are information like this, (and don't worry, it is encoded) it can be problematic if you just outright clean them out.

Not to mention, every (decent) browser has its own options for cleaning out the files you want removed. There is little need for a 3rd party application to do it for you.

I will gladly update the OP with some of this.

"Temp files" doesn't just refer to temporary internet files - it also picks up Windows temp files, logs, etc. That's something your browser won't do. Your browser also won't do this for a small slew of third-party apps.

A lot of this depends on your browsing style and privacy needs. I have broadband, so page load times aren't really an issue to start with. I don't live alone, so I don't like anything to auto-complete, and I don't like my browsing history to hang around. I also hate it when things that aren't browsers pull down cookies (apps with ad banners, like several freeware AV programs; or apps that pull down "news" pages on launch, like CCC or the WoW launcher) - that's another thing your browser won't clean up for you, at least until the next time you launch it.

The worst thing you can possibly do by removing all your cookies is that you'll have to actually type things like un-bookmarked URL's and passwords. The best thing you can do is free up some space and regain some privacy. It is definitely an issue of preference, though. Convenience and privacy/security are usually at odds.

The registry fixing is a rarity at best. You will almost never, if ever, have issues with registry errors. For all intents and purposes, it is simply a library card catalog of where everything is installed on your computer. I stress the "simply" part though.

For the most part, any errors you may get are simply that the computer thought something was someplace, but it wasn't where it thought it should be. So unless you installed a game, then reinstalled windows (which wipes the registry) there should rarely be any issues.

It's happened to clients enough along the way that I still vouche for cleaning the registry now and then. Sometimes registry errors cause problems with uninstalling/reinstalling software, or just updating; frequently, uninstalled applications will leave dirty bits behind (like file type associations, for example) that can get pretty frustrating. If you are careful about what you do to your computer, you probably won't have too much trouble, true. But again, consider the target reader.

5. As said, BE CAREFUL.

Most of this can be skipped in all honesty. The performance saved by doing these things are minute at best and will hardly effect gaming performance.

It depends on what you're turning off and leaving on, and it depends on your machine. If you have a super nice rig, then I'm sure there's little sense spending time on this unless you're actually experiencing performance issues related to crummy software - in which case, people who have no idea how to do this have somewhere to start. If you don't have a super nice rig, culling the process list can make a difference - again, depending on what you turn off or leave on. I say this as gamer who has always had "economy" hardware. The first PC I owned all to myself was an IBM PS/2 386, and everyone else had a Pentium by then. This is what I do.

There's also "the value of time" to consider. Using my iPod service as an example - it would not be worth the performance gain for me to turn that service off if I was in the habit of frequently docking my iPod for automatic updating. I would spend more time manually updating it than I would gain by having the service off, so that decision wouldn't make sense. But that's kind of the point of having people go through the list - see what is there, and decide if it's worthwhile. Learn about what is going on in that machine, and make it work for you, instead of just kicking it for being slow or strange day after day.

7.

- Unless your computer has been on for many hours, rebooting will yield little if any performance.

- Running CCleaner every time is also not necessary. Weekly at best. Again, the performance you may gain will be negligible.

- Defragging every time us pointless stress on the drive. Performance gains, again, negligible.

- This will only save on initial loading times, but from then on, it won't save much of anything.

I don't know very many people who reboot daily, much less every few hours. Even I don't. The primary goal there, though, is to shut down things users have left running in the background, and I'll get into that in a moment. CCleaner, yeah, that's debatable - but I like the return I get from doing it. Defragging, again, I consider really important, because I notice the difference in performance if my game files are all red-square'd. And because I stay on top of it, and because I keep only what I need on this drive, a quick defrag (which doesn't move files, only defragments) can be done for me literally in 10-30 seconds. That was not an exaggeration. If it took me half an hour, then I would absolutely not do it for the very reasons you stated.

And the bit about teammates waiting for you would be related to network syncing of game information. Only a faster connection and/or a better network connection can solve that.

This is actually what inspired the article in the first place. It has nothing to do with faster or better networks. It has to due with the number of people showing up to planned group events in my WoW guild, and having to reboot their machines in the middle of encounters, or make everyone else wait between encounters, because their ping was 800ms and/or FPS was 2 and they couldn't cast any spells or move out of the fire on the ground. The usual reasons for this, in order of commonality, are:

1. BitTorrent

2. Automatic software updates

3. Scheduled AV scans

4. Actually having a virus

5. Having so much crappy shareware running in the background that they thought they had a virus

6. No problem whatsoever, just needed an excuse for playing badly during the last encounter (actually the most common)

They had no idea any of this was going on until it got in their way (and my way, and everyone else's way). Some of these are excellent gamers and brilliant people (except those described by no. 6) who simply aren't computer savvy, and needed a "walkthrough" to get some control of their machines back that didn't involve "format C:".

I do want to edit the OP and include a lot of your ideas. I'd like to hear more, if you have them. I will nap first, though. :D

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Well, as I said, not directly an issue unless the OS has no wiggle room. The other differences are tiny. But it's an easy step if you have the extra hardware, and can save you good chunks of time in the long run with defragging.

Well, yes, defragging is indeed very important. I just mostly take issue with frequency. Fragmentation is not files expanding randomly or sliding around and migrating.

For those who are ignorant to this topic, Ill do my best to explain, and so we can be sure we are on the same page. XD

Lets say I install 3 things. A, B and C. With A being 1 file, B being 2, and C being 3 files. They will be installed on the hard drive in this order:

A-B-B-C-C-C

Easy enough. All organized. Now, lets say we uninstall B:

A- - -C-C-C

Now we install D, which is 4 parts:

A-D-D-C-C-C-D-D

Notice how D is split up around C? That is fragmentation. So, lets Defrag that, then install E, which is 5 parts:

Defragged: A-C-C-C-D-D-D-D

Installed E: A-C-C-C-D-D-D-D-E-E-E-E-E

All nice and organized again. Now, lets pretend we uninstall E (Pretend it was a bad game XD) There are no holes for any new files to get fragmented in to. So while E was a big file, there was no fragmentation. Thus, defragging again is not necessary.

This is why I say you do not need to defrag weekly. Monthly at best. More about that after the next quote.

I am often moving around a lot of files as part of modding. At the end of a long modding session, particularly one involving a lot of texturing and the like, or after unpacking a few large mods, I can easily find myself with hundreds of fragmented files in my game folder. I notice that difference. I also notice that when games update online (Steam, MMO's, etc.), every file they touch tends to become fragmented. I won't insist that everyone must defrag weekly or suffer terrible losses, surely, but it's really not a bad habit to pick up.

You are moving files around within a closed space.

Given the example of: A-B-B-C-C-C-D-D-D-D

You are basically just Flipping B and C, making: A-C-C-C-B-B-D-D-D-D

While its no longer chronological, it is still organized and easy for your computer to read. The fragmentation you mostly are seeing is the reading of the chronological order, but that does not impact loading times as a game will load what it needs quickly as the computer always knows where everything is.

I can't speak for Win 7's defragger. Never used it! XP's defragger is pretty worthless, though.

For all intents and purposes, even the XP defragger was good enough. And boy let me tell you I am the master of "good enough". XD My mom hates me for that very reason.

Well, again, I can't speak for the differences between Win 7 and XP. I boot XP with 25 processes, and that includes everything needed for my hardware and anti-virus. But you're right - the issue isn't how many you have, it's how many you have versus how many you actually need. If you need 100, then by all means run 100! This guide was written for people who aren't experienced at all in managing this stuff, who are also using their computers to play video games and browse the web. People who fit that bill tend to have unnecessary stuff running in the background that they either aren't aware of or don't know how to turn off. I can't say for anyone what they need, or don't. But I can show them how to see it, and how to turn it off. ;)

If they are that inexperienced, then they honestly wouldn't know the difference. They have been using the computer so long as is, it would not really benefit THEM to disable the few, low resource processes they don't "need".

If you drove a car that got 25MPG for the past 20 years, would you REALLY notice the difference of a car that got 26MPG? Not really.

"Temp files" doesn't just refer to temporary internet files - it also picks up Windows temp files, logs, etc. That's something your browser won't do. Your browser also won't do this for a small slew of third-party apps.

A lot of this depends on your browsing style and privacy needs. I have broadband, so page load times aren't really an issue to start with. I don't live alone, so I don't like anything to auto-complete, and I don't like my browsing history to hang around. I also hate it when things that aren't browsers pull down cookies (apps with ad banners, like several freeware AV programs; or apps that pull down "news" pages on launch, like CCC or the WoW launcher) - that's another thing your browser won't clean up for you, at least until the next time you launch it.

The worst thing you can possibly do by removing all your cookies is that you'll have to actually type things like un-bookmarked URL's and passwords. The best thing you can do is free up some space and regain some privacy. It is definitely an issue of preference, though. Convenience and privacy/security are usually at odds.

This is true. Hwwever, those logs and such are of such small file sizes, that they would not yield much space, nor any noticeable performance.

For the internet files, indeed, it is mostly personal preference, so ill leave it there.

It's happened to clients enough along the way that I still vouche for cleaning the registry now and then. Sometimes registry errors cause problems with uninstalling/reinstalling software, or just updating; frequently, uninstalled applications will leave dirty bits behind (like file type associations, for example) that can get pretty frustrating. If you are careful about what you do to your computer, you probably won't have too much trouble, true. But again, consider the target reader.

The only uninstallation problem I have ever had in the history of my time on computers was with Oblivion, but that was caused by a poorly coded uninstaller. And to be honest, I just click yes and next on installations of anything (Unless designating a directory) so more or less, I do basically what average users do. Call me lucky I guess.

File associations are easily fixed with the Right Click > Open With and selecting the "Set as default application" check box. New program is assigned and problem solved. But talking an average users, the hardest par would be knowing what program opens a .mkv (movie file, and VLC Media Player). And usually, most people who are uninstalling something already have removed the files associated with said program, at best leaving behind a few straggling files of old projects.

Then again, it is recommended that you reinstall windows ideally every year to 2 years to insure clean hard drives and a fresh registry.

It depends on what you're turning off and leaving on, and it depends on your machine. If you have a super nice rig, then I'm sure there's little sense spending time on this unless you're actually experiencing performance issues related to crummy software - in which case, people who have no idea how to do this have somewhere to start. If you don't have a super nice rig, culling the process list can make a difference - again, depending on what you turn off or leave on. I say this as gamer who has always had "economy" hardware. The first PC I owned all to myself was an IBM PS/2 386, and everyone else had a Pentium by then. This is what I do.

Im sure we all know that 1GHz means 1 Billion cycles per second. Everyone in to gaming should have at least a P4 2.4GHz or better. You are also running Windows XP or better, meaning you should have 1GB of RAM or better (64MB system requirements aisde. They stopped making 64MB sticks years before XP). Whcich bring be back to what I just said... XP only requires 64MB of memory, have a processor capable of 2.4 BILLION cycles a second. Those few minor processes you disable are taking up at best, a few cycles. Not to mention those processes are sitting idle meaning they are not taking any CPU time, and in fact, the OS gives priority to high demanding processes, IE games over such things as "Print Spooler", meaning that even if that "Print Spooler" wanted to run, it would have to wait for an opening in CPU time, which is actually rather frequent since statistically, your computer is waiting on the user over 90% of the time.

I am stating to go off on a tangent, so ill stop there. o.0

There's also "the value of time" to consider. Using my iPod service as an example - it would not be worth the performance gain for me to turn that service off if I was in the habit of frequently docking my iPod for automatic updating. I would spend more time manually updating it than I would gain by having the service off, so that decision wouldn't make sense. But that's kind of the point of having people go through the list - see what is there, and decide if it's worthwhile. Learn about what is going on in that machine, and make it work for you, instead of just kicking it for being slow or strange day after day.

Above I stated that your CPU is waiting on you 90% of the time. And few programs are going to max out CPU usage. But yes, if you truly don't need it, go ahead and stop it from running. Though you are really only saving on OS loading time with something like the iPod services due to the above mention of idle processes not taking any CPU time.

I don't know very many people who reboot daily, much less every few hours. Even I don't. The primary goal there, though, is to shut down things users have left running in the background, and I'll get into that in a moment. CCleaner, yeah, that's debatable - but I like the return I get from doing it. Defragging, again, I consider really important, because I notice the difference in performance if my game files are all red-square'd. And because I stay on top of it, and because I keep only what I need on this drive, a quick defrag (which doesn't move files, only defragments) can be done for me literally in 10-30 seconds. That was not an exaggeration. If it took me half an hour, then I would absolutely not do it for the very reasons you stated.

A few things you should know here then.

1. Turn off your computer every night if not being used or not running anything. Seriously. Shutting down your computer (AKA a "cold boot" when you turn it on next) wipes the temporary memory (RAM and page file) and allows your computer to do a POST check every day. (Power On Self Test, where it checks all your hardware and makes sure its responding.) And as an added bonus, you are being green by saving electricity.

2. As I mentioned above about files being chronologically out of order. You are getting such fast results because the scanner is seeing that all the files are in fact not fragments, just not in chrono-order. If it was truly going though and defragmenting, it would take about 30 minutes.

The noticeable performance difference you see is, I would literally bet money on not actually existing and instead being a placebo effect for the stated above reason. You believe in what you are doing so you feel it really works. But thats not something I can actually test, unless you did a performance benchmark before and after. This is not an insult in any way, shape or form.

This is actually what inspired the article in the first place. It has nothing to do with faster or better networks. It has to due with the number of people showing up to planned group events in my WoW guild, and having to reboot their machines in the middle of encounters, or make everyone else wait between encounters, because their ping was 800ms and/or FPS was 2 and they couldn't cast any spells or move out of the fire on the ground. The usual reasons for this, in order of commonality, are:

1. BitTorrent

2. Automatic software updates

3. Scheduled AV scans

4. Actually having a virus

5. Having so much crappy shareware running in the background that they thought they had a virus

6. No problem whatsoever, just needed an excuse for playing badly during the last encounter (actually the most common)

Okie... lets go through these...

They had no idea any of this was going on until it got in their way (and my way, and everyone else's way). Some of these are excellent gamers and brilliant people (except those described by no. 6) who simply aren't computer savvy, and needed a "walkthrough" to get some control of their machines back that didn't involve "format C:".

1. Network related

2. Network related

3. Software related, though they should know about these beforehand. Get in the habit of a weekly routine and disable the auto scans.

4. Then disabling misc processes is worsening the problem by giving the virus room to spread.

5. A legit reason, though can easily be solved by stopping them from booting in the MSCONFIG>Start-up tab. A one time deal so should not be reoccurring.

6. Thats just called lazyness.

1 and 2 and 3 should be common sense for any MMO player who reaches the end-game content. Close out of any programs that connect to the internet to free up network bandwidth, or any reasource demanding programs. Virus scans use a lot of CPU time. Software is required to ask you if you want it to auto update, so they should also know about that.

4 is indeed an issue, but if their virus removal isnt catching it, and they have tried other scanners, then they need to wipe their drive.

Okie, i have been typing this for probably an hour to an hour and a half... I havn't slept yet and its already 7:30am. In ANYTHING just makes you say "What the hell are you talking about" please say so and I will respond when I have a clearer mind.

But basically a long story short, speaking in terms of what is REALLY necessary, disable unnecessary start-up processes, defrag monthly, and scan for viruses. And clean out dust any chance you get.

Away with me!

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A fair bit of system tweaking is going to depend on what hardware you are running on. If you have stellar hardware, system tweaking is going to net you very little in the way of game performance. However, if your hardware is marginal for the game, or slightly better, a round of system tweaks can and will give you a noticeable performance improvement. I have personally done this on my old P4 3.0 system. Any load that you can remove from the CPU, and memory you can free up, WILL give you more performance.

XP, Vista, Win7, ALL have processes that Microsoft thinks you need, but, in all reality, you don't. Some are just convenience factors, others are to make some types of hardware easier to use, if you don't have that hardware..... why waste the resources on running the service? Indexing service is just a convenience thing, makes for faster searches. I shut it off, as it made a HUGE difference on my old system. And for as often as I do searches........ it wasn't necessary at all. Wireless zero configuration? I don't even HAVE a wireless device, so, why run the service? This is where a good tweak guide comes in. Blackviper's website is my personal favorite, and he has done some improvements of late, that make it MUCH easier to use. He also explains what things are doing, so, you can decide if you really need them or not.

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