Windows woes – solution maybe?

My work machine is a Windows XP desktop.  Technically it’s only three months old, but in reality it’s over five years old, as it was a like-for-like swap out of a machine of that age.

It is noisy, loud and slow, and lurks in the corner of my desk like a beige obelisk from the film 2001.

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I’ve long stopped trying to run any ‘power’ applications on it, Firefox, Outlook, Word and a twitter client are about all I have running on a day-to-day basis.  The system info is below –

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Even this however was too much for the machine yesterday morning when I came back from a few days working at the city centre campus and from home.  In work at 7:30, I fired my machine up.  By 9:00 I was still struggling to get a responsive email client, and had resorted to using my MacBook and Outlook Web Access to access emails.

I’ve resisted tweaking this machine in any way shape or form since it was installed, but this was too much.  An install of Glary Utilities helped somewhat, but after a reboot I was still getting freezing/difficult to use.  Hmm, I thought, this is a lot like early problems I was having with my eee 701SD ‘laptot’ when I first bought it.

I seriously considered purchasing new memory for my uni machine, the situation got that bad, but luckily common sense prevailed.

Using the Memory Optimizer utility within Glary Utilities provided a clue as to what the problem was.  Running absolutely nothing, the machine had less than 10% of memory ‘free’ (remembering that the machine has 1Gb of memory installed, that’s one heck of an overhead). 

The slowest part of any system, including my own I suspect, is the hard drive.  The rapidly flashing light on the front of my obelisk seemed to indicate that a lot of disk activity was happening regardless of whether I was actually running anything.  This got me thinking about the disc cache, which given the ‘core’ memory was so close to capacity, could cause problems.  Could it be a problem with the cache file?

My first attempt, to run the system with no cache, was not successful.  Sure it was quick, but it also meant that once it reached the memory limit (very quickly), programs crashed.   Before I reinstated the cache file (My computer, Properties, Advanced, Performance, Advanced, Virual Memory) (they really don’t want you to find this setting), I ran a disk defrag so that the cache file would be a single, contiguous area.  Using the theory that sometimes the computer knows better than I what to do, I’ve clicked the System managed size…  don’t forget to click the ‘set’ button, and you must do this after you’ve rebooted the system with no page file set.

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I’m only a day into the test, but it’s looking good.  Memory optimizer is running all the time, but there’s been no crashes, memory is 27% free with six applications open as I type, and reboot times are in reasonable times.

Still wish I had a Mac here though.

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