Chapter 7.1 - Optimising Windows using Control Panel

All the changes described are worthwhile and some have a significant impact on sound quality – try to ensure that all are performed but test after each change. A clean install of Windows XP Professional SP2 is assumed.

Step 1 – remove unnecessary programs

Do not install unnecessary programs and remove any that are not needed (virus checkers and firewalls in particular have low-level hooks that degrade sound). To uninstall a program, launch the Control Panel (Start > Settings > Control Panel), click Add or Remove Programs, highlight the program, click Remove (or Change if Remove is unavailable) and follow the prompts (which are program-specific)

Step 2 – remove unnecessary components

  1. In Explorer, go to Tools > Folder Options > View. Check [Hidden files and folders] Show Hidden files and folders.
    Locate sysoc.inf in C:\Windows\inf, open it in Notepad and delete all instances of ‘HIDE’ or ‘hide’ using Find & Replace with Replace blank. Save.
  2. Go to Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs > Select Add/Remove Windows Components (left side panel icon)
    Deselect the following and complete the wizard:
    • Fax Services
    • Indexing Service
    • Internet and Information Service
    • Message Queuing
    • MSN Explorer
    • Outlook Express
    • Terminal Server
    • Windows Media Player
    • Windows Messenger (this checkbox is ‘sticky’)
Select Accessories and Utilities, check the first two items only and complete the wizard
Select Network Services, deselect all items, click Next and complete the wizard

Step 3 – minimise video traffic

A video chipset is power hungry and its heavy data traffic degrades sound quality. The following routines disable it and transfer control of the display to the CPU. This increases its load but the chosen unit copes easily and uses less power in doing so, particularly after the video setup is de-tuned.

3.1 Disable Hardware Acceleration and Write Combining

Control Panel > Display > Settings > Advanced > Troubleshoot > Set Hardware Acceleration to None and deselect Enable write combining. Click Apply and OK and restart Windows. As the video chipset has been disabled, a drop in video performance should be apparent. As its functions are now being performed by the CPU, any superfluous features such as visuals should be disabled.

3.2 Disable video processor

Previous step moves all video processing to CPU. This allows for video processor to be disabled. Make sure step 3.1 is done correctly.

Control Panel > System > Advanced > Hardware TAB > Device Manager button. In Device Manager, Expand Display adapters > right-click VIA/S3G Unichrome Pro IGP (this will vary depending on mobo) > select Disable. Answer Yes to Prompt. Restart Windows.

Re-confirm / re-do 3.1 settings, i.e. no hardware acceleration and no write combining.

3.3 Disable Visual Effects

Control Panel > System > Advanced > [Performance] Settings > Visual Effects > Adjust for best performance (i.e. all boxes unchecked). Click Apply and OK and restart Windows.

3.4 Check the refresh rate

Control Panel > Display > Settings > Advanced > Monitor, confirm that the setting is set to Use Hardware Default Setting. If not, the video processor is still active.

3.5 Set the video mode

LCD and plasma displays have a ‘native’ resolution. LCD displays are typically 1280 x 1024 though plasmas and widescreen LCDs will differ. Noise injected by a display into the mains can be audible in a high-resolution system; the main offender is the display processor which is the device that detects the input resolution and scales it to the native resolution. Selecting the native resolution bypasses the processor and offers video quality obtained.
Using using a low colour depth reduces the CPU load and mobo traffic. Determine the monitor’s default resolution from its documentation.

Select Control Panel > Display > Settings and set the resolution to the native resolution, go to Advanced > Adapter, click List all modes and select 256 Colors, Default Refresh. Recyle mains power on the computer to effect the change – a reboot is not enough.

Correct video settings should reflect something like this:

3.6 Remove the video processor driver

The video driver is set to load on start but can be removed: Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs. Its name varies with the chipset but is readily identified: select and click Remove. Above steps may have to be repeated for the default Windows display driver.

Step 4 – underclock the CPU

Select Control Panel > Power Options. Set Power Schemes to "Home/Office Desk" or "Always On" and Hibernate to Off.

BIOS settings are designed for ultra low CPU frequency and voltage. "Always On" setting is recommended when such BIOS settings are done.

Step 5 – tune performance

Several changes shown here were taken from though some have been modified. (Selecting the Control Panel and clicking OK to exit a menu are assumed.)

5.1 Set System Cache Memory Usage & Background Services

Control Panel > System > Advanced > [Performance] Settings > Advanced. Select Background services and System cache. Click Apply and OK and restart Windows

This setting is critical for RAM playback in cMP.

5.2 Disable Virtual Memory

Control Panel > System > Advanced > [Performance] Settings > Advanced > [Virtual Memory] Change. Select No paging file and click Set. Click OK and restart Windows

5.3 Disable Error Reporting

Control Panel > System > Advanced > Error Reporting. Select Disable Error Reporting (and But notify me when critical errors occur if this is wanted)

5.4 Disable System Failure and Debugging options

Control Panel > System > Advanced > [Startup & Recovery] Settings. Deselect the System Failure options and set Write debugging information to (none)

5.5 Disable System Restore

Control Panel > System > System Restore. Select Turn off System Restore on all drives

5.6 Disable Remote Assistance

Control Panel > System > Remote. Deselect Allow Remote Assistance Invitations to be sent from this computer and Allow users to connect remotely to this computer

5.7 Disable Automatic Updates

Control Panel > System > Automatic Updates. Select Turn off automatic updates

5.8 Disable Fast User Switching

Control Panel > User Accounts > Change the way users log on or off. Deselect Use Fast User Switching

5.9 Disable Internet Synchronise Time

Control Panel > Date and Time > Internet Time. Deselect Automatically synchronize with an internet time server

5.10 Disable Offline Files

Control Panel > Folder Options > View > Offline Files. Deselect Enable Offline Files

5.11 Disable Automatic Desktop Cleanup Wizard

Control Panel > Display > Desktop > Customise Desktop. Deselect Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days

5.12 Disable Screen Saver

Control Panel > Display > Properties > Screen Saver. Set Screen saver to (None).

5.13 Disable the ‘Welcome’ screen

The Welcome screen requires Explorer (and causes a lock with cMP that needs a safe-mode restart to fix). Control Panel > User Accounts > Change the way users log on or off. Deselect Use the Welcome screen and restart
When Windows asks for a password, hit Enter.

5.14 Prevent automatic program starts

In Explorer, go to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup and delete all files. Repeat for all users.

Step 6 – disable or suspend services

Perform Step 1 & 2 of Soundcards as these require Windows Audio service to be running. Note that some soundcards require Windows Audio service to be enabled (especially when using ASIO4ALL).

Generally, only two Windows XP services are needed (except for soundcard drivers which use the audio service).

Open Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Services, double-click the service to be stopped, select Stop and set Startup type to Manual

The screenshot shows mandatory services as ‘Started’. Some services only stop after a reboot or when set to Disabled.

Task Manager should show about 11 processes (including Task Manager). Screenshot shows 13 processes as process ‘FSCapture’ runs to take screen shots and RME soundcard uses two processes but other soundcards only need one.

These are aggressive settings and will stop many functions. Re-start any services that are needed later, e.g. when doing a software install. (Devices disabled in the BIOS may also need to be re-enabled.)

Network Connections, Workstation (and possibly DHCP Client) will be needed for networking. Services needed for most other functions are the Event Log, WMI, COM+ Event System, COM+ System Application and DCOM Server Process Launcher. To update a sound card driver, set Event Log, Cryptographic Services, Windows Audio and WMI to Automatic and start them. Once the update is installed and stable, reset them to Manual.

Chapter 7.2 - Optimising Windows using Device Manager

Step 1 – disable unnecessary system devices

They consume resources and cause avoidable data traffic.

Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager > View > Show hidden devices

With the Gigabyte motherboard, the following can usually safely be disabled (the red cross indicates a disabled device). Right-click on a device, select Disable and answer Yes to the prompt. (It is recommended that Windows is re-started and the system tested after disabling each device.)

  • High Precision Event Timer (if shown)
  • Intel(R) 82801G (ICH7 Family) - PCI Express Root Port - 27D0
  • Intel(R) 82801G (ICH7 Family) - SMBus Controller - 27DA (Disabling SMBus Controller also disables System Restart – use System Shutdown and power up)
  • Intel(R) 82802G Firmware Hub Device
  • Microcode Update Device
  • Microsoft System Management BIOS Driver
  • Numeric Data Processor
  • PCI Bridge controllers - leave one enabled if using a PCI-E graphics card
  • Programmable interrupt controller
  • System Board
  • System Speaker
  • System Timer
  • Terminal Server Device Redirector
  • Terminal Server Keyboard Driver
  • Terminal Server Mouse Driver

Note: Above disabled Intel devices are not shown in diagram (due to a different mobo)

Step 2 – disable network devices

Disable Network Adaptors if NOT using Windows network functionality. It’s highly recommended not to use any Windows networking (either LAN or WiFi).

Step 3 – disable Non-Plug and Play Drivers

It is recommended that Windows is re-started and playback tested after disabling each device listed below. The following can usually be disabled:

  • Beep
  • Remote Access Auto Connection Driver
  • Remote Access IP ARP Driver
  • Remote Access NDIS TAPI Driver
  • Parport (if shown)

The following can usually be disabled unless using a network card:

  • AFD
  • Fips
  • Generic Packet Classifier
  • HTTP
  • IP Network Address Translator
  • IPSEC Driver
  • NDIS Usermode I/O Protocol
  • ND Proxy
  • NetBios over TCPIP
  • TCP/IP Protocol Driver

The following can usually disabled unless using a graphics card and a network card:

  • NDIS System Driver

These settings, which are illustrated opposite, are aggressive: should a change fail and cause a BSOD, restart Windows and press F8 until the boot menu appears, select Safe Mode and re-enable the device whose disabling caused the crash.

Note: ViaIDE is disabled as RAID is being used on a Biostar mobo (this is rare).

Step 4 – disable unused USB hubs & controllers

Only used (or active) USB ports should be enabled. Take care not to disable devices already connected. Make sure only the USB devices to be used are connected (this way we ensure all other USB ports are disabled). This is best achieved using the following:

Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager > View > Devices by connection

Expand all USB "Controllers" and "Hubs" > Disable USB Hubs that have NO devices connected > Disable Controllers of disabled USB Hubs

Enabling Controllers & Hubs will activate unused USB ports should this be needed.

Chapter 7.3 - Optimising Windows using Registry Editor (regedit)

For all registry settings, you need to run a program called Regedit. This may differ for Vista and Windows 7. Start > Run. Enter ‘regedit’ and click OK. After completing steps, reboot your PC.

Step 1 - reduce delay / speedup menus

Select HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Control Panel > Desktop. Double-click ‘MenuShowDelay’ and set Value data to 0.

Step 2 - disable windows prefetcher

Select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control > Session Manager > Memory Management > PrefetchParameters. Double-click ‘EnablePrefetcher’ and set Value data to 0 (hexadecimal).

From File Explorer, delete all contents of ‘C:\WINDOWS\Prefetch’ directory.

Step 3 - disable notification area balloon tips

Select HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer > Advanced. Right-click the right window pane and select New > DWORD Value. Rename it to ‘EnableBalloonTips’. Double-click and set Value data of 0 (hexadecimal).

Step 4 - NTFS disable last acccess update

Select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control > FileSystem. Double-click NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate and set value to 1 (hexadecimal). This keyword may not exist. If so, right-click in right window pane select New > DWORD Value. Rename to ‘NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate’. Double-click and set value to 1 (hexadecimal).

Step 5 - change sheduler time slice

Select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control > PriorityControl > Win32PrioritySeparation. If priority was set for 'Background Processes' the value is 18, change to 28. Note these are hexadecimal values and correct setting must reflect as 0x00000028(40).

Step 6 - Disable default screen saver

Select HKEY_USERS > .DEFAULT > Control Panel > Desktop > Set ScreenSaveActive to ‘0’ (default is 1).

Step 7 - Reduce USB Polling

Default polling of USB (Controller) devices under XP is 1ms. Use following registry change for each USB Controller to increase polling interval to 5ms.

Select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{36FC9E60-C465-11CF-8056-444553540000}\0000
Right-click in right pane > Select New > DWORD > Rename to 'IdleEnable' > Set value to 1
Repeat for each subkey \0000, \0001 ... that has the 'Controller' key

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Page last modified on December 27, 2010, at 08:23 AM