Windows Vista uses the hard disk to fetch application
data and documents as well as to store data in the page file
temporarily. Therefore, optimizing your hard disk can greatly improve
Windows Vista’s overall performance.
Examining Hard Drive Performance Specifications
If you’re looking to
add another drive to your system, your starting point should be the
drive itself: specifically, its theoretical performance specifications.
Compare the drive’s average seek time with other drives (the lower the
value, the better). In addition, pay attention to the rate at which the
drive spins the disk’s platters. A 7,200 RPM (or higher) drive will have
noticeably faster performance than, say, a 5,400 RPM drive. Many
notebook hard drives are even slower than that!
Performing Hard Drive Maintenance
For an existing drive, optimization is the same as maintenance. For a hard disk, this means doing the following:
Keeping an eye on the disk’s free space to make sure that it doesn’t get too low
Periodically cleaning out any unnecessary files on the disk
Uninstalling any programs or devices you no longer use
Checking all partitions for errors frequently
Defragmenting partitions on a regular schedule
Disabling Compression and Encryption
If you use NTFS on a
partition, Windows Vista enables you to compress files to save space, as
well as to encrypt files for security. From a performance point of view, however, you
shouldn’t use compression and encryption on a partition if you don’t
have to. Both technologies slow down disk accesses because of the
overhead involved in the compression/decompression and
Turning Off the Indexer
The Indexer is a Windows
Vista background process that indexes the contents of a drive
on-the-fly as you add or delete data. This greatly speeds up Vista’s new
search features (including Instant Search) because Vista knows the
contents of each file. However, you should consider turning off the
Indexer for a drive if you don’t do much file searching. To do this,
follow these steps:
Right-click the drive you want to work with and then click Properties. Windows Vista display’s the drive’s properties sheet.
On the General tab, deactivate the Index This Drive for Faster Searching check box.
Enabling Write Caching
You should also make sure that your hard disk has write caching enabled. Write caching
means that Windows Vista doesn’t flush changed data to the disk until
the system is idle, which improves performance. The downside of write
caching is that a power outage or system crash means that the data never
gets written, so the changes are lost. The chances of this happening
are minimal, so I recommend leaving write caching enabled, which is the
Windows Vista default. To make sure, follow these steps:
Start, right-click Computer, and then click Manage. After you enter
your User Account Control credentials, Vista displays the Computer
Click Device Manager.
Open the Disk Drives branch.
Double-click your hard disk to display its properties sheet.
In the Policies tab, make sure that the Enable Write Caching on the Disk check box is activated.
maximum performance, activate the Enable Advanced Performance check
box. (Note that this option is available only with certain hard drives
that support it.)
Enable Advanced Performance option tells Vista to use an even more
aggressive write-caching algorithm. However, an unscheduled power
shutdown means you will almost certainly lose some data. Activate this
option only if your system is running off an uninterruptible power
Converting FAT16 and FAT32 Partitions to NTFS
The NTFS file system is
your best choice if you want optimal hard disk performance because, in
most cases, NTFS outperforms both FAT16 and FAT32. (This is particularly
true with large partitions and with partitions that that have lots of
files.) Note, however, that for
best NTFS performance you should format a partition as NTFS and then
add files to it. If this isn’t possible, Windows Vista offers the CONVERT utility for converting a FAT16 or FAT32 drive to NTFS:
CONVERT volume /FS:NTFS [/V] [/CvtArea:filename] [/NoSecurity] [/X]
|volume||Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon) or volume name you want to convert.|
|/FS:NTFS||Specifies that the file system is to be converted to NTFS.|
|/V||Uses verbose mode, which gives detailed information during the conversion.|
|/CvtArea:filename||Specifies a contiguous placeholder file in the root directory that will be used to store the NTFS system files.|
that the default NTFS permissions are not to be applied to this volume.
All the converted files and folders will be accessible by everyone.|
|/X||Forces the volume to dismount first if it currently has open files.|
For example, running the following command at the command prompt converts drive C to NTFS:
Note, however, that if Windows Vista is installed on the partition you’re trying to convert, you’ll see the following message:
Convert cannot gain exclusive access to the C: drive, so it cannot
convert it now. Would you like to schedule it to be converted the
next time the system restarts? <Y/N>
In this case, press Y to schedule the conversion.
If you make the move to NTFS, either via formatting a partition during Setup or by using the CONVERT
utility, you can implement a couple of other tweaks to maximize NTFS
performance. I cover these tweaks in the next two sections.
Turning Off 8.3 Filename Creation
To support legacy
applications that don’t understand long filenames, for each file, NTFS
keeps track of a shorter name that conforms to the old 8.3 standard used
by the original DOS file systems. The overhead involved in tracking two
names for one file isn’t much for a small number of files, but it can
become onerous if a folder has a huge number of files (300,000 or more).
To disable the tracking of an 8.3 name for each file, enter the following statement at the command prompt:
FSUTIL BEHAVIOR SET DISABLE8DOT3 1
Note, too, that you can do the same thing by changing the value of the following Registry setting to 1 (note that the default value is 0):
program requires Administrator account privileges. Click Start, All
Programs, Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as
Disabling Last Access Timestamp
For each folder
and file, NTFS stores an attribute called Last Access Time that tells
you when the user last accessed the folder or file. If you have folders
that contain a large number of files and if you use programs that
frequently access those files, writing the Last Access Time data can
slow down NTFS. To disable writing of the Last Access Time attribute,
enter the following statement at the command prompt:
FSUTIL BEHAVIOR SET DISABLELASTACCESS 1
You can achieve the same effect by changing the value of the following Registry setting to 1 (note that the default value is 0):