Windows XP Performance Myths

I recently wrote two posts on how to speed up Windows XP. The first post discussed some easy changes you can make to XP as well as a few maintenance tasks you can perform. The second post was a bit more advanced and discussed a few of the Windows services that you can safely stop.

Although, both posts weren’t really in-depth, they did provide some quick changes that should help you get more performance from your system. As I wrote the posts, I also thought about tweaks that are discussed online (ones that I used to use), but have since been proven false. In this post I will outline some of the popular “tweaks”, that really don’t do anything.

The Myths

I have been learning how to get more performance out of Windows XP for many years. I always like to tweak my operating system, especially since I have an older machine. There have been many tweaks that I have performed on my machine, but it wasn’t until recently that I realize many of them really don’t do anything, or obsolete.

Here are the performance myths for Windows XP:

  1. Always unload DLL. This tweak is supposed to unload any DLLs used by an application once you exit the application. This setting has become obsolete since Windows 2000, so it really has no effect on operating systems later than that.
  2. Cleaning up the Prefetch Folder. When you load an application for the first time, XP creates a prefetch file (.pf) into the prefetch folder within the system directory. This prefetch file is then used when the application is loaded a second time to help speed up the load time. Many tweaks make a suggestion that you should clean out this directory to stop malware/viruses from executing. This folder does not contain executables and are not loaded on Windows startup. The files in this folder are only used, once you execute an application. There is also a limit to the number of files kept in this directory, so eventually older files are deleted anyway.
  3. Enable Superfetch. This is a tweak that just came on the scene when Vista was in development. The setting for this tweak is in the registry, however, it is not used by Windows XP, so it is a useless performance tweak.
  4. Conservative Swapfile. I used this tweak when I used Windows 98 by adding “ConservativeSwapFileUsage” to the System.ini file. In Windows XP, this does absolutely nothing, so it will not increase your system performance.
  5. Disable Paging Executive. This is a popular tweak discussed on the Internet. The idea on the Internet about this tweak is that it prevents the Windows kernel from being stored in the paging file on the hard disk and instead will stay in memory. This tweak is usually suggested for high memory systems, which in my opinion makes no sense since at that point you would have enough memory for both applications in the kernel to be loaded into memory. The one question I ask myself is this: if I’m using a high-memory consuming application, such as a photo editor, video editor or a game, which would I rather have loaded in memory, the application or the Windows kernel?
  6. IO Page Lock Limit. This is also another popular tweak discussed online. Unfortunately, since Windows 2000 SP1 the operating system kernels do not reference the “IoPageLockLimit” setting in the registry, making this tweak useless.

There are many other performance tweak myths that are discussed on the Internet. If you are unsure about whether they are real or fake, check out XP Myths. This page discusses the above myths as well as many others, and includes nice descriptions and the sources of information. I was surprised at how many of the so-called tweaks I made to my system were on that list.


For many people, myself included, getting as much performance out of their machine is important. Although there are many things that you can do to get more performance, there are also many that are simply myths.

One Response to “Windows XP Performance Myths”

  1. martini says:

    The only way I’ve found to get XP to work better is to use Windows 2000 Pro instead. HAHA. I am having constant problems with XP even after Spybot and McAfee find and correct things.

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