Set the fastest mouse speed on the Control panel/ Mouse/ Pointer options tab. Set the fastest keyboard repeat delay and rate on the Control panel/ Keyboard/ Speed tab (this is important for fast arrow key and backspace key repetition).
Set "single click interface" on the Control panel/ Folder options/ General tab (and "underline icons only when I point at them"). To remove the delay after clicking a folder, the "Detect accidental double-clicks" setting should be unchecked in Tweak UI, on the Explorer page. If you don't have TweakUI (or don't have administrative privileges to install, or if you run Windows Vista), set the following registry key with regedit :
To get the list view in every folder (fastest display), select View/ List in a regular folder and then click the "Apply to all folders" button on the Folder options/ View tab, and uncheck the "Remember each folder's view settings" checkbox on the same tab. To allow more space for icons, and speed up folder contents display, the "Show common tasks in folders" setting in Control panel/ System/ Advanced/ Performance/ Visual effects should be unchecked too. (For Windows 2000 it is in Folder options / General, "Show web content in folders").
Make sure offline files and active desktop are switched off. Offline files can be switched off in Folder options, Offline files tab (XP). On Vista, Offline files has its own Control panel applet. Active desktop can be switched off by using RegSeeker , on its tweaks page (works for Vista also). These are major speedups.
Remove the click sounds to get opening faster. Go to Control Panel / Sound / Sounds , and select the "No Sounds" sound scheme.
To maximize the folder speed, prioritize background tasks and system cache on the Control panel/ System/ Advanced/ Performance/ Settings/ Advanced page. While you're at it, on the same page check that the virtual memory is 1.5 times the RAM size and is located on the same partition as the currently used Windows folder (or on another physical drive). More virtual memory is only needed for large graphics operations like cut and paste of scanned images, Windows will increase the size of VM then.
The operating system partition should be the first on the disk (second partition could be 200% slower). If you are using Windows 98, setting the file cache to 32 MB could stabilize it and speed it up when you are using 128 MB RAM (or so). Edit the system.ini file, under the [vcache]-section, add two lines "MinFileCache=32768" and "MaxFileCache=32768". On XP and Vista, there is sometimes still a need for this, and the setting should be entered in regedit, in the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SYSTEM\ CurrentControlSet\ Control\ Session Manager\ Memory Management, IOPageLockLimit = 0x8000 .
On the XP, the file system is "optimized" (defragmented) when the computer is unused, this is annoying and can be switched off in TweakUI, on the General page (the "Optimize hard disk when idle" setting). If you don't have TweakUI, or if you have version 2.0 that lacks it, the setting can be done with regedit, in key
Some very resource-consuming (and quite useless) services are started on the XP, like the Help and Support service, and these can be switched off under Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services (or start it from the Run dialog as "services.msc"). The services I have disabled on Vista follows - this is probably close to the maximum you can remove, and unsuitable for some situations - for a more conservative services handling, use the SafeXP application. The services that are candidates for disabling are Modem Call Progress Audio, Application Layer Gateway Service, E-Mail scanner (could actually corrupt data), Certificate Propagation, Desktop Window Manager Session Manager, all Diagnostic services, all Distributed Transaction Coordinator services, DNS client, all vendor added services, Function Discovery Provider Host, Health Key and Certificate Management, Human Interface Device Access, Infrared Monitor Service, Interactive Services Detection, Interet Connection Sharing, LightScribe Service, Link-Layer Topology Discovery Mapper, Microsoft .NET Framework NGEN, Microsoft iSCSI Initiator Service, Net.Tcp Port Sharing Service, Parental Controls, all Peer services, Performance Logs and Alerts, PnP-X IP Bus Enumerator, PNRP Machine Name Publication Service, Problem Reports and Solutions Control Panel Support, Program Compatibility Assistant Service, Quality Windows Audio Experience, ReadyBoost, Remote Procedure Call Locator, Remote Registry, Routing and Remote Acess, Shell Hardware Detection, all Smart Card services, SQL Server Active Directory Helper, SQL Server Browser, Tablet PC Input Service, Telephony, all Terminal Services, Themes, Thread Ordering Services, TPM Base Services, Visual Studio Remote Debugger, Windows Backup, Windows Color System, Windows Connect Now – Config Registrar, Windows Defender, Windows Error Reporting Service, Windows Event Collector, Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service, all Windows Mobile services, Windows Presentation Foundation Font Cache, Windows Remote Management, Windows Search, Windows Update (on my own risk), Wired AutoConfig and WMI Performance Adapter.
In Display properties, in the Advanced/ Effects window, uncheck the transition effect and shadow used for menus. In Tweak UI, on the General page, list box, tooltip and window animations should be switched off. If you have XP or higher, these settings can all be switched off in Control Panel / System / Advanced / Performance / Visual Effects (switch off everything except "smooth edges of screen fonts" and "use visual styles" - if you still run the Themes service).
In Tweak UI, on the Mouse page, the Menu speed should be set to the highest (or close to the highest). If you don't have TweakUI, start regedit and go to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER/ Control Panel/ Desktop, and enter the value MenuShowDelay = "0" to get fast menus. This setting is really only feasible if the rest of the system is fast, if not, use a slight delay like 100. The explorer needs to be restarted to get it effective, open the task manager (Run/"taskmgr" or press Ctrl+Shift+Esc), end the explorer process, and start it again with File/Run "explorer".
Use the registry editor (Run / regedit) and browse to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Internet Settings and change these values : "MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server" = 20, "MaxConnectionsPerServer" = 10 .
This will allow ten connections to the server when downloading web pages. If you're using Firefox, it is already set to eight connections. Still, Firefox can be optimized to the physical network speed by using for example TweakVI, on its Internet page. This gives a notable speed increase. (By the way, if you can't get TweakUI to run on Vista in compatibilty mode, TweakVI has many of the on this page mentioned settings available.) You can check the detail settings in Firefox with the “about:config” URL.
On the Display properties page (right-click the background on the desktop), Settings tab, select High (16 bit) colour mode. Click the Advanced button on the same tab to open the monitor and graphics controller window. On the Monitor tab, select screen refresh rate 60 Hertz. For some video display codec options, only the 32-bit True colour mode is supported, though.
On the Display / Settings / Troubleshoot / Acceleration page, check that hardware acceleration is set to full, and that write combining is enabled (if available). In the DirectX diagnostics program (Run / "dxdiag"), click on the Display tab and enable DirectDraw acceleration if it is disabled.
Remove unnecessary startup entries in the Startup folder and in the registry with Spybot-S&D in advanced mode on the Tools/ System Startup page (or the built-in Windows Defender on XP and Vista, on its Software page). Unnecessary services starts are removed by disabling the services in "services.msc" like earlier mentioned.
Check that an IDE busmaster/Ulta ATA controller driver is in use on the Control panel/ System/ Hardware/ Device manager/ IDE controller page (if not try the Intel Application Accelerator driver - but a MS bus master driver can work better in some cases). Check that DMA is used for disk transfers on the Primary/Secondary IDE Channel pages (if not the OS might have disabled them due to old errors - uninstall the channels and let the OS reinstall them in that case). Also check that the harddisk is not on the same IDE cable as a CD-player or a slower HD. Check that write-behind caching is used on the disk on the Disk drives page in Device Manager (select the highest level of caching unless the disk is used for a server with very important data). Write-caching when booting is important since there are actually quite a lot of writes during bootup. In W2K and XP, you might need to install the latest service packs to be able to use disk caching. To benefit more from the on-disk caches, make sure the CPU uses its cache with the registry setting HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management SecondLevelDataCache = 0x800 (2048) (if the CPU cache is 1024 kB the value can be entered higher like this). By the way, a registry setting that really has a speedup effect on XP is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SYSTEM\ CurrentControlSet\ Control\ Session Manager\ Memory Management, WriteWatch = 0.
Remove unused fonts from the \Windows\ Fonts folder and unused drivers from the \Windows\ system32\ drivers (or iosubsys) folder (check the access dates at the command promt with dir /ta). Other folders to delete (or burn to a CD) are the dllcache folder, ServicePackFiles folder, Software Distribution folder, System Volume Information folder (if you have System Restore shut off and do registry backups with some other means), Options\cabs folder and Windows update folder.
Use smaller settings on Recycler and Temporary Internet Files folders: The Recycler property "Maximum size" could be set as low as 1% of a modern hard disk. Temporary Internet Files size is set on the Control panel/ Internet Options/ General tab, with the Settings button. It can be set as low as 10 MB. Delete its contents with the Delete Files button on the same tab. This speeds up browsing the local computer a lot. If you don't need any browsing history, it can be set to 0 days on the same tab. In Control panel/ Folder options, set offline files to 0. Defragment the disk with Start/ Programs/ Accessories/ System Tools/ Disk defragmenter. Be sure that the virus scanner is temporarily disabled when defragmenting, otherwise the defragmenter won't complete. Defragmenting is necessary even on a new installation, since installation of service packs and updates can give rise to severe fragmentation. Defragment the registryfile and the pagefile with the PageDefrag tool after that. Sometimes there is also the need for logical compaction of the registry (a classic case for this is Windows Me). On 98/Me, run "scanreg /opt /fix", on W2000 and up, run RegCompact Pro (30-day trial). Also check that the prefetcher is active : delete the files in the \Windows\ Prefetch folder, and set the registry value HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SYSTEM\ CurrentControlSet\ Control\ Session Manager\ Memory Management\ PrefetchParameters, "EnablePrefetcher" = 3 (for Vista also set the "Superfetch" value to 3).
Use a small MIDI waveset file (2 Mb .ecw) if you use the Soundblaster audio card - the waveset file can be set on the Control Panel/ Sounds and Audio Devices/ Hardware/ Audio controller properties page. The allocation of wave sound memory can be reduced to two seconds on the Sounds and Audio Devices/ Hardware/ Media control devices/ mciwave.dll properties page.
Don't use DHCP to set TCP/IP-settings every time, open the Control panel/ Network Connections/ Local Area Connection page and copy them from the Support/ Details page to the General/ Properties/ Internet Protocol properties page (deselect "Obtain an IP-address automatically" there). Log in with autologon (not secure for W98) - set it in Tweak UI, on the Logon/ Autologon page. As a last step you could run Bootvis and optimize the boot process with Trace/ Optimize System (but Bootvis probably only works on W98).
Of course, adding more physical memory will speed up boot and running programs, as less swapping to disk is needed. When using Windows98 for normal office applications, the real limit is set by system resources, and they will be emptied (and quite probably leading to crashes) before 128MB is used up, so having more memory than that is not necessary. On Windows XP, there is no system resource limit, but 100 MB is used up on booting, so 256MB is the recommended minimum there (but on Vista Home 512 MB is needed even after following the above recommendations). Due to the simple fact that newer operating system versions require more resources like this, there is always the option of downgrading to achieve higher speeds. A downgrade from Windows 2000 SP4 to SP1 gives a radical speed increase, at the cost of higher vulnerability. A downgrade from Vista to XP won't increase vulnerability, and will keep support for all hardware.
Add these three registry settings to get a fast shutdown :
Manager\Memory Management, "ClearPageFileAtShutdown" = 0,
HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop, "AutoEndTasks" =
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control, "WaitToKillServiceTimeout" = "0".
Check out other tweaking tools on my download page.