surf safe but play fast

  brigger 20:31 25 Feb 2005

I'm a bit of a resource-miser and I don't want anti-virus, firewalls etc hogging resources if I'm playing a game (offline).

I've got a new-ish PC with Windows XP Home, which I'm mostly using for games (e.g. Rome Total War). It needs an internet connection for updating drivers.

I've also got an old notebook with Windows 98, with dial-up.

Should I make a 2 PC network with the notebook sharing its internet connection, or connect the newer PC to the Internet and turn off the security (after backing up) when I'm playing games?

I don't know much about this so any advice on how to 'surf safe but play fast' will be appreciated.

  Diodorus Siculus 20:41 25 Feb 2005

[quote] Hi Fred, Long time reader and plus subscriber. I like to play games on my computer, but they run slow sometimes. I have a lot of programs running in the background, Incredimail; Spambutcher; WinPatrol; Caller ID; Trend Micro A/V and a couple of others. I think this may be part of the cause for the games to run slow. My question is this, is there a way I can (easily) have my computer boot to say a "game mode" and when I'm finished, reboot to regular mode?

Do you think this would help make the games run faster (better)?

Thanks! Paul

Sure; in XP and Win2K, it's a cinch: Create a new user account called "games" or some such. Set that up with limited permissions, and install no additional load-at-boot software in that account.

Any system-wide software you've previously installed from an Admin-level account will still load and be running in the background of the limited gaming account. If that's still too much background activity, you can uninstall/reinstall some software so that it loads only on demand and/or only in the main accounts. Software in this category might include things like Office toolbars, browser add-ins, and such.

You also could temporarily shut down System Restore, Automatic Updating, mail downloads, and the like, before switching into the game account. And if the games account is a severely limited "guest" type or other low-permission-level account, and won't be used for anything except gaming, you could even shut down some background security tasks. For example, although I'd always keep a firewall in place, if the games account is never, ever used for file downloads or email of any types, then it might be OK to suspend active always-on anti-virus scans. (If no new files are added, the risks of a new infection are low.) Instead of always-on scanning, you could use periodic scans of that account's files when the game's not running to keep that account clean. (If it's just you on the PC, the above might not be too hard to enforce; but if others are going to use the game account, it might be more dangerous, as you wouldn't know what they might download or install.)

Once the games account is set up, then from inside that account, right-click My Computer/Properties/Advanced/Performance/Visual Effects and choose the highest-performance setting.

Next, right click anywhere on the desktop, and select properties. Under the "Desktop" tab, select "none" for the background picture; this eases the load on the CPU when drawing the desktop, and affects only the account in which it's selected.

Next, under "Settings," select the lowest resolution and color quality your game (and eyeballs) require: This reduces the amount of processing necessary to display the game. Don't make it look ugly or unplayable; just don't ask for higher visual performance that you need. For example, most games look fine in 16-bit color, which is much easier on your video system than 32-bit color.) However, resolution and color changes do spill over from one account to another; you'll have to change the settings back if you want different setups for gaming and normal use. (Here, a system tray applet that lets you change video settings with a single click can be a timesaver; most of the major video board makers include such applets with their driver software.

If all the above doesn't help, you might consider adding more RAM to the system; this will help ensure that the system can run at its full capacity. See click here for related coverage on "running programs in RAM" (on page 2 of that article).

  Diodorus Siculus 20:46 25 Feb 2005

Hi Fred, Just wanted to add that this fellow could create a "gaming profile" via hardware profiles in the properties of My Computer. There, he could create a profile with the minimum running & give it a name (like "Gaming")- then he'd have the choice, at boot, to load either that profile or the original profile. Blackviper has done a good job of explaining (with screenshots) here: click here ---Tracy ;^)

Hello Fred! Newsletter kudos for sure! In response to Paul’s email and the section, “A Lean, Mean Game Mode”. I’m not much of a gamer anymore, but I was running with only laptop for a number of years and when I would game I had ran across the following program free for download going by the name “Game XP” click here A snip-it from there site has this to say: “Game XP is intended to optimize the performance of your computer for gaming needs. It tweaks and modifies various XP settings (cache settings, CPU priority etc.) and optionally disables or stops several Windows services that are usually not needed. The program does not require any installation, and does not need to be running at all times. Game XP extends your operating system's capabilities and makes Windows faster and comfortable for maximum gaming experience.” I hope the gamers out there can benefit from this little program.
Keep up the good work. ---Isaac

Fred: Excellent newsletter, as always. This is in response to item 11 from 2005-02-14, where you discuss changing video resolution for games. You may get a lot of these, but let me recommend's Resolution Changer. It's freeware, and it works great to change your display resolution before running a particular application and then revert your resolution after the game is over. It's great. click here -- Timothy J. McGowan

  Diodorus Siculus 20:47 25 Feb 2005

Hi Fred, I've solved the issue of mediocre/poor game performance by partitioning my HDD and installing a second instance of WIN XP Pro onto a separate partition from the initial install. Since both installs are on the same PC, and cannot be run simultaneously, I don't believe this is in violation of the EULA, but then I'm not a lawyer. You will need a program like Partition Magic or BootIt NG to partition your drive to accomplish this. However, if you're installing XP on a clean drive, you can partition the drive/s from the XP setup window. Mine is set up as follows on two 80GB HDD's: Primary HDD - C: Windows XP Pro (20GB), D: Temp (1 GB)(all temp, tmp and TIF files are stored here), E: XP Games (remainder of space on the drive). Secondary HDD - F: Pagefile (1.5 GB), G: Data (40 GB), H: Backups (remainder of space on the drive). You could also use this scheme on a single drive allocating the space in each partition based on your usage.

After the install has finished and authenticated itself, I install all the hardware drivers, motherboard, NIC, Video card, Monitor, soundcard, etc. Next, I go into System Properties (right click My Computer and choose Properties) click on the Advanced tab and then click Startup and Recovery/Settings and then in the System startup section click edit and in the notepad window change the first line under [operating systems] (inside the quotation marks) to read 'XP Games' and save the boot.ini file and close notepad. Then I change the boot sequence (Default operating system:) so that the original XP Pro 'Microsoft Windows XP Professional' is the default O/S. In this window I also uncheck 'Automatically Restart'. While in System Properties/Advanced I click on 'Performance/Settings' and on the Visual Effects window I choose 'Adjust for best performance', then I click on Advanced tab and make sure that 'Programs' are checked in the first two sections, then I change the pagefile to 'No paging file' on this partition and create one on the first partition (1.5 GB ' one and 1/2 times the RAM on this machine) on a second HDD on the PC (the pagefile is the only data on this partition). Upon reboot, after the BIOS screen, you will now have a screen where you can choose between Windows XP Professional and XP Games. I boot into the XP Games partition, and install Service pack 2 from CD. After rebooting again, I go to the Windows Update site and download and install all the critical updates.

Again another reboot and boot into XP Games. First I defrag the partition. Then, right click on My Computer and choose 'Manage' and expand the 'Services and Applications' branch and click on 'Services'. In the right pane of the window, I change the configuration of each service (right click and choose properties) to match the 'Power User' column from the webpage I've printed out the service configuration guide from: click here. Another reboot and right click on the desktop and choose Properties, and change the wallpaper and screen saver to 'None'. Now you can install your games. I always reboot, and then run defrag after installing a game. After installing all of my games, I image the partition onto DVD R disks.

I connect to the 'net through a NAT enabled router, and so don't need a software firewall, and I don't have Outlook installed on the XP Games partition so I don't have a A/V program installed either. If I need to email something while using the Games install, I use Hotmail. I only use IE to visit the game manufacturer's site for news or patches, and to occasionally check for driver updates for my motherboard and video card. I also don't play the 'online' versions of any of my games or use an IM program on the Games install. If I should ever decide to do so, I would install a software firewall and A/V program on the Games partition. This partition is included in the list to scan when I run my A/V, anti-spyware/crapware, and anti-trojan programs from the 'main' install of XP Pro every week.

I hope you can use this info to help your other readers. It's a small repayment for all the help you've given me over the years.

I look forward to my Langalist Plus hit twice a week. You do a great job with this newsletter.

  Diodorus Siculus 20:51 25 Feb 2005

PS hope it is not info overload!

  brigger 22:26 25 Feb 2005

Not overload, but enough to tick 'Resolved'

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