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Windows 98 > Fine Tune Windows 98

Improving Performance

Although Windows 98, when running on an identical setup as Windows 95, outperforms the latter, there are still a few "tweaks" to improve the performance of Windows 98.

Although today's hard disk drives are fast, you might want to limit the use of the Virtual Memory (swap file). One easy way to achieve this is to limit the amount of memory Windows allocates to the Disk cache (replacement for Windows 3.* smartdrive).

You can check on the amount of memory used by Windows for the Disk cache by using System Monitor. If you haven't installed it, go to Control Panel (Start > Settings > Control Panel) and choose Add/Remove Programs. Select the Windows Setup tab, select System Tools from the Components window and press Details. Scroll down to the entry for System Monitor and click OK. This will place an entry for System Monitor in your Programs > Accessories > System Tools.

To view your Disk cache size:

  1. Start System Monitor (select Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Monitor)
  2. To add an item to be displayed, select View > Add Item
  3. The entries for the Disk Cache size are found under the Memory Manager category (Disk cache size, Maximum disk cache size, Mid disk cache size, Minimum disk cache size)
  4. You can also find the items to monitor your Swapfile here

On a typical machine (32MB RAM installed), with only Windows 98 installed, the Disk cache size (right after a fresh reboot, with nothing else running) was reported at 12MB, while the Maximum disk cache size could go up to 27MB.

To limit the amount of memory used by Windows for the Disk cache:

  1. Open System.ini (select Start > Run and in the Open: box type sysedit)
  2. Add the following two lines to the [vcache] section (add the section if it's not there):


Note: Some users only use a maximum setting, others a maximum and minimum setting. Just experiment and find what's best in your situation.

These values limit the size of the vcache (in kilobytes), so that Windows is prevented from using more of your available RAM for the vcache. This will increase the amount of free memory available to your system, so that when you open another program it is not paged to disk immediately due to lack of free memory.

The MinFileCache (=Minimum File Cache) setting prevents Windows from shrinking the cache below 1024Kb. As a rule of thumb, use 25% of your RAM for the MaxFileCache. In general, most users say that a MaxFileCache (=Maximum File Cache setting) of up to 9Mb works best for them, even if they have more RAM available. Just experiment with these settings to find what works best for you.

The settings explained above are valid if you use FAT16 on your hard drives. When using FAT32, we advise you to leave the vcache managed by Windows. The reason for this is that with FAT32 in combination with an "aligned" program, Windows 98 can run applications from the disk cache itself. Unfortunately the only "aligned" programs so far are the MS Office programs so until more authors align their programs on 4K page boundaries, the overwhelming majority of programs will still be causing two copies of an app to be in RAM until the disk cache is re-used. This would mean that for the time being the Windows 95 guidelines for assigning VCACHE size (as above) are still good guidelines to follow for Windows 98. If you don't use FAT32, then this is a non-issue since with FAT16 the alignment process does not work and Windows 98 can never run an application from the cache.

Optimizing the Swap File

The best way you can ensure high swap file performance is to make sure that the disk containing the swap file has enough free space so that the swap file size can shrink and grow as needed.

We do not suggest setting a minimum/maximum swap file size. Windows 98 does a much better job managing the swap file then Windows 95.

If you have multiple drives, the swap file should be placed on the drive with the fastest performance, unless that disk is overused.

If you put the swap file on a dedicated partition, use the largest possible cluster size [32KB].

If you have 24MB or more RAM, you can optimize performance by selecting Network server as the typical role of your computer:

Change the Typical role of your computer

  1. Select Start > Settings > Control Panel
  2. Open System, select the Performance tab, click on File System under the Advanced Settings header
  3. On the Hard Disk Tab, select Network Server as Typical role of this computer.

Change the Typical role of your computer

The setting you use controls the size of various internal data structures used by the 32-bit file access driver (VFAT).

When you use the Mobile Or Docking System setting, VFAT allocates memory to record the 16 most recently accessed folders and the 337 most recently accessed files. This consumes approximately 4KB of memory.

When you use the Desktop Computer setting, VFAT allocates memory to record the 32 most recently accessed folders and the 677 most recently accessed files. This consumes approximately 8KB of memory.

When you use the Network Server setting, VFAT allocates memory to record the 64 most recently accessed folders and the 2729 most recently accessed files. This consumes approximately 16KB of memory.

Optimizing I/O Transfers by Using Direct Memory Access

The advantage of using direct memory access (DMA) with integrated device electronics (IDE) CD-ROM and disk drives is that it lowers CPU usage during I/O transfers.

To Bus Master your system and determine whether your drive supports DMA:

  1. Open System Properties in Control Panel (select Start > Settings > Control Panel)
  2. Select the Device Managertab
  3. Click the + sign next to the Disk drives entry
  4. Select the drive you want to enable for DMA and click Properties
  5. On the Settings tab, there should be a DMA check box, if this box is unchecked, place a checkmark. If there is no check box (or it is grayed out), your motherboard chipset does not support the bus master interface. If the check box is not checked after you restart your system, your hard disk probably has been automatically disabled again because the hard disk may not support a multiple-word DMA protocol. For more information see Microsoft's Knowledge Base Article No. 159560.

You can use the same procedure to Bus Master your CD-ROM Drive.

Note: You do not need to install Bus Master drivers, they are already build in the Windows 98 system.

See this page on information how to test your system for DMA capabilities.

Optimizing DVD File System Performance

Digital Versatile Discs (DVDs) uses the main file system cache (VCACHE), and there are no performance settings for end users to change.

Optimizing Removable Disk Drive Performance

Windows 98 gives you the option to use write-behind caching to improve the performance of removable disk drives, such as the Iomega ZIP or JAZZ drive.

To set write-behind caching for removable disk drives:

  1. Open System from Control Panel, select the Performance tab, select File System, and then select the Removable Disk tab
  2. Select the Enable write-behind caching on all removable disk drives check box and click OK

If this causes a problem with disk operations, clear the Enable write-behind caching on all removable disk drives check box.


  • Run only one network client, if possible. For example, configuring a computer with both the Client for Microsoft Networks and Microsoft Client for NetWare Networks requires more memory than running a single client
  • Run a single network protocol. For example, running Microsoft TCP/IP, NetBEUI, and the IPX/SPX-compatible protocol requires a larger working set than running a single protocol
  • Run the fewest possible network services. Running File and Printer Sharing services, the Microsoft SNMP agent, and so on, all require memory and increase the working set of Windows 98

Network Settings can be changed by accessing Control Panel > Network.

MS Office

If you have MS Office installed, you can increase the performance of your computer by removing Find Fast from your StartUp folder. Normally Find Fast will from time to time index the files on your drive(s), to speed-up opening them in MS-Office. We personally don't care if we have to wait the additional milliseconds when opening a document in Word, at least we know what we're waiting for!

To reclaim the space used by the find-fast index, go to Control Panel, select Find Fast, select your hard drive(s) and from the Index menu, choose Delete Index. When you've deleted your Index, choose Close and Stop.

More information on the Office 97 Find Fast utility can be found on Microsoft's Web site.

Another utility installed by Office 2000 is MDM (Machine Debug Manager). MDM is part of the Front Page Express debug software, and is utilized by a very few. Unless you need debug, it shouldn't be hogging resources.

To remove MDM:

  1. Start the Registry Editor
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ RunServices
  3. Delete Mdm.exe from the list

It could also be necessary to rename Mdm.exe. Find Mdm.exe on your hard drive (in \Windows\System), and rename it to Mdm.ex_.

MDM is also part of the Microsoft Script Editor installation, additionally, if the system has Internet Explorer version 5 or later, Mdm.exe can still be configured to start at the startup of Window 95 or Windows 98, if the script debugging feature in Internet Explorer is turned on. You can turn off this feature within Internet Explorer. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options. On the Advanced tab under Setting, make sure that Disable script debugging is selected.


Recently it was discovered that the Win386.swp file (Windows virtual memory) could be set to Read-only. This will course a number of errors, some of them are:

  • Control Panel and My Computer icons may change to the default Windows icon
  • There was an internal error and one of the windows you were using will be closed. It is recommended that you save your work, close all programs, and then restart your computer
  • There is not enough free memory to run this program. Quit one or more programs, and then try again
  • Internet Explorer cannot open the site http://c:\windows\web\controlp.htt
  • This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. If the problem persists, contact the program vendor

When you get these error messages, and you click the Details button, any of the following error messages can be displayed:

  • IEXPLORE caused an invalid page fault in module Mshtml.dll at 015f:70c449bb
  • IEXPLORE caused a stack fault in module Shdocvw.dll at 0167:77c8ebe0
  • IEXPLORE caused a stack fault in module Shlwapi.dll at 0167:70bd3114

To resolve this:

  1. Select Start > Find > Files or Folders
  2. In the Named box, type win386.swp
  3. In the Look in box, select drive C, and then click Find Now (the box Include subfolders should be checked)
  4. Right-click the Win386.swp file, click Properties, and then click to clear the Read-only check box
  5. Click Apply, and then click Close

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