Two tips to make your computer run faster

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We all know that sinking feeling… the computer that used to spring to life in a few seconds seems to take forever grinding its way to a reasonable state of usability. No doubt you will have searched for an answer and found the usual tips about uninstalling unnecessary programs, especially those that start automatically.

What you will not have found are the following two tips that that I have found to be helpful and have a significant effect on bootup time. They apply to all versions of Windows from XP to 7: deleting the icon cache files, and deleting the Prefetch folder.

[Note: this post was written by Dr Guy Laurel And Hardy The Great McGonigle Simmons a.k.a. ‘DrTeeth’]
There are two performance enhancing features that sometimes do not work as they should.

For these tips one should unhide all files(*) and show extensions(*) – these are amongst the first things I do when installing windows anyway.

The first item involves the icon cache file: sometimes this becomes corrupt and loses the ability to improve the boot-up time. One can tell if that has happened as the file should have the same date and time as when the computer was last booted. If it does not, it is broken. Sometimes I have found that ‘fixing’ the problem with Win 7 even though the date/time is correct can help.

Icon cache Win 7

All one has to do is delete the icon cache file, which is found in /Documents and Settings/Username/Local Settings/Application Data on Win XP. The file used to be recreated automatically on booting In Win XP, but that behavior was changed in a service pack. Now, one has to change the desktop’s color depth from its current setting to the other and back again; then logout and then login. Only after that will one find a new and uncorrupted cache file created. I do this color depth change on other Windows versions versions even though it may not be necessary.


The next tip involves the Prefetch system: this feature saves traces of the files used when windows boots and programs load, in \windows\Prefetch. The booting trace is always called NTOSBOOT-B00DFAAD.pf in every version of windows. It gets updated at every boot in Win XP and approx. every week in Vista and 7.

My Prefetch folder - deleted boot trace
My Prefetch folderAlso, by default, windows uses its in-built defragger to reorder the files traced so that they are close to each other on the hard disk for best performance. When this happens, every three days or so when the PC is idle, the date/time stamp of the LAYOUT.INI file gets updated. One should also find a new *.pf file created whenever a program is loaded. This reordering can be done on demand by running “rundll32.exe advapi32.dll, ProcessIdleTasks” (without quotes and with admin privileges in Vista and 7). The final thing to check is that when a program is run, a corresponding *.pf file should be created.

It does help if one monitors the prefetch folder that this saddo did just to see how it works normally.

Now you should know what to look for and find, in a properly functioning prefetch system.If any of the above behavior does not happen, one needs to reset the prefetch system. One has to delete the prefetch folder…it will be created at the next boot and all should work normally. The system in XP seems particularly prone to failing. Just deleting the files in the prefetch folder will not do anything and is NOT a performance enhancing trick like some other sites would have you believe. Sometimes one finds that the boot trace does not happen when it should. That file can be deleted on its own as it is created at the next boot.


(*) In my articles I will not spoon feed.  Google is THE best technical resource on the web (which did not exist in my early days of Windows 3.1 and DOS 5). I recommend that you use it.