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How to run Windows ME well, version 5

This post is designed to act as a reference to which people can be directed in the forum when their system is not performing well or there are frequent crashes happening. These moves solve a large number of ME problems and conflicts and are designed to remove largely unnecessary features of the system to improve performance, as well as encouraging you to do regular housekeeping on your PC to keep it running well. They particularly help games to run well. I do most of these with a new ME system anyway, just so it runs well. (All links were checked and operating on the date of posting.)

Queries about this post and feedback are welcome to tadams62@hotmail.com.

Caution:If you follow these instructions accurately you will not do any damage to your PC or your operating system and you will considerably improve performance. However, if you are not used to "messing" with your system, it is wise to have a backup before you start.

(Regulars on the forum will not find anything startlingly new here – just some minor revisions and tidying up – points 6,8,9,15,16 have been altered and some changes made to the list of handy free utilities)

Good luck, Trev.

THE BASICS

1. First, set a system restore point so that you can go all the way back if you want to (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore).

2. When troubleshooting, downloading Windows updates or other self-installing safe software, or if games are crashing, turn off anti-virus software and firewall temporarily.

3.Disable active desktop unless you need it; it uses resources (right click on the desktop, active desktop, make sure the web content line is unchecked). Don’t use wallpaper or screensaver while troubleshooting (right click desktop, properties, background, set wallpaper to “none”).

4.Disable all forms of power management (Right click on desktop, Properties, Screensaver, Settings, set the turn offs and the standby to “never” – while you’re in screensaver set it to none). Disable power management in your PC Bios as well (reboot, press Delete until you see the Bios, put in the password if you have one, find the power management section and ensure power management is disabled, save and exit – reboot). You may only wish to do this point temporarily with a laptop.

5.Check various hardware settings. Make sure that DMA is enabled for your CD drive, DVD drive, hard disks if they are DMA compatible - right click on My Computer then go to Properties, Device Manager, find each device and click on it, then go to its properties box, settings tab and check the DMA box. Again, don't worry - if it isn't able for DMA it should uncheck itself on a reboot - you can look again and see. Enabling DMA makes a huge difference to games and DVDs in Windows ME. Check the Video card settings (Right click “My Computer”, Properties, Device Manager, Performance, Graphics, set accelerator to maximum), While you’re in Performance, click File System, Hard Disk, set the sliders fully to the right and change the role of the PC from desktop to network server even if it’s not – this increases speed of access slightly). Click Floppy Disk and uncheck the search for floppy drives box. Click CD Rom and check the cache size is large and the optimisation box is correct for your drive. Click removable disk if you have one and enable write behind caching. Don’t go near “troubleshooting”. Check that your display settings are at an optimum for your needs and not set unnecessarily high because that will slow the PC, e.g. 800x600 screen resolution and High Color 16 bit are usually enough. (Right click on the desktop, go to properties, settings)

6.If you have more than 512Mb RAM (and in some instances even with 512Mb) but only if you are experiencing problems, look at this link http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;253912 Note that some ME installations handle more than 512Mb RAM with no problems at all. To run ME well usually requires 128Mb RAM or more though some users get away with 64. In a nutshell, what the link says is to use a text editor like notepad to open the system.ini file which you will find in the Windows directory of your C drive and scroll down to find the [vcache] section. Add the following line MaxFileCache=524288 and then save the file and reboot. This does not mean Windows will use any less of your RAM, it just means that vcache will work properly. If you are lucky enough to have more than 1Gb of RAM, then also look at this link http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;304943

7.Run the Direct X tests, especially if you are having video or sound problems or if games will not work properly. Start, Run, type dxdiag, press Enter, go through the tabs and look at the reports at the bottom, run the sound and video tests, update any drivers it suggests at component manufacturer’s website. (If in doubt try www.drivershq.com or www.driverguide.com)

8.Disable all the potential conflicts that come with ME, such as all scheduled tasks in Start, Programs, Accessories, System tools, Scheduled tasks, by using the properties box on each task (right click to get it). Remove Universal Plug and Play if it is installed (Start, Settings, Control Panel, Add Remove Programs, Windows Setup, Communications, Details, uncheck the box). This is a program which is designed to tell your central heating etc to start in Microsoft’s future world, but what it does is call home on the internet, so it can conflict with lots of things. Disable Windows automatic update (Start, Settings, Control Panel, Automatic Updates, check the third setting). Don't let Norton (or equivalent utilities or anti-virus programs) run any scheduled tasks - when installing Utilities or Systemworks 2001/2002 or equivalent, tell it that you will do all your tasks manually, except for virus autoscan. Running Norton System Doctor in the background causes many problems. Note that Norton 2000 is not compatible with ME. There are interesting posts on Norton here http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/17247.html and http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/17358.html There are many issues being reported with Norton Internet Securities and Norton Personal Firewall 2003 when installed on Windows ME. If you are experiencing severe slowdown, startup or shutdown difficulties or freezing of your internet connection after installing these, then choose a simpler (but just as effective) free firewall instead, such as the personal one from www.sygate.com

9.9. Disable unnecessary programs in startup by going to Start, Run, type msconfig press enter, go to Startup tab, uncheck any unnecessary programs, especially PCHealth (which is a scheduler), Load power profile (usually there twice), Scheduling agent, anything that mentions scheduling. Look at http://www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_index.htm for detailed advice on this. The program End it All can also be useful for this and is available here (you have to sign up to PC Magazine’s utility library and pay an annual charge) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,95493,00.asp or is often available free here http://home.ptd.net/~don5408/toolbox/enditall/ (it seems to come and go at this address) If you have been experiencing difficulties with scandisk or defragmenter being interrupted this will usually solve the problem. It also reduces the load on your system resources memory and, to some extent, RAM. There is an explanatory post on system resources and problems with running out of system memory here http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/17828.html

10.If you have Office installed disable Findfast (first go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Find Fast, delete the indexes, look in the menus and uncheck "run at startup". Next get out your Office CD 1 and in the maintenance mode of the setup program go to Office Tools and make Find Fast unavailable.) Findfast is an indexing program which is largely unnecessary. Disable the Office toolbar while troubleshooting if you use it. It causes some conflicts. Make sure you have all appropriate service releases installed if you are using Office with ME.

11.If you play games on your PC it is helps to reboot before and after each game. There is a separate post on installing games on Windows ME here. http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/17486.html

12.Some people recommend disabling system restore for a performance boost. Doing so will boost speed a little but I do not support this recommendation unless you have a total backup of your system (i.e. a Norton Ghost cloned drive or a tape backup copy including the registry). System restore can get you out of a lot of trouble.

13. A performance boost can be obtained by turning off animated menus (Start, Settings, Control Panel, Display, Effects, uncheck the "use transition effects" box).

ROUTINE MAINTENANCE

14.After you have set up your system as you want it, keep your PC running well by using scandisk/defrag regularly or Norton versions which are better (how often? - once a month if your usage is low, once a week if you use a lot of programs and/or the internet, every time after you uninstall a large program and again after installing a program), run Spybot from http://security.kolla.de/ to keep spyware away from your PC and every few days completely clean out your internet files. When in Internet Explorer go to Tools, Internet Options, delete files, check the "delete all offline content" box, click OK, click the "Clear History" button. Then go to your Windows folder, usually C:Windows\Temporary Internet Files and remove everything left except any cookies you want to keep. Also delete everything in your C:\Windows\Temp folder after ensuring that hidden files are showing (if you don’t know how, go to Windows help index and search for "hidden files and folders, showing"). To do a thorough job consider using Renaissance Man’s delindex.bat which you can obtain at http://www.burzurq.com/forum/delindex.html and which will also remove the hidden index.dat files which record your internet use, along with other junk. If you also keep your anti-virus up to date and run a personal firewall such as Zone Alarm or Tiny Personal Firewall, you should have a well run, neat and tidy installation of Win Me.

UPDATING DRIVERS

15.Update all device drivers to the newest ME compatible versions from the manufacturers’ websites, if you suspect a driver problem or a device or card is not working properly. (If in doubt try www.drivershq.com ) If all this hasn’t solved your problem and especially if you are experiencing video, vmouse or VMM (01) problems, update your chipset drivers. Some of the common chipsets are:

VIA – update the 4 in 1 drivers at http://www.viaarena.com/?PageID=2
Intel - download an updated ATA storage driver from http://support.intel.com/support/chipsets/driver.htm
Sishttp://www.sis.com/support/index.htm
NVidiahttp://www.nvidia.com/content/drivers/drivers.asp
AMD - http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/TechnicalResources/0,,30_182_3559_689,00.html

Some of these chipset manufacturers prefer that you obtain updated drivers from the manufacturer of your motherboard rather than directly from them.

If you have been experiencing problems with an AGP type graphics card and want to understand the need to update your motherboard/chipset drivers, then this link is interesting http://www.ati.com/support/faq/agpchipsetdrivers.html

This general link for motherboard drivers is also interesting http://www.pureperformance.com/js/showtip.asp?id=29

If you are not sure which chipset you have, use the belarc advisor from www.belarc.com to find out. Remember that any time you format your hard drive and reinstall Windows using your original disks and drivers that you will have to perform any updates you previously made again.

Update graphics card BIOS if it has one, update PC BIOS if you have serious resistant problems and have tried all other points in this post. PC Bios update is a mission critical one, easy to explode in your face if you have a power failure while it’s in progress, so do some advanced reading before you try it. For example, http://www.motherboards.org/articlesd/how-to-guides/42_1.html

SWAP FILE

16.There are many opinions with regard to how you treat your Windows swap file. If you are just troubleshooting, it is unlikely that this is causing you any problem and if you are a low level user of your PC just let Windows handle virtual memory. However, some people (including Symantec) recommend using a separate partition for your Windows swap file as it seems to improve performance in games and memory hungry applications such as advanced games, video editing etc. because it saves Windows having to continually expand and contract the swap file and place different parts of it all over your hard drive. If you create a separate partition for it, then go to Start, settings, Control Panel, System, Performance, Virtual Memory, Let me specify my own virtual memory settings, and type the new drive letter for the swap file (e.g. D:\). While you're there, you can also manually set the size of the swap file if you prefer that to letting Windows handling it. It should be at least 150 Mb in size (if you are using that sort of size it is better to set a minimum only) but much larger can be helpful if you are using memory hungry applications such as video editing and advanced games. Because I have a very large hard disk I set it to 1Gb (type 1000 in minimum and maximum) and I find that there is a small but noticeable improvement in how large graphics programs like Photoshop operate. Reboot and run scandisk and defragment. If you use Norton Utilities to defragment you don’t even need a separate partition because it will defragment the swap file and place it at the beginning of your hard drive for you. There are posts on this subject at :

http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/20090.html
http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/19942.html
http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/19090.html
http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/13460.html
http://www.computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/12036.html
http://computing.net/windowsme/wwwboard/forum/11989.html

FORMATTING YOUR HARD DRIVE AND REINSTALLING

17.If you have to format your C drive and reinstall ME because of problems, set it up as above, and install only one of your programs at a time. Test your problems between each program installation. If you find it’s a program, uninstall the program, do a system restore if necessary and see if there’s a patch at the manufacturer’s website. If you don’t know how to format and reinstall, Microsoft have an article on the Windows CDs and also on their website.

On the ME CD you'll find the article in \addons\document\guide and it's called mqsg. The information you want starts about page 31.

On a PC with ME already installed you will also find a similar article at C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\INSTALL\CLEANHD.TXT

On the web, go to:

http://support.microsoft.com/support/windows/topics/winme/setup/setupht.asp
This also has a great deal of other useful information on dual booting, setup and uninstalling.

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q255/8/67.asp

http://www.windowsreinstall.com

Be very careful you have all your drivers and original disks for all your components and peripherals, or download latest versions before you start.

VMM32.VXD

18.Having done all the other points, if you are still suffering from inexplicable crashes, freezes, stalls or blue screens, consider a potential VMM32.VXD problem. ME installs a compiled VXD driver called VMM32.VXD which can cause crashes and hangs and sometimes gives a message mentioning VMM. It is a compilation of drivers appropriate to your particular PC’s hardware which is made at installation of Windows but sometimes does not work properly. It is replacing many other drivers available in ME which can be installed individually into the System folder. There are over 40 of them on the PC I am posting from and you can obtain a list of your VMM32 drivers by looking in the registry at this key, using start, run, regedit: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\VMM32Files

The best way to repair or rebuild VMM32.VXD is to reinstall Windows, but sometimes this does not do the trick and sometimes people don’t want to do that anyway. If you copy individual drivers into the system folder instead, the relevant devices will then choose the single driver instead of the compiled one by preference. So, go to C:\Windows\Options\Install (or C:\Windows\Options\Cabs on some PCs), find Win 20 which looks like a Zip file (it’s an installation Cab), use an Unzip program (or start, run, msconfig, extract file) to look inside and find drivers you consider may be causing trouble or which may have been mentioned in an error message. Extract them to the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM folder. The most commonly mentioned and copied drivers in my experience, when faced with intractable VMM32.VXD problems, have been vcomm.vxd, vdd.vxd, vflatd.vxd, vdmad.vxd, vmouse.vxd, configmg.vxd, ntkern.vxd, and ios.vxd One or more of them has often cured a problem in a system for me and for many posters on this forum, but as said before there are many others too. It is usually best to experiment with one driver at a time and essential to reboot after you copy it.

These changes can, in certain circumstances, solve a lot of hanging, crashing, startup and shutdown problems in ME. It is important NOT to download any other copies of these drivers fromwebsites because they may not be the correct versions for your installation. If this was not your problem, it is perfectly safe to remove these drivers again. Some people try to warn you off doing this by saying it is an old "myth" about "missing" drivers in Windows 95, 98 or ME. It is nothing of the sort and if used as stated here can be of help. Some patches and relevant 3rd party files are placed in the \Windows\System\VMM32 or the \Windows\System\iosubsys folder after VMM32 has been compiled (if you install a new device for example) and you may wish to look in those folders before trying extraction of a VMM32 driver. If the one you are going to extract is there, be wary, check version numbers and dates, or take a copy. There is absolutely no need to be afraid to try this "fix" if you have intractable problems because it will do no harm provided you follow the instructions and cautions here, and you can always just remove the drivers again if they don’t help or if anything goes wrong. I have never had a single report of anything going wrong, by the way. The main reason for the existence of VMM32 is that it operates more quickly as a compiled driver and all you lose by substituting individual drivers is the tiniest, almost unmeasurable amount of speed in the startup process. it is certainly worth backing up VMM32.VXD because if it completely ceases to work at any time you can copy it back. Of course, if you have a complete system backup or clone (as I would recommend you do), then you don’t need to.

These are MS knowledge base articles relevant to VMM32.VXD and ME
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;191874
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;258471
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;262672
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;262715
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q129605
These are relevant to VMM32.VXD and Windows 98
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;296579
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;194679
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;311188
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;141898

HANDY FREE UTILITIES

19. This is a list for forum users of some handy programs and where to get them. Most have been recommended on the site from time to time. There are, of course, others around but these I like. In listing them, I do not take personal responsibility for them working successfully. As with all “messing”, if you don’t know what you are doing either don’t do it or do a system backup before you “mess” :-)

Adaware from http://www.lavasoft.nu or Spybot from http://security.kolla.de scans your system and removes spyware, often a cause of system problems.

Delindex.bat is a superb program written by Renaissance Man on this forum for deleting the hidden index files and other records which track your internet use, etc. ftp://ftp.burzurq.com/delindex/index.html

Sisoft Sandra from http://www.sisoftware.demon.co.uk/sandra analyses and troubleshoots your system, e.g. Bios, 3D rendering, OpenGL, Direct X, CPU, performance, overclocking etc. It offers advice on how to improve your settings. (Some people comment that it sometimes produces inaccurate readings, however.)

The Fresh suite of utilities consists of three programs. Fresh Diagnose analyses your hardware and software, Fresh Download claims to speed up your internet downloads, Fresh UI gives you options for optimising Windows. http://www.freshdevices.com

TweakUi from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/downloads/powertoys/networking/nttweakui.asp enables you to customise the interface, icons, control panel items, change menu settings, repair icons, etc.

Bios from http://www.bockelkamp.de/ will tell you all you need to know about your Bios, including beep codes, extensions, passwords, etc. This version is Dos based but there is also a Windows version Win Bios available.

Regcleaner is often recommended and for good reason. It displays details of left over mess from uninstalled programs and enables you to delete it from the registry (always backup first!). From http://www.vtoy.fi/jv16/index.shtml

WCPUID from http://www.h-oda.com reports details of your chipset, CPU and motherboard. Handy before installing new drivers.

Motherboard Monitor from http://mbm.livewiredev.com monitors system temperature, fan health and warns of failure. Handy if you overclock.

Xteq Systems X-Setup from http://www.xteq.com/downloads/index.html helps you to change hard to reach games and system settings.

Belarc Advisor from http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html analyses and reports on all details of your system and can identify with serial numbers most of your hardware components. Great if you’ve lost the details of your modem or video card etc.

hwinfo /ui which is built into Windows does a similar job and is accessed by going to start, run, type hwinfo /ui and press enter.

PC Pitstop at http://www.pcpitstop.com offers a complete test analysis of your system and gives you statistics on how well your components are running, also makes suggestions for improvements. Beware of consistent reports that your hard drives are underperforming because if you have two installed on the same IDE channel (which you should if you have 2 drives) or if you have anti-virus software running then they will usually report underperformance.

Personal firewalls are a good idea to block unwanted access to your PC. Zone Alarm is available at http://www.zonelabs.com/products/za/index.html while Tiny Personal Firewall is available at http://www.tinysoftware.com Sygate free personal firewall available from http://www.sygate.com and is the free firewall which I have found best with Windows ME (recommended by other forum users to me).

End it All is a program which will close down background programs prior to running scandisk or defragmenting your PC – saves on the irritating interruption of a scan by a restart, usually available free here or is often available free here http://home.ptd.net/~don5408/toolbox/enditall or for a charge here http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,95493,00.asp

System restore remover does just that http://defsoft.iwarp.com

Trend Micro's House Call at http://housecall.antivirus.com/pc_housecall gives you a free virus check.

Cacheman claims to improve system performance by freeing up more memory and helping to reclaim memory not freed by badly written programs when they close. There are differing views on its efficacy which you can read by searching the forum. http://www.outertech.com

Pop-up stopper helps to control ad banners and pop-ups http://www.panicware.com, as does Adshield from http://www.adshield.org

Win Rescue helps crash recovery and registry restoration http://regvac.com/frescuem.htm

Rampage frees up RAM when overload is reached http://www.jfitz.com/software/RAMpage

Trev

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