Which Windows 7 system settings control the speed for launching programs?

David M December 31, 2013
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I have 3GB RAM and plenty of disk space and page file space, but still sometimes switching from one program to another is painfully slow. I would like to do something about it. Which Windows 7 system parameters control program launch speeds/initialization? Are any usefully adjustable? Is there a memory/process parameter tuning procedure I can apply to improve this?

When Windows 7 is running well, it’s fine, but unpredictably it’s a pain in the neck, taking a-a-a-ages to switch from one program to another. I have increased the page file to much larger than it really needs to be, and mostly Task Manager doesn’t show the processor (Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU E8200 @ 2.66GHz) exceptionally busy.

Does anyone have any advice to offer?

  1. dragonmouth
    January 1, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    @Jan F:
    "unless you have an SDD, which is ideal for paging"
    I assume you mean "SSD".
    While an SSD may be ideal for paging if only speed is considered, it is the worst possible location for an Paging File because of the constant writes being done to it. SSDs, unlike HDDs, allow only a limited number of writes before they stop working

    • Jan F
      January 1, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Yes and no.
      If your SSD has maybe 10GB of free space at any given time then you are correct You will most likely kill the drive within two years or so. The same goes if you you are using it for your daily dose of torrents.

      If you have like 50GB of free space and you use it like a normal drive that really isn't much of a concern. The rating of 1.000 program-erase cycles doesn't sound like much but unless you fill the entire drive (100%) and erase it on a daily basis you will be shocked how long it can last.

      How much paging and temporary files do you accumulate on a daily basis? Maybe 5GB?
      Let's say 10GB. So with 50GB of free space it takes 5 days before the first program-erase cycle appears. Times 1.000 cycles is 5.000 days, or 13 years.

  2. Jan F
    December 31, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    You've been in the Task Manager ~ what did it say about your system memory? How much is listed as available?

    As long as there is memory available your system is operating with very little paging or only paging non-essential or inactive tasks. If the available memory is really low then active tasks might have to be paged an which will certainly make your system run slower (unless you have an SDD, which is ideal for paging).

    In addition you might also want to take a look at the Resource Monitor. Maybe your system has 3GB of memory in total but some of it could be hardware reserved. Resource Monitor will show you that at the memory tab.

    Another important tab is the one labeled "Disk". It will give you information about your disk activity.
    If the activity is constantly high then we may have found the source of the problem - something is keeping your disk busy, making everything else (loading/reading files, paging, etc.) slow.

    This could be some process going rouge, background tasks performing stuff on the hard drive e.g. defragmentation or maybe an intrusive anti-virus. Most AV nowadays offer real-time protection. The problem with that is anything you "click" on your system is checked while being loaded. This can certainly slow down applications and application switching if they were paged to the hard disk and then read back into the memory.

    • Sam
      January 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Reply to JanF;
      When not particularly busy, and showing no problem with response:

      Task Manager (TM) indicates; Kernel Memory (Mb) paged ~200, non-paged 39; Physical Memory (Mb) total 3070, cached 389, available ~1650, free ~1270;

      Resource Monitor (RM) indicates; 40-50% Physical Memory used - ~1400 in use, ~1600 available.

      My virtual memory experience was (a few years ago) mostly in VMS and Unix, where I learned the hard way about the vital importance of there being sufficient physical memory for active processes (dependent on the number of concurrent users and what they're doing), and sufficient pagefile space for their process and data space to be swapped in and out as necessary. Too little physical memory for the number of users, and/or too little pagefile space would lead to the 'deadly embrace of swapper', and the suffocation of the system.

      Being a single user virtual memory system (in this case at least), Windows 7 should be simpler to manage, if it is configurable in this respect, but I am struggling to determine whether my system's occasional stalling (not as severe as dying on its feet) is a result of excessive page swapping, or too slow process initialisation, or both, or something else?

      I also recall the recommendation of (ideally) placing pagefile space on a spindle separate from the system disk, to minimise bus contention, and I have configured 4Gb of additional pagefile on Window's drive D (a 10Gb partition formerly used for system recovery), but both the OS disk C:, and D: are on the same spindle, and I only have external USB disks available, which I fear may be too slow to function efficiently as paging disks. Without installing another internal disk, my options in this respect are limited.

      It is true that my AV system (Trend Micro Internet Security) provides real-time monitoring, which obviously causes an overhead, but mostly this is not perceptible. Related browser add-ons are another headache, in terms of response - they're convenient, but boy do they hit keyboard response time!

      BTW, I loved your reference to 'rouge' processes - have you heard of 'bleu' ones too? ;-)

      Reply to Hovsep A;
      I have not yet tried tweaking PreFetch and SuperFetch, but I will investigate and report back in due course.

      I would like to thank you both for your valuable contributions! Please keep it up!

    • Jan F
      January 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      Windows 7 does at least a OK job handling paging and managing the paging file. Unless you want to extremely tweak it or you are limited in disk space there is not much reason to manually touch it at all. Also Windows does issue an actual warning dialog if you run out of both, physical and virtual memory.

      Yes, in an optimal scenario the paging file would be on another physical disk but that should be hardly a concern, or reason for that matter. At over 1GB of free space, respectively over 1.5GB available for use you are doing fine on that front.

      Here is a question:
      What is your current power saver setting and what do you usually do when this stalling is happening? Is it possible your hard drive went into sleep and has to spin up on the switch?

      That actually happens to me every now and then when I'm watching videos. Once MPC is loaded into RAM the (secondary) drive it's stored on isn't in use by anything else and spins down. Just accessing the options would cause a few seconds lockup as the drive has to spin up again.

      So in short, maybe try having the power plan setting at high performance and see if that helps in any way. If that helps you can still manually play with the detailed settings to have the CPU clock down when possible.

      Do you have a USB flash drive you don't mind to format? Connect it to your system, do right-click properties and see if ReadyBoost is available. This will basically use the Flash drive as a middle-way between physical memory and the paging file assuming Windows considers the drive fast and big enough (over 1GB).

      Last but not least I would suggest running a full check disk on the drive if you haven't done so already.

    • Sam
      January 11, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      I looked at power-saving settings, and sure enough, the disks were set to spin down after 20 minutes of inactivity - I think this was the problem. I have changed to spin down 'never', as I don't leave the system on for days on end, only when it's needed. I haven't noticed the stalling problem since, but then it was n't long ago. We'll see.
      Thanks for the tip.
      I don't believe I have a problem with available memory, or shortage of pagefile space - a lack of response when the disk has gone to sleep explains it well.

  3. Hovsep A
    December 31, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    perhaps the realtime protection if your antimalware is causing this?

    change the value EnablePrefetcher and EnableSuperfetch
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory ManagementPrefetchParameters
    double-click on EnablePrefetcher set it to 1
    double-click on EnableSuperfetch set it to 1
    if you want to improve the boot then the value should be 2

    if your Superfetch is not running then Both 'EnableSuperfetch' & 'EnablePrefetcher' need to be set to a value of 1.

    How to Run the Memory Diagnostics Tool in Windows 7

    perhaps you installed/uninstalled application that left over shell extension
    ShellExView 1.86

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