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Slow System Performance When Copying Large Files in XP x64 & Server 2003 x64 – And a solution!

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I’ve been using Windows XP x64 for about a year now. My previous OS of choice was Windows 2000 which I really loved, I swore to never upgrade to XP and in a way I succeeded because XP x64 is really just Windows Server 2003 x64 with another name. Some apps even identify it as the Server OS since it bears the same NT build number of NT v5.2.

The reason I finally upgraded was so I could access all of my new system’s 8GB of RAM, and also because I was getting tired of writing Win2K fixes for games like Bioshock and Crysis. ;-)
But from the very beginning of the transition I was disappointed; XP x64, when handling large files would slow down to a crawl.

I tried in vain to look for a solution, to give you an example: I’ve got a RAID5 array with 3 x 1TB hard drives and a lone Raptor 150GB for the OS. If I played back a 1080p trailer off Apple’s site stored to my hard drive using Quicktime Alternative the video would start to skip massively if at the same time I copied a large file from the RAID5 array to my Raptor disk, or extracted a file using WinRAR in the same manner.

Of course this is not the only problem, just an easy way to reproduce it. When I extracted large files I noticed that the Task Manager did not report memory being used under its graph, however the counter for available memory under ‘Physical Memory’ would go down a whole lot, using as much as 4GB of RAM when copying files at least that large!

This in itself is not an issue when memory is freely available as it’s a good idea to use it for cache. However something in the design of Windows causes it to be detrimental to performance. It wasn’t until I started using the Performance Monitor (perfmon) that I realized what the problem was and came upon a solution. When I monitored the system I noticed excessive Page Faults and Lazy Writes which would peak as performance dropped. So the reason for the slow performance is that when the file is cached in RAM it causes massive page faults, which also needs to be committed to the disk, which leads to disk trashing.

The issue gets more pronounced the larger the difference is between the disk that reads and writes, in the case of my system the RAID5 array has a read capacity of 160MB/sec, but the Raptor can only write at ca 70MB/sec. So therefore when reading a large file it takes only seconds to fill the cache. At which point the performance of my computer plummets, even browsing the start menu or opening the Control Panel takes ages, if I try to open the Add/Remove Programs applet which is filled with stuff it actually never opens until the copy process is completed!

After all this trouble looking for the solution I finally found the KB article that explains this issue:

You may experience a decrease in overall system performance when you are copying files that are larger than approximately 500 MB in Windows Server 2003 SP1 or in Windows Server 2003 SP2

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Per Hansson

January 6th, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Cool wallpaper from Microsoft’s PDC

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One thing to love about upcoming operating systems and its public beta releases is that eventually feature details and design elements leak and get distributed all over the web. You may remember how there were several prospective default wallpapers for Vista that made it to the web months before the OS release. Something similar has happened with OS X releases which also come with great wallpapers out of the box.

Now Microsoft is expected to unleash the first public preview of Windows 7 at their Professional Developers Conference this week. Some details have leaked already, but nothing to share just yet in terms of UI elements except for this PDC wallpaper that all computers at the conference are using (courtesy of istartedsomething). I have been using it for the past few hours and I had to recommend it. Nice colors, blends well and is a bit flashy (Vista style) without being too distracting.

Written by Julio Franco

October 28th, 2008 at 6:03 am

Use the Windows Embedded Theme on XP and Server 2003 (without patching)

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Windows XP has to be the most tweakable and skinnable piece of software ever created. Of course, how to compete with such a dominant and widely used operating system, but then again it might also be its light blue fisher price-like theme that gets in everybody’s nerves eventually.

For some of us, upgrading to Vista has been somewhat of a relief. The rest of Windows users still using XP have probably either gone back to the silver boxy Windows or relied on official or third party patching for getting the job done. Unfortunately last time I checked (a couple of years ago), even the most elaborate skins for popular applications like WindowBlinds lack the finish and subtlety I require.

But don’t despair. My advice, use some of the Microsoft-made themes that replace the original blue theme and make for a much better impression than the built-in silver or green themes.

Windows Embedded Theme for Windows XP/2003

Previously available themes include:
Royale Noir (by far my favorite)
Zune theme

Now also available (thanks to Sizzled Core), the Windows Embedded theme that uses a strong blue but still looks quite good IMO.

Notice neither of these require UxTheme.dll patching or other workarounds.

Written by Julio Franco

October 13th, 2008 at 6:40 am

Gates and Seinfeld – Part Two

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If you didn’t get the first one… wait, there wasn’t much to get. If you didn’t like the first one, perhaps things will take better shape now, or eventually:

Written by Julio Franco

September 13th, 2008 at 5:14 am

Speed up Vista using Firefox 3 Beta

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If like me, you spend a sizable amount of your computer time on a web browser, you can forget about RAM or processor upgrades, it’s software where the hole was all this time.

First let me tell you that I’m an avid fan of trying new web browsers, or at least new versions of today’s traditional browsers like Firefox, Opera, IE and Safari, that includes betas and release candidates. But because I had grown so comfortable with my Firefox extensions and overall set up, I was ultimately drawn away from using experimental builds on a daily basis. It’s not until lately that I have seen a large number of Firefox add-ons ported to the Beta version (currently Beta 4) and so I thought it was time for another spin.

Seriously, the browser is speedy. I had previously experienced the improvements in Beta 1, I got a few random crashes then, but no more. I can tell you that on my desktop machine that is currently running Windows Vista on an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, I’m feeling a difference in speed that is way more palpable than when I upgraded from a dual core Athlon CPU, I had less RAM and was running on an older platform. I also have most of my extensions installed, so the comparison is more or less apples to apples. With a load of tabs divided in two windows, and many other programs running at the same time, the mere change in browser suddenly is making for a much smoother working experience.
In fact, I’m currently writing this on Firefox 3 Beta 4 Portable which let’s me run a standalone copy of the browser without sacrificing my older Firefox 2 install, so in case I want to roll back, it’s a non-issue.

I have also tried Internet Explorer 8 in Vista and it does offer similar speed improvements. Likewise, Safari 3.1 on OS X also welcomed me with better performance, but neither of those can replace Firefox for me. Opera lovers must also forgive me but I have not downloaded the latest Opera version yet, although just this past weekend I saw fellow editor Erik Orejuela running a gazillion tabs on it, probably more than Firefox 2 can handle without crashing (he switched after the 2.0.11 fiasco).

My recommendation, give Firefox 3 beta a try now and see how it works for you. Many of the most popular extensions are now usable on the beta (BTW, there is a newly revamped add-ons site). Somehow it seems all browser developers felt the need for speed on this iteration, so you can choose your browser flavor if FF is not your thing.

Written by Julio Franco

March 31st, 2008 at 4:55 am

Vista crashing in the most simple of tasks

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So let me rant for a bit. After defending Windows Vista, not because I like Microsoft but because based on my experiences I have had relatively few problems with the OS, last night I saw it giving me a deja vu of the early Win95 days!

A solid install of Vista now running SP1 was put to the test… burning a data DVD with 1GB worth of files. The result? A 15 minute wait, followed by a hard crash (that is, I had to manually shut down my system to restart). I can forgive all the driver incompatibilities you want, but DVD burning? Good thing, Nero finally works well with Vista.

Written by Julio Franco

March 20th, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Bill Gates life after retirement (CES video)

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Written by Julio Franco

January 7th, 2008 at 3:39 am

Reboot or Shutdown from Remote Desktop Connection

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If you have ever feel frustrated because you have been unable to reboot a machine from a remote location (using Microsoft’s own RDC), here’s a solution. While I recall having the option to send a Ctrl+Alt+Del to the remote machine that doesn’t seem to be available in most recent versions of the software, or at least not in the obvious places.

So, what you are left with right now is disconnect and log off options. To be able to reboot or shutdown the remote system you can call up the Command Prompt (cmd.exe) or just type the following in XP’s Run or in Vista’s search line that also serves the purpose of launching programs:

“shutdown -f” to shutdown
“shutdown -r -f” to reboot
“shutdown -i -f” to get a GUI
“shutdown -l -f” to logoff

Written by Julio Franco

December 24th, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Welcome to the social 2.0, new Zunes available

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This will be making it to the TechSpot frontpage in a matter of hours but until then, for those of you that simply refuse going the iPod’s way (not many of you I must add), Microsoft has revamped its line of Zune players with new smaller, flash-based players that are meant to compete with the iPod nano (similar pricing, too), plus a new flagship player called the Zune 80 which comes with an internal 80gb HDD (go figure!).

microsoft zune

The real good news… older Zune players will be upgradeable to the newest software and enjoy everything the newer models have to offer. Apple could learn from this by at least adding features such as search to the older iPods (I own one of the first batches of iPod Videos that don’t have this, although I’m sure the hardware is capable).

Written by Julio Franco

October 3rd, 2007 at 8:56 am

Posted in microsoft

Cleartype font smoothing using Remote Desktop Connection

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If you rely on a remote connection client to get access to your files at the office or from your home, chances are you have probably tried using the client built-in into Windows called Remote Desktop Connection (also Terminal Services Client).

Personally, I don’t like opening up my main PC to the Internet but only to those computers on my local LAN (which only I use). So I use RDC to access my desktop when I’m in bed or somewhere else around the house using my laptop. The biggest gripe of using RDC (which has been way improved since Windows 2000 days) was that I couldn’t use any font smoothing (Cleartype in Windows) so reading documents or browsing the web on an LCD screen was adequate at best.

Well, it just happens that with the latest update of the RDC client (6.0) for Windows XP and Server 2003 that dates back to November, you can now use font smoothing as long as the client PC is running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008. I just noticed about the change over the last few weeks, so now I’m happily writing this from my laptop running the RDC client connected to my main PC…

Over a LAN it’s not any slower than with Cleartype off, plus it should save some battery on the laptop since I’m not accessing the hard drive or processing stuff on the laptop itself, and my desktop PC is much much faster in the first place.

If you don’t have the latest RDC client installed you can download it here, and enable font smoothing using these instructions:

To enable font smoothing, follow these steps:
1.    Click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, click Communication, and then click Remote Desktop Connection.
2.    Click Options, click the Experience tab, and then click to select the Font smoothing check box.

A complete list of features on the latest version of Remote Desktop Connection can be found here.

Written by Julio Franco

October 1st, 2007 at 12:47 am