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Secret Performance Improvement October 5, 2002

Whenever you read how to improve the performance of your computer the most common method is to add more memory. And they are correct. It's the cheapest and easiest way to speed up your computer. The one method rarely, if ever, discussed is adding a second disk drive. If they do mention the disk drive they don't tell you how to best use that second drive.

The basic idea is to distribute the load over the two disk drives. The idea here is to take the two most active functions and put them on separate disk drives. We at WindowsAssistance have no hard (pun intended) data for how we decided to split up the disk drives but it does work. The method we will discuss is use by WindowsAssistance on it's computers.


In order to apply the methods we will discuss here you will have to reload applications and transfer data. This may not be easy for you and therefore we recommend you get a geek friend to help you. This is not rocket science but it does take a little understanding of the process and the requirement to get into the computer box to installed your new second disk drive. Read this article first before you do anything. If any part of the procedure is confusing then either e-mail WindowsAssistance and ask us or get that geek friend to explain.

The primary disk drive or C: is where Windows is located. The second disk drive has everything else: applications, data, virtual memory, and temporary directories.

The C: drive

Currently your C: drive is the only disk drive you have in your computer. If not you still need to set it up properly. The only thing you will install on the C: drive is Windows. To make the change over easier leave your applications on the C: drive. Later you may wish to move them to your second drive.

The Second Disk-Drive

The second disk drive needs to be divided into 3 partitions. Partition 1 is for applications. Partition 2 is for data only. Partition 3 will have the swapfile or virtual memory and the temporary directories. How many partitions you use is up to you but it is a must that the swapfile or virtual memory have it's own partition. The only additional usage for this partition would be the temporary directories.

We do recommend a separate partition for all your data. Why? Easier to find and much easier to backup. And if more than one person is using the computer then create a partition for each user.

figure 1: Control Panel
figure 1: Control Panel
figure 2: no page file
figure 2: no paging file
figure 3: page file
figure 3: system managed size
figure4: Environmental Settings
figure 4: Environmental Settings
figure 5: Internet Temporary Files
figure 5: Internet Temporary Files

Defragmenting Only What's Needed

One advantage to separate partitions is during cleanup when you need to run ScanDisk and defragment your disk drives. If your applications are on a separate partition that partition generally never needs to be defragmented. The partition with the swapfile or virtual memory is never defragmented. And the partition with your data need only occasionally be defragmented. The only place where defragmenting is needed on a regular bases is the operating system. So if your applications, data, and virtual memory are located somewhere else a great amount of time is saved by just defragmenting the Windows operating system itself. A 6 or 8 Gigabyte disk drive can be defragmented MUST faster than a 40 GigaByte disk drive.

The Big Time Saver

The primary reason for the second disk drive is to move the swapfile or virtual memory off the same disk drive as the operating system. Why? Because the operating system and the virtual memory are the two most accessed areas. If they are both are on the same disk drive then only one area can be access while the other waits. If the two are on separate disk drives then while one is reading data off it's disk drive the other can be locating data. Both operations, reading and seeking, going on at the same time. More efficient and faster.

Moving Virtual Memory To The Second Disk

Moving data over to it's own partition involves copying the data. Moving your applications involves un-installing then installing on the second disk drive. Remember - use separate partitions for data and applications. Setting up your virtual memory on the new second drive involves going to your system properties. Here's how.

From the Control Panel --> Performance and Maintenance --> System --> Advanced tab --> Performance section --> Settings --> Advanced tab --> Change.

Except for the partition being used for the swapfile or virtual memory they all should be set for No Paging File (see figure 2.)

We also recommend that you allow Windows to manage the size of virtual memory (see figure 3.)

Temporary Directories

Another option is to use the same partition as your virtual memory for your temporary directories. Their are system temp and Internet Explorer temp locations.

For the system temp directories go to: Control Panel --> Performance and Maintenance --> System --> Advanced tab --> Environmental Settings (see figure 4.) Change both the Temp and Tmp variables to use the same partition as your virtual memory.

Additional option is to use the virtual memory partition to store Internet Temporary Files. From Internet Explorer: Tools menu --> Internet Options --> Temporary Internet Files: Settings --> Move Folder. (see figure 5.)

Lastly - System Backup

WindowsAssistance recommends that System Backup be disabled for all partitions except for C:. That's because the operating system is the only thing that needs to be backed up. Again having multiple partitions will save you a lot of space and time.

To change System Backup go to Control Panel --> Performance and Maintenance --> System --> Advanced tab