Although your computer spends 99.9% of the time waiting for you to do something, what concerns us is that other 0.1% of the time when 12 seconds can seem like an eternity.
A common misconception is that a computer with a faster processor, say 1.1 GHz, will automatically be faster than, say, a 600-MHz system. While the increased processor speed is an obvious benefit in some specific circumstances, such as when performing intensive statistical calculations, using 3D modeling software, or playing some high-end games, the real-world performance of a computer is really measured differently.
In most cases, our qualitative assessment of a computer’s speed is based on its ability to respond immediately to mouse clicks and keystrokes, start applications quickly, open menus and dialog boxes without a delay, start up and shut down Windows quickly, and display graphics and animation smoothly. For the most part, all of these things depend more upon correctly optimized software, the amount of installed memory, and the amount of free disk space than on raw processor power.
Because financial limitations prevent most of us from simply buying new hardware every three months, most of this chapter is devoted to solutions that will help improve the performance of your existing system without requiring any additional monetary investment. For example, the way Windows uses the swap file (virtual memory) can be inefficient, and dealing with this bottleneck can result ...