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I decided we'd jump right in and do something a little more advanced, adjust the vcache. Start by going here www.tweakfiles.com/memory/cacheman.html and downloading Cacheman. While that's going on...
A little explanation is in order. Your computer uses many types of cache memory. Your CPU probably has at least two or three types. Your hard drive has cache memory. The swap file is a type of cache. Your browser has a caching feature for graphics and web pages. The vcache is the Windows version of the disk cache. This is an area of your RAM Windows puts aside to store bits of programs and data. It's always there, in your memory. And it can grow and grow. Windows does not limit the size that vcache can attain, and sometimes has trouble reducing it when a large size is no longer needed. With a bloated vcache, your effective free memory is reduced. Also, the constant resizing of the vcache costs processor cycles.
Vcache is analogous to the swap file we discussed yesterday. However, vcache is right there in your physical memory, not on the hard drive. And it's not quite as easy to alter. They are related, however, in that improper use of the vcache can cause rampant swap filing.
Okay, done downloading? Cacheman is a program that lets you go in and change your min and max vcache settings manually. It also displays your free memory, swap file usage, and free system resources. It has presets, lets you save configurations (the newest version 3.80 does), and has a nice tutorial in the help menu. I won't go into every function contained therein. You can investigate that yourself. Also, please note that cacheman is really just a nice GUI for something you can do yourself in msconfig. But it's a quick download, an easy install, has a fine interface, and doesn't require that you have it on at startup to function. So, why not?
Okay, unzip it and install it. Now activate it. You see three sliders in the middle listed as Minimal Disk Cache, Maximum Disk Cache, and Chunk Size (note: chunk size is only available in win98, win95 does not use chunks). Above are the various meters, below are File Cache settings. Now here again is where the contention begins. I went ahead and browsed the Tweakfiles message boards concerning cacheman settings, and found tons of differing responses. There is no doubt, the most important thing of all is that you're using your own stable vcache settings in the first place (instead of letting Windows do what it wants). Second in order of importance is setting the minimum and maximum settings to the same value, although a few of Cacheman's built-in settings have unequal settings. Here again is what I have my home system (128 MB RAM) as: Min. 16384 Kb, Max. 16384 Kb, Chunk 512 Kb.
Chunk size is sort of what it sounds like, the size of the pieces that the vcache is divided into. You must find a balance between having too small a Chunk size (data must fit into too many small chunks) and too large a Chunk size (space may be wasted as the data tries to fill the huge chunks).
16 MB (16384 Kb) is often seen as ideal for a 128 MB machine, as is 512 Kb for Chunk Size. I went to 18 MB and a slightly larger chunk size. Why? Oh, I don't know, just felt like it, I guess. For 64 MB machines, try a 512 Kb Chunk with 10240 Kb Cache. Try playing around with the presets in Cacheman. Learn a little something there. Do benchmarks, and see how your machine runs.
If it sounds a little like there's an element of chance and guessing here (like cooking; a pinch of this and a dash of that...), you're not far off. I've just found that my system runs pretty optimally the way I have it set right now, and generally, my research on Tweakfiles' boards supports that conclusion for other 128 MB machines. What about 32 MB machines? Well, you'll have to set your vcache to much smaller than you would for a 64 or 128 Meg machine. You're still optimizing here, but you're limited in what you can do. Such is the problem with such a limited amount of memory. I suggest a 4 MB cache and 256 Kb Chunk--start there, anyway. What about those machines that sport 256 MB or more? Well, I'd say bump up the vcache, but not by all that much. Maybe to 24 MB, and keep the Chunk size at 768 Kb or thereabouts. Some people recommend much higher settings. I have rather limited experience with Cacheman on 256 MB machines, but you also may be able to find some info on Tweakfiles' message boards--just do a search for "cacheman" and you'll be good to go. Also, and this may be a big point, the optimal settings for your machine might also depend on what you use your PC for and even what you're currently using it for.
Keep in mind, however, that the preset vcache you set aside is memory that is no longer free. If you set a min and max 64.5 MB vcache, and you have a 128 MB machine, then the available memory is suddenly MUCH lower, by 64.5 MB. So be reasonable. Windows does use large amounts of vcache itself, left to its own devices, so an 8 or 16 MB vcache sucking away from your RAM is kind of misleading.
Save your settings to a config file. You may want to restart your computer at this point, although that's not strictly required. To disable Cacheman, just hit "Disable..." under Settings. We may worry about the bottom two settings in some other tip, but they don't affect performance as much as the vcache. Play around. You can't damage anything using Cacheman. Read the help file, too. And remember that Cacheman is Postcardware!
There! You've optimized your vcache. Or at least you've started to.
Written by kevynwight from Maxcommport.
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