Cutting The Fat

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How to get a WindowsXP installation lean and mean. – Brent Kuckkan

—- Disclaimer —-

Most people here I’m sure are capable of all that this procedure entails, if you’re not though, don’t do it. How do you know if you are capable? Well, most people know when they are a “Power User” but for the sake of this, if something doesn’t even sound remotely familiar, don’t do it. Windows XP has gone to great lengths to make sure you don’t screw anything up… most of this article involves undoing those great lengths, so in the future if you do screw something up, you’re screwed.

—- Disclaimer —-

I got a laptop for college and it came with Windows XP. Now not knowing anything about it, I thought it’d be an interesting thing to give a whirl. I must say I’m fairly impressed with it on a whole, outside of getting a virus (which can’t be entirely attributed to Windows… although I haven’t heard any reports of KLEZ getting Linux, another story though).

Anyway, outside of the virus it’s been pretty stable; sometimes even staying on for weeks at a time. Not bad for a laptop that has a tendency to run quite warm.

I do have one complaint though: It’s FAT. The system restore that came with it is 5 CDs, and that didn’t include Word or Office Suites. Even with a plain system stripped of all the useless crap that comes on computers nowadays, I’m still at 3.66 GB on drive C:. Ideally I’ll cut it to less than 1.5 GB, so at 50% compression I can take an image and fit it onto a CD.

(A little clarification, I have already installed some apps, and at the time I decided to write this my system’s been in use for the last month, so it’s not an entirely clean install.)

Alright, let’s get into it!

My first method of attack: Windows Page File. Windows XP uses a monstrous page file; the default is 768 MB – 1536 Mb. Quickest and easiest way to be rid of that: Get out your utility disk, create a partition and statically assign virtual memory to your new ‘swapdrive’. Here’s how:

From the control panel open the “System” display (or just right-click my computer and select properties) from here select “Advanced” tab-> performance “Settings” button -> “Advanced” tab in “Performance Options” window -> “Change” in “Virtual Memory” box.

Here’s where you’ll reassign the page file. My partition is drive F:. So I select drive C: and choose “No paging file”, then elect F: and enter in the custom boxes. To set it at a static amount, simply enter the same amount for both the min and max.

While this is a whole other article’s debate, a good rule of thumb is to set the page file for twice your amount of RAM; although your mileage may vary. (One other note: If you’ve installed TweakUI, I recommend turning off low disk space notification – it’s rather annoying if you have a swap-drive setup).

There, down to 2.66 GB.

Next up, System Restore. To some this may be a handy feature, but to me, well the whole reason I’m doing this cleanup is so I can use my own system restore in the form of Power Quest’s Drive Image (a handy imaging utility.)

For this we’re back in “System Properties” (right click “my computer” -> “properties”) except this time select “System Restore” tab. Here again Windows can be a pig, using up to 12% of your hard drives. In my case it got about 250 Mb. Simply check the “Turn off System Restore” and instantly more free space.

Down to 2.4

Next is Windows File Protection. At this point I feel it necessary to say don’t do this if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you do, then journey on. First we must turn off WFP, to do this open the registry editor, and in “HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsNTCurrentVersionWinlogon” select the “SFCDisable ” name and set it’s value equal to 1. Also for good measure set SFCquota to 0. You must now restart.

After restarting, open C:windowssystem32dllcache and delete everything. These are simply backup copies of windows system files… handy for the person deleting things they shouldn’t, more disk space for those that know what they’re doing. I cut out another 50 MB here.

Down to 2.35 GB.

Next we have the I386 Folder. Here again, unless space is of a premium, leave it alone. In many ways it’s similar to the old Windows CABs directory – it’s a lot of non-operational files that are drivers in waiting. It also contains backup files of files located in the system32 directory. Having deleted mine, I’ve had no issues I’m aware of, but that’s not to say you may not be better off keeping it.

I tend to download the latest drivers for everything in my computer and burn them all to CD, so a drivers folder is somewhat worthless to me anyway. Simply delete the folder. Or better yet, just move it to a different drive, perhaps a 3rd or 4th partition is in order. At the least I recommend making a CD with the contents of this folder on it.

Down to 1.95 GB

Emptying my Temp Internet Files cleared away another 100 MB or so, combined with a few other cleanup tasks in “C:Documents and Settings”

Down to 1.85 GB; getting close now.

After looking through my program files on the C: drive, I discovered a couple that were installed accidentally there and was able to clear another 400 Mb.

1.45 GB – I made it under my goal.

Granted I had to scrap an awful lot to do it, Just by using your partitions wisely it is possible to create an imageable C: (Just fits on CD – 695 Mb with full compression) for those times when a virus or major error does sneak through… cause “Hey, it ain’t Linux… ;)”

Appendix… Just thought you may like to see my partition structure

C: – 4 GB stores my Windows files, a few utilities, most of my Microsoft products (they function much better on C:) Approx 2.5 GB free

D: – 10 GB Home to the majority of my programs, plus a copy of my image from C:, mostly as a backup should I ever lose the CD… if I ever need the space I’ll delete the image file. Approx. 6 GB free

E: – CD-ROM drive

F: – 5 GB Music/Other media Drive; my shared directory in Kazaa. Approx 2 GB free

G: – 1 GB Swap-drive Full (by design)

Brent Kuckkan


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