While troubleshooting a virtual memory glitch on a Windows XP system recently, I discovered that the problem was a conflict between Windows XP and the specific Intel chipset on the motherboard. I resolved the problem by installing the Intel Application Accelerator. I was surprised to discover an overall increase in system performance as well—not only was the system more responsive, but it also booted up faster.
I learned that, in addition to resolving conflicts, the Intel Application Accelerator is designed to reduce the storage subsystem bottleneck, thus enabling faster delivery of data from the hard drive to the processor and other system-level hardware. I also discovered that you can apply the Intel Application Accelerator to a number of Windows operating systems running on computers with certain Intel chipsets.
In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll investigate the Intel Application Accelerator in more detail. As I do, I’ll tell you what Intel chipsets it’s designed for, what operating systems you can apply it to, and what steps you may need to take before you install it. I’ll then show you how to install and use the Intel Application Accelerator.
The Intel chipsets
The Intel Application Accelerator is only designed for specific 800-series Intel chipsets installed in motherboards containing the Pentium 4, Pentium III, Pentium II, Celeron, Xeon, Pentium III Xeon, or Pentium II Xeon processor CPUs. These supported chipsets are listed in the table in Listing A.
Intel chipsets only
Keep in mind that installing the Intel Application Accelerator on any chipset other than those specifically listed in Listing A may cause adverse effects in Windows.
Other system requirements
In addition to the specific Intel chipsets listed above, the Intel Application Accelerator has several other hardware and software system requirements. First, you can install the package in Windows 98/98SE/Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP Home and Professional. Windows 95 is not supported.
The Intel Application Accelerator is designed to work on a system that contains and supports Ultra ATA/66 or Ultra ATA/100 drives. Furthermore, to get the most out of the Intel Application Accelerator, the drive should be connected using a 40-pin, 80-conductor IDE cable.
Determining which Intel chipset is in your computer
The quickest and easiest way to determine which Intel chipset is installed on your motherboard is to download and run the Intel Chipset Identification Utility. When you follow this link, you’ll be taken to a page on the Intel site, and the download will begin immediately. Be sure to select the Save button in the File Download dialog box.
This will save the file ChipUtil1.exe in a folder you designate during the download procedure. The Intel Chipset Identification Utility is a standalone utility that doesn’t require any installation whatsoever. To run the utility, simply double-click the executable file.
Once you run the Intel Chipset Identification Utility, you’ll see a report window like the one shown in Figure A. As you can see, the utility identified the chipset on my example system as the 815 chipset family, which is indeed in the list shown in Listing A.
|Using the Intel Chipset Identification Utility is the quickest and easiest way to determine exactly which Intel chipset is installed on your motherboard.|
The Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility
Once you’ve confirmed that the Intel Application Accelerator supports the Intel chipset on your system, you must determine whether you need to use the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility in order to install the Intel Application Accelerator.
Windows NT doesn’t need the Installation Utility
If you’re running Windows NT 4.0, you don’t need to use the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility. Surprisingly, Windows NT 4.0 natively identifies all the Intel chipsets supported by the Intel Application Accelerator.
The Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility is basically a helper application that helps certain operating systems properly identify certain chipsets. If the operating system can’t identify the chipset, the Intel Application Accelerator won’t install correctly. To do its job, the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility installs INF files that the operating system can use to properly configure the chipset for use by Windows and by the Intel Application Accelerator.
To determine if your operating system version needs assistance in correctly identifying your system’s specific chipset, check out the information presented on the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility Web page. If you determine that you need to use the utility, you can then download it by clicking on the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility’s download Web site. Installing the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility is easy. Just double-click the executable file and follow the online instructions. During the installation, you’ll need to reboot your system several times.
Depending on your system configuration, installing the Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility can cause a few minor errors to pop up. However, solutions to each one of these possible errors are documented in the Intel Application Accelerator – User’s Manual.
The Intel Application Accelerator package
When you’re ready, download the Intel Application Accelerator from the Intel site. At the time of this writing, the current version of the package is 2.2.2. This version is designed to run on Windows 98/98SE/Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP Home and Professional.
Once you download the software, you may also want to download the Intel Application Accelerator – User’s Manual, which is formatted as an Adobe PDF file. When you arrive at the manual Web page, you can read the manual online or download it. Of course, Adobe Acrobat Reader must be installed on your computer. To download the manual, just right-click the appropriate language version and select the Save Target As command.
Installing the Intel Application Accelerator
After you download the package, just double-click the Iaa222_enu.exe executable file. When you do, you’ll see the first screen in the Intel Application Accelerator Setup wizard. When you click Next, you’ll see the license agreement page. After you peruse this information, you need to click Yes to continue. Next you’ll see the Choose Destination Location page. In most circumstances you’ll want to accept the default destination. However, if you want, you can click the Browse button and choose another location. When you click Next, Setup will install the package and keep you apprised of the installation procedure. Once the installation is complete, you’ll be prompted to restart your computer.
Important: Uninstall before XP upgrade
It’s imperative that you uninstall the Intel Application Accelerator before you upgrade to Windows XP. If you upgrade to Windows XP with the Intel Application Accelerator installed, the Windows XP installation procedure will replace the accelerator with Microsoft’s native DMA driver and you’ll be unable to use the Intel Application Accelerator. In some cases, you may even be unable to uninstall the accelerator. After you uninstall the accelerator, you can upgrade your system to Windows XP. Once the upgrade is complete, you can reinstall the Intel Application Accelerator.
Confirming the installation
Once the Intel Application Accelerator is installed, you can confirm the installation procedure by examining your system configuration. To do so, access Device Manager by opening the Control Panel and double-clicking the System tool. Once you see the System Properties dialog box, select the Hardware tab and click the Device Manager button in Windows 2000 and Windows XP. In Windows 98/98SE/Me, you’ll simply select the Device Manager tab. Once you have Device Manager open, open the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers branch in Windows 2000 and Windows XP or the Hard Disk Controllers branch in Windows 98/98SE/Me. At this point, you should see the controller identified as an Ultra ATA controller.
Figure B shows the before and after views on my Windows XP test system. As you can see in the before picture, the hard disk controller is listed as an Intel 82801BA Bus Master IDE Controller, while in the after picture the controller is listed as an Intel 82801BA Ultra ATA IDE Controller. This indicates that the Intel Application Accelerator driver is installed and is now allowing the hard disk controller to operate at its full potential. This also means that the hard disk will be able to boot the operating system faster, as well as boost the transfer rates when loading applications or manipulating data files.
|Once the Intel Application Accelerator is installed, you’ll see the hard disk controller identified as an Ultra ATA controller.|
After you install the Intel Application Accelerator, you’ll find its associated application on your Start menu. When you launch the application, you’ll see its main window, which contains a tree view of all drives attached to the system. When you select a drive in the tree, you’ll see a list of the parameters currently in effect for that particular drive, as shown in Figure C.
|Selecting a drive in the tree reveals a list of the parameters, or settings, for that particular drive.|
As you look at the list of parameters in Figure C, notice that Transfer Mode Limit and Auto-Acoustic Management parameters have a wrench icon. This icon indicates that you can adjust these parameters. Keep in mind that the default settings are usually sufficient and don’t need adjustment. However, you may want to change a parameter’s settings in some circumstances.
One such circumstance is configuring individual Transfer Mode Limit settings for different devices on the same cable. As you may know, in the past, if two devices on the same IDE cable had different data transfer rates, the slowest transfer rate took precedence for compatibility reasons. In other words, if an ATA/100 hard disk were on the same cable as an ATA/33 CD-ROM drive, the ATA/100 device would transfer data at the speed of the ATA/33 device.
However, the Intel Application Accelerator allows you to individually configure each device so that it operates at its optimal speed. Of course, adjusting these settings requires a thorough understanding of each device’s transfer mode specifications. More information can be found in the documentation that came with your device and in the Intel Application Accelerator – Users Manual.
To make this adjustment, simply double-click the Transfer Mode Limit icon to bring up the Edit Value dialog box, as shown in Figure D, and then select the appropriate transfer rate from the Parameter Data drop-down list.
|Changing the Transfer Mode Limit requires that you have a thorough understanding of the device’s transfer mode specifications.|
You can learn more about the Intel Application Accelerator and the other utilities I’ve discussed by reading this article on the Intel site and in the Intel Application Accelerator – User’s Manual.