SolutionBase: Turbocharge Windows XP with NitroXP

Fine-tuning Windows XP can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. Don't try to figure out the appropriate registry fixes on your own; let NitroXP help point you in the right direction. Luke Swagger shows how it works.

Windows XP is a good operating system, but getting it to perform at peak capacity can sometimes be a frustrating affair. You have so many options when it comes to tuning the system that sometimes it's hard to figure out where to begin. That's where a product like NitroXP comes in handy. With it you can fine tune Windows XP on your workstation and squeeze a few more drops of performance out of it. Here's how it works.

What's NitroXP and how do I get it?

NitroXP is a shareware offering from RoadSide Software. It provides an easy way to optimize several aspects of Windows XP. Some of the areas you can tweak include:

  • Internet usage
  • Memory usage
  • Shutdown problems

You can download a trial version of NitroXP from RoadSide Software's NitroXP Web page. The trial version is fully active for 30 day trial period. You can register the program for $19.95.

The file you'll download, NXP.EXE, is only 1.1Mb in size, so it won't take too long to transmit. Save it to a temporary directory on your workstation and you're ready to begin. NitroXP installs using a typical Windows Setup Wizard, so you won't encounter any gotchas. Just follow the prompts and it will install normally.

Running NitroXP

After installing NitroXP, you can start it by clicking Start | All Programs | NitroXP NitroXP. You'll see the initial Welcome screen appear. Here you can go through the tutorial, view the help screen, or connect to the Web site's technical support area.

In the left pane of the window, you'll see three choices: Internet Tweaks, Memory Tweaks, and Shutdown Tweaks. To go from section to section, just click the appropriate tweak.

The Internet Tweaks allows you to tune TCP/IP on your computer. Based on your connection speed, you may need to change things like MTU size or other factors and NitroXP can help you do that easily. By default the Windows Default radio button is selected. If you know the speed of your connection, you can select the appropriate radio button and click Apply and the changes will be made.

You can also select Automatic Settings and click Start Test Now. NitroXP will then test your connection and suggest a recommended setting. If you want to accept the recommendation, click Apply.

Many shutdown problems arise because programs don't unload from memory fast enough during shutdown. Windows will wait a designated number of seconds before automatically killing them. This default is 20 seconds, and, if there are a number of processes running, killing them all can take some time. On the Shutdown Tweaks page, you can decrease the length of time Windows XP waits before killing a process by adjusting the slider bar. You can also disable the shutdown sounds by clicking the appropriate button. Click Apply to make the settings stick.

The Memory Tweaks page allows you to quickly tune Windows XP memory usage. For example, you can adjust the size of your pagefile here without going through My Computer.

The memory gauge shows how much free memory is in your system. As long as your system is running in the green zone, you're fine. If the needle is in the red zone, then you can click Optimize RAM Now. That will swap data out of RAM and into the pagefile recovering RAM for your system. It will also help clear zombie processes that may be consuming needed RAM.

NitroXP gotchas

NitroXP is pretty easy to use, but make sure you read the help file and check the tutorial before randomly playing around with it. It's easy to cause problems on your system. For example, during testing on the Memory Tweaks page, I told Nitro XP to recover RAM down to 1MB. Yes, that was a silly choice, but NitroXP did as it was told. It quickly brought my test machine to its knees trying to accommodate the request. There was no permanent damage, but the only way I could fix the problem was to restart the system.

Quick and easy tuning

NitroXP isn't very complicated and provides an easy way to tune some aspects of your system. At the same time, if you're not careful you can also cause yourself problems. Although you can do many of the same things using Group Policy in a networked environment, NitroXP can be a useful tool for some quick tuning.