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Improving Hard Disk Performance

Both internal and external hard disk performance in Windows Vista can be boosted by tweaking settings in Device Manager. By using the Policies tab on both types of hard disks, you can enable or improve write-behind caching.

Write-behind caching returns control of the system to you while the hard disk is still writing data, enabling you to perform other tasks without waiting for the last data-write process to complete. By default, Windows disables write-behind caching on external hard disks connected to hot-swap ports such as USB or FireWire. The reason? You can disconnect the hard disk from these ports at any time, and Mama Microsoft doesn’t want you to lose any data. However, if you’re already accustomed to using the Safely Remove Hardware control in the taskbar to disconnect your USB or FireWire hard disk, you should enable write-behind caching.

To enable write-behind caching on an external hot-swap hard disk:

  1. Open Device Manager (it’s available from the Tasks pane of the System properties sheet).
  2. Expand the Disk Drives category.
  3. Select your external disk drive (a USB drive will have "USB" as part of the device name).
  4. Click the Policies tab (Figure 5).
    Figure 5

    Figure 5 Select Optimize for Performance to improve the performance of an external USB or FireWire (IEEE-1394) hard disk.

  5. Click Optimize for Performance (Figure 5).
  6. Click OK.
  7. You must restart your computer after selecting this option before it becomes active. Click Yes to restart your computer now, or No if you will restart your computer later.

Be sure to use Safely Remove Hardware (Figure 6) to stop your hard disk before you disconnect it.

Figure 6

Figure 6 You must use Safely Remove Hardware to stop your hard disk before disconnecting it to avoid data loss.

By default, Windows Vista uses write-behind caching for internal hard disks. However, if you use a notebook computer or a desktop system connected to a battery backup, consider "kicking it up a notch" by enabling Advanced Performance:

  1. Open Device Manager.
  2. Expand the Disk Drives category.
  3. Select your internal disk drive.
  4. Click the Policies tab (Figure 7).
    Figure 7

    Figure 7 Enabling Advanced Performance improves internal hard disk performance.

  5. Click the Enable Advanced Performance checkbox.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Repeat Steps 3-6 for additional internal hard disk drives.
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