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  1. #1
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    Disk cleanup and performance improvements?

    Cleaning of a hard drive and performance improvements is a frequently discussed topic, but rarely with any specific target or root cause explanation.

    Years ago, as a young greenhorn, my mentor gave me a important tip: "if you don't understand the problem you can't be certain to have fixed it".

    So, with that in mind, I would like to drill into some detail.

    Before I begin, please understand that this is not an attempt to detract from the reported improvements, but to discuss why such cleaning has a positive effect so that others can benefit.

    OK, here goes:

    My understanding is that a system can only be slowed down in a very few ways:
    • CPU bottleneck - not enough processor power to perform the tasks required
    • I/O bottleneck - fragmented or full disks, bad drivers or other resource latency waiting for data from a storage device
    • Network latency - waiting for a network resource response, be it from the WAN or LAN
    • Insufficient memory - causing excessive disk swapping (arguably a I/O bottleneck)
    • Poorly configured system preferences - asking for system resources that do not exist or cannot support the request - e.g gfx capabilities


    Each has its own sub divisions: for example a network latency may be caused by a malware infection, or a hardware issue. Anyway, assuming I have not missed anything big (please correct me if I have), I would like to reflect on those against the observed performance increases obtained by cleaning and maintenance as suggested.

    Clearly there has been an increase in performance observed, but why? What is is about the removal of log files, setup files, temporary internet files, etc that makes the system run faster?

    If I might offer a few of my own answers to see if they fit the bill....

    Example 1. A system that has high disk utilisation will benefit from a disk clean up because free space is generated which can then be rationalized using a defrag, making the drive work less to access the data. In effect reducing the I/O bottleneck. But that only should a marked effect on a drive that is heavily used.

    Example 2. Many applications come bundled with branding and additional features that are configured to load at startup. This can affect the CPU utilisation and memory utilisation, both of which can have a detrimental effect on performance. Being careful during an installation can often allow one to request not to install additional features. Using msconfig, or 3rd-party apps can get to the root of the issue, buy preventing various startup items from launching. Fine and well, but other than consuming RAM and potentially causing disk swapping, a start up item should not generate a CPU bottleneck after it has loaded.

    Example 3. Browsing the internet may be more responsive if the Temporary Internet Files are rationalised, but the purpose of these files are to provide a local cache to reduce network utilisation, so if there is no local cache, the system must download the files from the web server again. That suggests that a total removal of temporary internet files may actually have a detrimental effect. On the flip side however, if the drive is getting full, removal of these files may improve the disk performance as in Example 1. Also if a corrupt file is located in the cache, removing it would be beneficial to prevent errors.

    Example 4. Network latency is not something that removing data form a drive should affect, but perhaps refreshing the TCP/IP stack may have an effect if one is experiencing slow network browsing or access of data on a network share.

    Example 5. Poorly a poorly configures system can often be helped by resetting some parameters to default, for example internet explorer settings. This isn't really disk cleanup or removal of data, but has been included for completeness.

    So, where does that leave us?

    There are observed performance increases by regularly maintaining a system and/or data drive, but why?

    What are your experiences and understanding?

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  3. #2
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    WOW, a thread that deals with probably my MOST favorite subject, "Garbage Removal" and system performance. (my speciallity)

    "Disk Cleanup" is an MS App has been around since the Windows 98 days, and is ignored by 99.9999% of users.
    The ones who DO use it are the ones where I put it on their Desktop as a part of a weekly Maintenance Routine. (that is IF they do their maintenance)

    I run Disk Cleanup from a desktop shortcut, like this:

    %SystemRoot%\System32\Cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65 & Cleanmgr /sagerun:65

    But, in this form, it has to be RUN by the user, by clicking on the [OK] button after the program starts.
    At least, once I set the things to delete, the program remembers those so the user only has to click on the [OK] button to run the program and remove the preset files. I always tell them: "Don't change anything, just click the [OK] button."

    Now, I'd love to run that line from within my own XPCleanup.bat program, but I'm stuck, with wanting to send an [ENTER] keypress to that command, to operate it automatically.

    So maybe someone knows how I can cause the above command to run within a batch file with NO operator intervention, by simulating an [ENTER] keypress.

    I hope my post will be found to be in line with the original post and not as topic Hijacking.

    Cheers Mates!
    The Doctor
    Last edited by DrWho; 2012-02-19 at 08:39.
    Experience is truly the best teacher.

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  5. #3
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    TIF removal speeds things up because our system does not have to look at all that garbage first before going online and getting new pages. This sounds pretty simplistic, and I am NOT a network guy at all. Many of us now have fast cable connections, at least here in the US. It is faster for us to go to the web and load a fresh page rather than find the old page in history (and hope it's not corrupted) then go out and find a new page and load it and compare the two then refresh the page and utilize resources to do all this while we are doing 3 other things with our PCes, etc. At least TMHO.

    Same thing with all the other garbage that collects on our PCes. Windows tends to like to collect GB of old garbage. It's like a hoarder on steroids. I can see keeping some of the newest lod files, but many have logs files from months or years ago as DrWho has suggested, then wonder why they are running short on disk space.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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  7. #4
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    What a can of worms, WOW!

    Okay, you asked for it.

    1: Disk "Utilization" has IMHO to be separated in three subsets (talking about PCs only!):

    1a: Disk physically full, that is 90% of space or more used: Much of the effect depends on the file system used. FAT machines used to get perceivably slower around 75% to 80% used space and more. I have seen NTFS systems more than 90% full and still running (maybe not great but running).

    Main difference here IMHO the methods the OS uses to access FAT/MFT and from there finding free space and accessing data.

    1b: File fragmentation naturally raises the number of physical read/write head movements and thus can add lots of latency and accesses to other tracks that would be avoided were the disk decently defragmented. Can "kill" some older PATA drives (remember those 30 and 60GB RLL drives?). Regularly defragmenting was a MUST from the beginnings through NT and early XP times.

    Back then the trick was to have a dependable and efficient defragmenter program. MS's own defragmenter was the clumsiest I have ever watched.

    For most defragmenters I remember the rule of thumb was that you needed at least 25% free space for them to work well.

    1c: I/O load: Several disk I/O intensive programs running concurrently and pushing the disk drive to it's physical limits.

    The only remedies I know for that are either a much faster disk drive (Solid State, IMHO the future anyway) or load balancing/distributing (batch instead of concurrently). Yes, I know about RAID but every disk subsystem has a physical throughput limit somewhere.

    2: CPU bottleneck: Generally I see on plain vanilla usage home computers only very few CPU bottlenecks. I leave installations of Service Packs out of scope (W7 SP1 anyone?), they happen too rarely.

    Older XP machines with less than 2.2Ghz P4, older Celeron or Turion CPUs just are sluggish, with almost any amount of RAM. Example with equal RAM, a 2Ghz P4 and a 2Ghz Celeron, main difference the P4 has depending on the model twice to four times the amount of L1 cache built in. The P4 feels significantly "zippier", responses are more immediate. Yes this is human experience, not scientific measurements.

    So far with most Windows systems I have seen more RAM has a much bigger positive effect on performance than a faster CPU. Which seems to show that at least some perceived CPU bottlenecks actually are I/O bottleneck because of paging - see below.

    On modern multi-CPU machines stuff like video editing and rendering or huge spreadsheet computations can show limits of a CPU but I can't comment since I have no experience in these fields.

    3: Network latency: The only problem I ever encountered (besides outages) is slow DNS resolution and bottlenecks beyond my control (like the Chicago bottleneck). The former I solved with OpenDNS (or GoogleDNS if you want), the latter teaches me patience but occurs increasingly seldom.

    My LAN is under my control and thus should never be an issue.

    4: Insufficient memory: Again I believe this is two related but separate issues.

    4a: RAM
    Six or seven years ago XP ran fine with 512MB. The same machine now needs 1GB minimum, better more. For Vista and Win7 4GB IMHO is the minimum for satisfactory performance.

    Do you have any idea how many machines are out there with 3GB dual channel memory? And all because of the limitation of the 32-bit architecture.

    Supposedly we get the full speed of dual channel only when the chips are paired equally by speed and size. So the manufacturers throttled memory accesses knowingly. Ridiculous.

    4b: Page file size
    Have your customers ever called because of the "Insufficient virtual memory" message?

    Microsoft still hangs on to an IMHO ridiculous formula for the page file size. IMHO this always was way too low. I don't know for how many years on XP systems I always set page file size >=2GB or more with no difference between minimum and maximum sizes. Dynamic shrinking and enlarging of the page file are just additional I/Os.

    If disk space is tight I get the space easily by limiting the space for System Restore significantly. This defaults to 15% of the gross disk capacity - which in turn is an absolutely ridiculous value on modern disks of many 100s of GB.

    On Win7 I have not ever even looked at it - yet.

    5: System preferences
    What IMHO is most important I have already mentioned:

    As much RAM as the motherboard will hold (within reason...).

    On XP: Reasonably large minimum page file size.

    On FAT systems keep the disk de-fragmented or convert to NTFS (only after chkdsk and sfc!). And did I mention to keep the disk de-fragmented?

    Especially in older XP systems with certain SIS and or VIA graphics chip sets turn ALL visual effects off! Much of that eye candy seems to be done by the CPU. Grrr.

    Regularly remove leftover temporary files. CCleaner comes to mind as the tool of choice for grown-ups, Auslogics Temporary File Cleaner for my average customer.

    ---------
    I wonder what all I forgot to mention. Can't wait for comments, suggestions and the seemingly in these issues hard to avoid chiming in as in "I am more right than you".
    Last edited by eikelein; 2012-02-19 at 09:03. Reason: Forgot to mention removing temp files
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  9. #5
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    I am sincerely glad that there are so many "smarter" people than me in this Lounge. As I get older it is getting harder to "fire up" my brain cell (singular). Perhaps it's because I am not an educated computer tech person and did/do not work in the computer field. I am totally self taught (took a fortran programming course in 1970 as part of my electronics degree, but that's it) and am still learning. Today I feel as though I have learned more. Now I have to digest some of it. That might be the problem. Guys I am humbled by your expertise. Please keep it up! Have a great day all of you!
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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    Thanks guys, keep the thoughts coming: none of them are new to me, but all though provoking.

    @ DrWho: I always read your disk cleanup posts with interest and it certainly seems to work for your customers. Can you expand on why removal of junk improves performance? What is the system doing that causes the junk to slow it down. Junk it may be, but unless it's doing or preventing something it shouldn't impact performance (that's not to say it should be kept!). The obvious answer is it's consuming too much disk space slowing down access to data that's needed, but surely that can't be the case every time as that would suggest most drives you come across are nearly full.

    @ Ted: Re Temporary Internet Files.....are you sure it takes less time to query and download a file off a webserver than to pull it off a hard drive? Perhaps in some cases, but that would imply a very fast internet connection. I also sometimes see improvements in browsing experience by cleaning up the TIF's, but have yet to adequately explain them.

    @ eikelein: Very much my line of analysis too: If I might be so bold as to summarise what I think you are saying - it's not so much the removal of data and disk clean-up: its the optimisation after the clean up that has the most benefit.

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  12. #7
    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    WOW again!

    That was a long and very detailed dissertation, but essentially correct.

    It's a little bit 'Pie in the sky" though, for as a computer tech, when I get a call that the resident PC is taking a half hour to boot up and is so slow to shut down that the user is just killing the power and walking away, I'm very limited at what I can do.

    I can't add ram, I can't install an SSD drive, nor can I change the CPU, so what CAN I do?

    Well, I can clean up the mess and get the PC pretty much back to like-new condition, with a few improvements.
    Even with a brand new PC, right out of the box, I can improve performance by over 50%, because Windows XX is written with so many SAFE defaults that it only runs at a small percentage of the capability of the hardware. (CPU, Ram & Hard Drive)

    Without going into the bloody details of where I cut and trim, I clean out every program and unneeded file on the HD that is just loading down the PC. I set up my own XPCleanup.bat program, (or VICleanup.bat for Vista or W7Cleanup.bat for Win-7) in the Startup folder, so that every time the PC is turned on, the junk from the previous session is removed, in just a few seconds.

    I give the user a "Weekly Maintenance" routine and an instruction sheet on how to do it, which includes running the "Disk Cleanup" program in extended mode, as I outlined earlier, followed by a defrag. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the MS Defrag, it is probably the safest defrag program out there. *
    * NEVER RUN DEFRAG BEFORE REMOVING ALL THE JUNK FROM THE HARD DRIVE. (WHY DEFRAG JUNK?)

    Just one time, not too long ago, I ran the Auslogics Defrag program. It made such a total mess out of my HD that I had to do a Backup + Restore to get my drive back in shape again. That program had my files scattered from one end of the HD to the other. NEVER AGAIN!

    Ok guys and dolls, I gotta run, but "I'll be back!"

    Cheers Mates!
    The Doctor
    Last edited by DrWho; 2012-02-19 at 09:29.
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  13. #8
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Tinto, I guess it's more the old page gets queried and loaded while the web site is queried, then the new page is loaded. The PC is working finding the correct old page at the same time finding the correct web site to get the new page, rather than just getting the new page from the get go. The other thing is, and perhaps this is just my paranoia, having this old info sitting on my PC is showing where I've been, perhaps holding some of my personal info or sign on info, just waiting for someone to break through and grab it. Paranoid, you betcha, but then I have both a sister and sister-in-law than have had their info stolen and have had terrible times solving those problems. I cannot swear this is what happened to them. No one can, so yes I'm paranoid and I wipe everything regularly.

    And yes I do have a fast connection. Time Warner Road Runner, approx 15.5 mb/s download, 1.5 mb/s upload. Pretty fast.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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    Nothing wrong with being safe rather than sorry Ted.

    My understanding was that the Temporary Internet Files are searched for a cached copy of the page and only then if one is not found is the webserver queried. I think that's how it used to work, but not sure nowadays.

    So, if that's right, the size and quantity of TIF's may have a bearing on the time taken to respond to a web request, but I would have expected the indexing to be able to cope with that. Perhaps the indexing isn't as good as it could be? Your broadband connection certainly is fast, but it is still much slower than reading data of the drive.

    As previously noted, I too have seen improvements by cleaning TIF's, but the cache is meant to make pages load faster so it's counter-intuitive that by emptying the cache that the online page loads faster.

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    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    As another data point, I only clean up TIF and temp files once or twice a year and don't experience any slowdowns or speedups with the cleanup of gigs of temporary files. But then my system disk is 70% free space. Just removed 1.5 gigs of temp and TIF space on a client XP laptop with no effect on performance. Cleaned up the number of programs in Windows startup and that had considerable positive improvement in performance. In my experience, the only time temp file cleanup has had an impact on performance is when the disk is close to full (80% full or more).

    Things I have found that improve performance:
    1. Unnecessary startup items in windows boot.
    2. Malware removal or corrupted system files.
    3. Disable Windows eye candy (Window animations, transparent background)
    4. Add memory if less than 1 gig on XP, 3 gigs on Vista/Windows 7
    5. Temp files only if the system disk is close to full.

    Jerry

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  18. #11
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Just a few hasty and random thoughts:

    From the disk performance aspect, having enough free space and keeping fragmentation levels low, so that there's ample contiguous free space for streaming video temporary storage, for example, is a good starting point. The 25% free space factor is pretty close to that ideal, just look at how disk drive performance drops off when reading/writing in the last 25% or so of a spinning drive. So, if you add a % of a few GB above that for big temp. files, you should keep the drive performing close to the optimum. Say around 30% free space is good, less would need some serious attention.

    As for TIFs, I think they're in a different category as they are (usually) very small files, they don't require contiguous space and Windows will place them 'randomly', probably in the first available space closest to the heads current position(s). On a sessional basis, many are also duplicated in the paging file and will be pulled from there for reuse (or usually from a ReadyBoost drive, if that's in use).

    For borderline disk I/O bottleneck cases, some tweaking of background NTFS data read/writing might improve things a little, such as disabling the creation of 8.3 file names.

    Of course, if the machine has multiple drives and to a lesser extent, ReadyBoost and/or RAM drives further tweaks can be made.

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  20. #12
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    For borderline disk I/O bottleneck cases, some tweaking of background NTFS data read/writing might improve things a little, such as disabling the creation of 8.3 file names.
    That's an interesting one satrow, and one that I hadn't considered previously. {For the casual reader: 8.3 filenames = Short File Names}

    @ Jwitalka: Jerry, your bullet point list is pretty much what I subscribe to too.

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    Bronze Lounger DrWho's Avatar
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    Naming no names, but I see many answers along the lines of "This is what I do with MY computer". (That's fine! You do that.)
    That's totally immaterial, when you're a computer tech who has to deal with hundreds of computers, some of them not having any service for maybe the last ten years.

    I recently ran my XPCleanup.bat program on an OLD PC that essentially had never had any service. Bootup took many minutes and shutdown was well near impossible. A defrag took hours and hours and simple scans like from an Anti-Virus or Anti-Spyware program was nearly an all day affair.
    Anyway, when I ran my little cleanup batch file, it removed over 100,000 garbage files.
    You say that a temp file or TIF doesn't slow down a computer, but it sure as heck WILL if you ever do any maintenance or have a Good AV or AS program that does a full scan of the HD every day.

    That's why I get every file off of the HD that doesn't absolutely HAVE to be there.
    It's not just to save space, although it does, but it speeds up many operations of the PC.
    I just took over 20 gig's of junk off of a PC this past week. The owner of that PC was elated at how much better his PC ran once I was done working on it.

    The Doctor

    PS: I'm still looking for a way to run the MS "Disk Cleanup" automatically from a batch file. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Here's the line I need to run:
    %SystemRoot%\System32\Cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65 & Cleanmgr /sagerun:65

    Addendum: The above mentioned problem has been solved by adding "Echo. |" (sans quotes) to the beginning of the command.
    Sageset only needs to run once to set the parameters for Disk Cleanup and then sagerun will do the same job over and over again. I have it now running nicely.
    Problem Solved!
    Last edited by DrWho; 2012-02-20 at 08:09. Reason: Problem Solved
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    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    That's so true DrWho. Any time you run a complete scan all the junk files will be scanned as well including all the old TIF as well as the many year's worth of old log files, etc, etc, etc. And all this stuff has to be defragged whenever you do defrag, etc, etc, etc. I just feel more warm and cozy getty rid of this stuff. I did notice marked improvement on my mom's PC a while ago when I started getting her to do the cleanup stuff on her PC. DrWho I did set up a Cleanup batch file for her and set up showed her how to do other cleanup and defrag chores. The first time I did this stuff she could not believe how much more responsive her PC was. She also could not believe how quickly web pages loaded. No, I cannot explain the why it works, but getting rid of the old TIF did speed things up.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
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    Naming no names, but I see many answers along the lines of....
    I would prefer to leave the debate about whether one person's method is better than another for a different time: it could easily lead to misunderstandings. Suffice to say there are probably as many different experiences as methods.

    No, what interests me is the root cause for poor performance, what improves that performance and whether "disk cleaning" is part of that solution. By determining a root cause we can understand how the improvement methods work, and perhaps, why they are effective in some cases, but not in others.

    So, if I pick up the point by DrWho above that leaving TIF's or other temp files on the PC will slow it during an AV scan, I'm lead to ask how so?

    I can understand that it will increase the scanning time and by rationalising the TIF's one undoubtedly reduces the overall scanning time. However, on an individual file basis, scanning a temporary internet file should be no different from scanning any other file. So the machine should be more or less equally loaded scanning operating system files as it is scanning TIF's. As such, the system load should not be any different compared to scanning other files.

    Having said that, I wonder if the small size of them may make the drive work harder opening many more small files - i.e the I/O throughput may be limited by having to process large numbers of small files. Anyone have thoughts on that?

    While speculating on performance improvements: How about the Windows (7) defrag compared to 3rd party? A defragged mechanical drive is normally considered essential, but presumably the different tools implement different algorithms. Does anyone have any evidence of improved performance after using different tools?

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