Okay, after being fed up with my Dell Latitude C840‘s sluggish performance, I decided to Google around for some WinXP tweaking tips and stumbled across one I’ve been thinking must exist for a long time. It’s tip #1, “Disable Last File Access Stamping”. Especially for a laptop, this makes a hell of a lot of sense. This, coupled with tip #2, “Turn Off Windows Indexing”, and tip #3, “Increase Your File System Cache”, should actually help extend the battery life of my laptop which is important. Hell, I don’t know why Dell doesn’t ship laptops with these tweaks straight from the factory!
Anyhow, the first tip uses the fsutil command to turn the disablelastaccess flag on. Normally, every time a file is accessed — even if it’s for reading only — WinXP will update some metadata about the file indicating when it was last accessed. This is different from the last modification time, which is important and you wouldn’t normally want to turn off. Turning off the update of last access time should be pretty harmless for a majority of users, and it’ll likely reduce the amount of disk writes that happen merely to update the metadata about files that you access. The one caveat from Microsoft’s documentation on disablelastaccess is important:
Note that using the disablelastaccess parameter can affect programs such as backup and Remote Storage that rely on this feature.
All told, after completing the three tweaks mentioned earlier, my system definitely feels much snappier, the hard drive light doesn’t blink nearly as much as it used to, and I haven’t experienced anything bad, yet. I’m happy and the system doesn’t feel as sluggish as it did — it would grind for a good few seconds starting up applications, which has measurably improved.