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PC Hacks
By Jim Aspinwall
October 2004
More Info

How do these hacks stand up? Comment on a hack from the book by choosing the associated "Discuss" link below. You can also view the code from any of the hacks by clicking on the "Listing" or "Code" links. A number of hacks have been selected to be featured online in their entirety; you may view those hacks by clicking on the hack titles that are linked.

Jump to: Basic System Board Hacks  | Basic System Board Setup  | CPU Hacks  | Memory Hacks  | Disk Hacks  | Disk Drive Performance Hacks  | Video Hacks  | I/O Device Hacks  | Boot-Up Hacks  | Configuring a New PC

Basic System Board Hacks

HACK
#1

Lock Others Out of Your Computer

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#2

Bypass the BIOS Password
Recover from a CMOS memory-affecting virus or work around a boot-time password by making BIOS forget all it once knew
[Discuss (4) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#3

Recover a BIOS That Won't Boot
Recover from hacking your BIOS into an unbootable state by starting from scratch with safe defaults for the BIOS settings
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#4

Boot Faster
Some of the stuff your computer does at boot time is of no use. Disable those features to boot faster
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#5

Display a Boot-Time Graphic
Many computers will display a graphic at boot time. Make it one of your own
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#6

Configure Boot Device Order
Don't wait for the floppy disk or CD-ROM to time out before the system boots
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#7

Set Your Clock Back
Avoid or test date- and time-related features of your programs by setting the system clock back or ahead in the BIOS
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#8

Avoid the Legacy USB Option
Save yourself from boot-up delays and Windows device detection confusion
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#9

Hack an Unhackable BIOS
You may be able to find a BIOS upgrade to work around that unhackable, squeaky-clean OEM BIOS
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#10

Upgrade Your Flash BIOS

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Basic System Board Setup

HACK
#11

Step Away from the Legacy Device

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#12

Manage Devices
Take control of device configuration
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#13

Configure Serial Ports
Starting with a clean, industry-standard serial port configuration can save hours of headaches when you're ready to add more devices
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#14

Configure Parallel Ports
Set up your parallel ports in ways that accommodate your peripherals and your other expansion needs
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#15

Configure Sound Cards
Make your sound card sing amidst the variations of limited PC resources by finding and using alternative settings
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#16

Configure SCSI Host Adapters
Accommodate SCSI host adapters with nonconflicting configurations
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#17

Configure Network Cards
Give your network card the resources it needs to get and keep your LAN and Internet traffic flowing smoothly
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#18

Reeducate Plug and Play

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

CPU Hacks

HACK
#19

Get More Power

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#20

Identify Your CPU
Find out which CPU is in the system
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#21

Which CPUs Are Hackable?
Know which CPUs can be hacked or overclocked
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#22

Which System Boards Are Hackable?
Read the box and online reviews to determine if your system board might accommodate hacking the system and CPU clock speeds
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#23

Determine Your CPU Speed
Benchmarking programs can tell your present system speed and if you've made any improvements
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#24

Keep It Cool
Better to overcool than undercool. A CPU survives best with adequate cooling to keep it stable
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#25

Control CPU Clock Speed from the BIOS
Increase your CPU speed with parameters controlled by your BIOS
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#26

As Goes Voltage, So Goes Speed
Adjusting the power supply voltage to your CPU can make all the difference between an erratically performing speed-hack and a stable screaming demon
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#27

Set the CPU Multiplier
Changing the CPU's clock multiplier values can dramatically boost its performance without affecting other components
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#28

Unlock Your CPU Multiplier
Overclocked AMD processors benefit from this down-and-dirty hardware hack that allows you to change the CPU multiplier value
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#29

Check the Vents

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Memory Hacks

HACK
#30

Install More RAM

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#31

Recognize Memory Limitations
Sometimes your system board and BIOS are your biggest limitations when it comes to adding more RAM—either a BIOS upgrade or a new system board is the answer
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#32

Install the RAM Your Operating System Needs
Understand how your operating system and applications use RAM to solve memory dilemmas
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#33

Tame the Windows 95 and 98 Cache
Stop Windows 95 from consuming all your RAM by fixing the VCACHE bug
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#34

Manage the Paging File
Windows can get confused about what memory is and how it uses it. Giving Windows some guidance will keep things running smoothly
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#35

Manage Windows System Resources
Windows System Resources have been misunderstood and maligned for years. There isn't much you can do about them but change your software
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#36

Force Windows 98 and Me to Swap Less
Tame Windows use of the swapfile and improve your system's performance in one simple parameter
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#37

Pin the Kernel in RAM
Force Windows NT operating systems to keep themselves in RAM for faster performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#38

Speed Up Your RAM
Get higher performance by optimizing the timing parameters for the faster memory in BIOS
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#39

Enable Memory Interleave for Via Chipsets

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Disk Hacks

HACK
#40

Partition and Format Wisely

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#41

Determine Your Filesystem
How do you tell what type of filesystem your disk is partitioned with?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#42

Create a New Partition with NT, 2000, XP, and 2003
Use XP's Disk Management console to create a new partition in unused disk space
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#43

Create a New Partition with PartitionMagic
Create new partitions from free or existing partition space with PartitionMagic
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#44

Merge Partitions with PartitionMagic
Merge two partitions into one with PartitionMagic
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#45

Convert FAT to NTFS
Use NT/2000/XP/2003's CONVERT program to change a FAT partition to NTFS
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#46

Create or Delete NTFS Partitions from the Recovery Console
Create and delete NTFS partitions using the DISKPART from the Recovery Console
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#47

Fix the Master Boot Record on FAT Partitions
Use FDISK to restore the ability to boot from your FAT-16 or FAT-32 hard drive
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#48

Fix the Master Boot Record on NTFS Partitions
Windows NT, 2000, XP, and Windows Server 2003 users having problems accessing or booting from an NTFS disk can use the FIXMBR program to rewrite a new Master Boot Record on the hard drive
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#49

Fix the Partition Boot Sector on NTFS Partitions
Use FIXBOOT to restore the ability to boot from your NTFS hard drive
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#50

Fix GRUB or LILO Boot Problems
Use the SystemRescueCD to repair a blown GRUB or LILO boot
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#51

Format Your Disk
Lay down some awesome data tracks on diskettes, hard drives, Zip disks, or LS-120 cartridges with FORMAT
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#52

Change Logical Drive Letters
Rearrange your drive letters with the Disk Management console in Windows NT-2003
[Discuss (2) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#53

Restore DOS Bootability
Make your drive bootable to get a DOS or Windows 9x-Me drive back up and running quickly
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#54

Rescue a Blown 2000 or XP Installation
Corrupt installations of Windows 2000, XP, and 2003 can be fixed in minutes with their bootable setup disks
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#55

Fix the Windows 95 File-Caching Bug
Implement this hack to fix the "Typical Role of This Computer" bug in Windows 95
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#56

Avoid the Delayed-Write-Caching Blues
This Windows performance enhancer could make you a real loser, of your data. Make this simple tweak and compute with peace of mind
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#57

Detect Drive Failure Before It Happens

[Discuss (3) | Link to this hack]

Disk Drive Performance Hacks

HACK
#58

Choose the Fastest Hard Drive

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#59

Use an 80-Wire Cable
It's not free, but upgrading your hard drive cable could be a very economical boost to your disk drive's performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#60

Upgrade Your IDE Interface
Speed up your system with a turbocharged IDE interface
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#61

Kick It Up a Notch with Serial ATA
Upgrading to Serial ATA will stomp all over UDMA-5's 133 MBps performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#62

Get the Fastest IDE Driver for Intel Chipsets
The proper driver for your Intel is the key to top drive performance for free
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#63

Get the Fastest IDE Driver for Via Chipsets
Optimize your hard drive parameters for their best performance
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#64

Speed It Up with RAID
If one fast drive is good, then five working together is surely better
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#65

Speed Up DOS with SMARTDRV
You can add a boost to disk performance with the DOS SmartDrive program
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#66

Speed Up Windows with VCACHE
If you absolutely must stick with Windows 9x or Me the least you can do is give your system this free performance-boosting tweak to your Windows disk cache
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#67

Linux's Drive Performance Booster

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Video Hacks

HACK
#68

Get off the PCI Bus

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#69

Upgrade from Built-in Video
Untie yourself from that low-performance built-in adapter by upgrading to an after-market AGP video adapter
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#70

Don't Expect Much from AGP Aperture Size
Setting the AGP aperture size is not a performance boost, but it will let your AGP adapter work to its maximum rendering and display capabilities
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#71

Choose the Correct AGP Mode
Tell your system BIOS to throttle up the AGP bus for the best video data throughput
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#72

Overclock Your nVidia Adapter
Specifically designed for video adapters that use the nVidia chipset, nVidia's Detonator driver or the RivaTuner utility give you control over your video clock speeds
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#73

Overclock Your ATI Radeon
Perhaps the simplest and safest way to determine and set the highest speeds for your ATI adapters
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#74

Overclock Anything

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

I/O Device Hacks

HACK
#75

Let Windows Tell You About I/O Card Conflicts

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#76

Break the Rules with LPT Ports
Get back the use of IRQ lines by changing your LPT port settings
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#77

Break the Rules with COM Ports
Allow more than two COM ports to work simultaneously without conflicts
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#78

Rewire Your COM Ports
Rewire an old COM port board to use available IRQs to run four ports simultaneously
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#79

Boost COM Port Performance
If your PC has a COM port, tweak your state-of-the-art UAR/T chip through Windows settings
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#80

New Uses for an Old Port
Select the correct LPT port settings to optimize the performance of Windows's Direct Cable Connection and third-party file transfer applications
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#81

Use USB for Peer-to-Peer Networking
USB's versatility comes in handy for PC-to-PC data transfer as well as file and Internet sharing
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#82

Get the Most out of USB
Use separate USB ports to get the best performance out of your high-speed devices
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#83

Install the Driver Before You Install the Hardware
How not to "outsmart" Plug and Play and the Windows Add New Hardware wizard
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#84

Please Continue Anyway

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Boot-Up Hacks

HACK
#85

Make a Bare Disk Bootable

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#86

Configure a Multiboot System
Windows NT and later provide multiboot capabilities supporting DOS and Windows
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#87

Multiboot with Third-Party Utilities
Use a third-party partitioning and boot utility to extend multiboot support beyond DOS and Windows
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#88

Speed up Operating System Installation and Maintenance
Save yourself time by making Windows installation files available on your hard drive
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#89

Access NTFS Files from Other Operating Systems
Read files on an NTFS partition from a non-NTFS operating system with these free tools
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#90

Give Your XP Installation Access to the Recovery Console
Add this essential recovery tool to your boot menu to save time saving your system
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#91

Hack the Windows 95/98/Me DOS Startup
Gain more control and boot faster by customizing this DOS configuration file
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#92

Hack the MS-DOS Configuration File
Tailor DOS's file to optimize memory use, load device drivers, and set the DOS environment
[Discuss (7) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#93

Hack the MS-DOS Startup File
Set up DOS environment parameters and load utilities and virus protection before Windows takes over your PC
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#94

Hack the Windows NT/2000/XP Boot Loader
Customize what and how you boot using the BOOT.INI file.
[Discuss (20) | Link to this hack]

Configuring a New PC

HACK
#95

Clone Your Hard Disk

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#96

Move Applications and Settings from One PC to Another
It's not hard to get essential PC "personality" information from your old PC to your new one
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#97

Protect Your PC from Viruses
Stop incoming and outgoing viruses before they begin to tear apart your new system
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#98

Protect Your PC from Malware
Rid your PC of dozens of performance-robbing pop-up and search bar annoyances with a few free programs
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#99

Surround Yourself with a Firewall
Protecting yourself from incoming and outgoing threats is easy with personal firewall software
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#100

Do Your Backups

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]


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