Tune up your trading computer

The default settings in Windows XP do not give you all the power your computer has for your trading needs. Here are the things that you can do to tune up your computer for better performance.

First thing first – back up your computer

Before doing any twisting on your computer, it is best that you back up your computer first. In case the changes you made to your computer is causing unstable behaviour, you have something to fall back on.

We use the backup software Ghost. It can backup the complete hard disk into a set of image files. When there is a problem with your computer, say, hard disk corruption, then it is a one step process to recover your computer to a state stored in the image files.

Best performance setting

Windows Control Panel>System>Advanced tab>Performance setting>choose Adjust for Best Performance

This setting alone will give you 10% performance gain. If you have on board video as oppose to an add-on graphic card that works on PCI-Express or AGP 16x (or better), then you get even more performance gain.

The drawback is that your charts and windows will have the classic look of Windows.

Automatic update

Windows Control Panel>Automatic Updates>Turn Off

If you find your real-time data feed is not feeding data to you fast enough, this setting may help.

Microsoft Windows has a very bad habit of going online to check for updates and downloading updates while your computer is in the middle of trading. By disabling this automatic process, your internet connection will have all the bandwidth left to you for your real-time streaming data.

After you turn off automatic update, it will be up to you to do regular checking for Windows udpates to your computer.

Anti-virus software

If you can dedicate a computer for trading (i.e. no email, etc. on this computer), then you can choose to not using Anti-Virus software on this computer. Anti-virus software in general slow down a computer by 5 to 10% as they intercept your network traffic, check the email you are receiving or sending, and scan through processes as you browse the internet.

Google Desktop

Google desktop and any other auto categorize tools eat up 5 to 10 percent CPU load all the time, because they have to consistently monitor your activities for new data files, modification to existing files, etc. to build the database for you to seach for the items in your hard drive.

Remove iTune, RealPlayer, etc.

These software all go online to check for latest content for your viewing. Those contents are downloaded and displayed at the cost of reducing your bandwidth for receiving real-time data, and using up your valuable CPU power to process your data and update your charts.

If you can dedicate a computer for trading, then remove these applications.

Internet security software

Both Windows Firewall and other 3rd party internet security software can slow down your data feed. We have even seen one such program thinks the incoming data as an attack to the computer and blocked NeoTicker from receiving the real-time data.

These security software are not designed to handle heavy load of internet traffic. In current market condition, they can block you from on time delivery of real-time data.

Defragment your hard disk

It is a built-in feature of Windows. Do it regularly after proper backup of your hard disk can result in amazing speed gain.

For example, I am one of those people who like to load 100 days of tick data to construct my superposition charts, with a hard disk having data files all defragmented, I can load my chart in seconds across all those data files.

Clean registry

Windows live on its registry. All operations that have user settings would have to utilize the registry at some point in time. Unluckily, Windows XP and Vista are not designed with heavy duty workload in mind, thus access to the Windows registry is a slow process, comparing to, say, the simple act of adding two numbers.

If you cannot dedicate a computer for trading, and your computer has many programs installed, it is best you clean up the registry regularly (like, monthly) with some utility application so that Windows can look up the information it needs as fast as possible.

Remember, registry cleaning is a high risk operation. Backup first before trying!

Avoid using email program on your trading computer during market hours

Email programs have to go online to check for email. It is not desirable that your email program receive a huge attachment file while the market you are trading is getting very busy.

By having a separate computer for email and web browsing, you will find that your trading computer will work much more smoothly in general.

Monitors – less is more

If you want to get maximum performance from your graphic cards, remember that Windows has a very inefficient scheme in keeping track of what to display on which monitor. Windows is good at handling 1 or 2 monitors. Once you started to add more monitors, you will notice that you have less CPU time for your applications, no matter how fast your graphic cards are. The impact is about 1 to 2 percent per monitor above the 2 monitors threshold.

So, having 2 extra large monitors would have better performance than having 4 monitors, even if the total pixel count on the 2 monitors are more than the 4 monitors combined.

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