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Alright, so you got that great new Quake XXVI and you're ready to run it! However, your 1200 THz computer doesn't have enough horsepower for it! What do you do? Simple. Consult this guide!

In this tutorial, I'll show you ways of how to make it so that your crappy computer (stupid old 1200 terra hertz!) will run that game smoothly. Warning: some of these things will make the game look a little less realistic, but hey. It's a LOT cheaper than getting that GeForce 37!


Section I: Background Programs
Section II: Defragging the Hard Drive(s)
Section III: General Game Settings
Section IV: Game-Specific Settings

Background Programs

Alright, so the first thing to do is check all your programs running in the background. Luckily, cutting these down usually won't degrade the look of your games! So always check these first! Alright, so here's your setup: You're running Windows 98 (unfortunately) and on startup, have your system tray (next to your clock) load Norton Anti-Virus (GOOD FOR YOU!), Zone-Alarm Firewall (DOUBLE GOOD FOR YOU!), Nostromo Loadout Manager, MSN Messenger, and the loading program for your scanner. Alright, first off, if you're just going to game offline by yourself, or over a personal LAN, you can turn off Norton (disable it anyway), Zone-Alarm, MSN Messenger, and the scanner program. Make sure you're not connected to the Net though (this is all unless you have a permanent connection to the Internet, like a cable modem!!!). If you are playing online, or have a permanent connection to the Internet, you just want to unload MSN Messenger and the scanner program. Some people even like to create a Windows user login account on their computer purely for gaming. They make it so that the non-assentials don't start at startup!

Getting rid of these programs can sometimes free up a lot of valuable processor power. For example, Norton Virus Scanner is always scanning your hard drive, taking up precious processor power. Why would you need a virus scanner checking if you're offline? All these programs take up just a little processor power, but a lot of little bits can add up to one big mass!

Now for how to get them out of the startup:
If you're in Windows, go to Start, Run, type in msconfig and a window will pop up. Then click the STARTUP tab (those folder tab looking thingys at the top) and look for programs that you want to disable. Uncheck the ones you don't want. NOTICE!!!! ONLY DISABLE PROGRAMS YOU KNOW!!!! Disabling the wrong program can really screw up your computer! If you're not sure if a program is what you think it is, you can check the LOCATION, and it will usually tell you. These are user-based. So if you create an account for just gaming, log in under that account and do this. Then your normal account won't be harmed.

As far as creating a new user login account, this can be different on different versions of Windows (sorry I only have instructions for Windows, but it's all I use! Sure I have Linux, but I'm too lazy to go through the install! Heheh. If ANYONE has any instructions for these or anything else for different operating systems, PLEASE SUBMIT THEM!).

For Windows 98, 98 SE, and ME (And probably 95):
You will want to go to the Control Panel (if you don't know how to get there, give up, cause that's the easiest part of anything in this tutorial!). Once in the Control Panel, open up Users. Over on the right, find a button that says New User.... Click it. Follow the wizard, naming the account Gamer or something, and you don't even have to put in a password (just leave it blank).

For Windows XP:
Open up the Control Panel and find your way to User Accounts. Also, if you have it set up to the new XP Start Menu, then you can just open up the Start Button, click on the picture at the top of the menu, click Cancel, then click over on the left bar CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT. If you're goin the first way, once your at User Accounts, then over on the left bar click CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT.

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Defragging the Hard Drive(s)

Alright, now to the fun part. This is something you should do regularly anyway. It's called DEFRAGGING. Alright, now to explain this, you will have to learn a little about the hard drive, so bear with me here....

Alright, now, imagine your hard drive as a deck of cards. When a program writes to the hard drive, it pushes the card (the information) right on the top of the deck. Now, say when a program erases a file, it pulls the card straight out, which sometimes tends to mix things up a bit. This can eventually get slow, especially if often-used files end up in the middle or bottom of the deck (the outter edge of the actually hard drive). So we do what is called defragging the hard drive. It takes files that are used often and sends them to the beginning of the drive, which is like the top of the deck. It's a lot easier to take a card off the top of the deck than the middle or the bottom. It also puts similar files together. This can sometimes speed up your hard drive quite a bit. I suggest doing it monthly.

Alright, now how to actually do it. This is the same for Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP. Go to your Programs menu (the All Programs menu in default XP) in the the Start menu. Then find the Accessories folder, System Tools, Disk Defragmentor. In XP, just highlight the drive you want to defrag, and click DEFRAGMENT. For the others (as far as I know), just select the drive you want to defrag and click OK or DEFRAGMENT or whichever. Now, LEAVE YOUR COMPUTER ALONE!!!!! While you're computer is defragging, DO NOT TOUCH IT!!! You will probably want to temporarily turn power-save modes and screensavers off before you defrag. If your computer writes to the hard drive while it's defragging, it will START OVER!!! Defragging can take anywhere from half an hour to several hours, depending on the drive size and how often you defrag. What I like to do is when I go to bed (bed? what's that??), I start it and leave it run all night. Then I wake up and it's done (HOPEFULLY!). Now, when if after several hours, it still says 5% done or something like that, watch it for a while, and see if it says something about "Drive contents changed, restarting...", then we have a problem. It's extremely common, but it's a problem none-the-less.

What it is is programs are running in the background, and they are writing to the hard drive. This causes the defrag to start over. You can try to disable the programs (see the SECTION I), but if it still does it, we will have to start in the dreaded SAFE MODE!

Here's the skinny: Safe Mode is a nice little feature that Billy Bob Gates thought would be a great idea for if your computer completely screwed up. Safe Mode is that horrible looking thing that comes up when you accidently turn off your computer while it's still starting. It starts Windows without loading product-specific drivers. It loads windows using generic drivers, thus is why you can only get 16 colors and a low resolution. It's for an occasion that your computer can't start because something on startup, like drivers, are messed up. This lets you get past them, go in, fix everything, then restart normally. However, we will use it for a different purpose. Safe Mode also doesn't load ANY background programs, thus eliminating our previously stated problem. To get to Safe Mode, you will want to restart your computer. While it's loading, when the first screen that comes up (or one of them) BEFORE Windows starts, press the F8 key once or twice. Again, I'm sorry, but I live in a PC world. If ANYONE has instructions for ANY of this on any other platform, or corrections, please SUBMIT them! This SHOULD bring up a menu asking if you want to start normally or in Safe Mode. Press the down key until you highlight Start in Safe Mode, and press ENTER. This will start Windows in Safe Mode. When the graphics interface comes up, it should give you some crap in a dialogue box saying how you've started in safe mode...blahblahblah. Ignore it and click OK. It may take a while to start up, and will look VERY weird, but don't worry. Once it's finally done, just follow the same instructions as above to defrag. When it's done, just shut down and restart like normal and it will take you back to normal mode. Now, if you have trouble getting into Safe Mode, you might as well just give up and when your computers starting, press the power button (you may have to hold it down for 6 seconds, until it turns off). Then start it up and it should take you to the boot menu with Safe Mode. Then just continue as normal.

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General Game Settings

Alright, now we get into the part where it will split up a little, depending on what game you are dealing with. What this section talks about is the general settings for most games. We will talk about resolution and color depth.

You always here people talking about "I run my Quake at 1024 by 768 resolution, and it runs like a dream!" And you just sit and think "What is resolution? It must make it run better!" So you go home to your crappy 486 and pop in Quake, set the resolution to the highest setting, and run it. Then you wonder why your computer starts to hum and beep at you angrily. Well here is a nice little explanation about resolution.
Alright, so, imagine your computer screen as a VERY large box of flashlights that can become 3 colors individually. Red, green, and blue. Just in case you didn't know, any color of the rainbow can be created with a combination of the colors red, green, and blue. So, you have this very large box of flashlights that you're looking at from a helicopter above. They all turn on and little groups of them become one color (because of the mixing). They all light up and become the shape of your desktop. Alright, say the flashlights are so big that the box can only hold 320 across and 240 top-to-bottom. When they create this picture, it probably looks pretty big and edgey, because the flashlights are bigger, so they can't create curves or diagonals as smoothly. Now say you have the same sized box, only the flashlights are smaller, so that it can hold 640 across and 480 down (beginning to sound like a crossword puzzle, isn't it?). The picture is less edgy, because there are more flashlights to create the slant of the diagonal. They are smaller so that your eyes blend them in with eachother better. Plus, everything will be smaller, wont it? Now that the same things can be created with smaller flashlights, they take up less space. Alright, then you have the same box, with flashlights small enough to hold 1,024 across, and 768 down. Everything is much more fine and the pictures are clearer.
This is basically how resolutions work. Your computer monitor is made up of thousands of tiny little dots, called pixels. The resolution is how many pixels fit horizontally and vertically on your screen. The higher the resolution, the clearer slants and curves look, and of course, the smaller things are. People with seeing problems usually like to have the resolution set at 640X480 (640 pixels horizontally, 480 vertically), because it makes everything big and very readable. I even know people that keep it at 320X240.
Anyway, so a higher resolution means better-looking games. HOWEVER, if you have a slow computer, then you will want a lower resolution to make it run smoother. I suggest starting at a very low resolution, then trying the game. If it runs smoothly, then go back in and up it a notch, then try again. Keep doing this until the game starts to get jumpy, then you want to back the resolution down so the game with run smoothly. However, there ARE other things to change to keep the game from being jumpy.
Resolution settings are usually in your game's OPTIONS or SETUP menu, and under GRAPHICS OPTIONS or something to that effect.

Color depth can also be a big factor in game performance. Higher color depth will of course make the game look prettier, but it will take more processing power out of the computer, which would slow down games on slower computers. A higher color depth means that your computer can display more colors at one time.
To determine color depths, you need to multiply 2 to the power of the color depth. For example, for a 24-bit color depth, you would multiply 2 to the power of 24 to get about 16.7 million colors. The reason for this is because a bit can be either 0 or 1, giving you 2 options. Our number system is based on 10, which is why it's a decimal system (deci is latin for 10). However, computers think in a binary system (bi for 2). They can only think of off or on of power flow, 0 being off, 1 being on. We have a decimal system because of our 10 fingers. So to count in binary you would say 0, then 1, then 00 (being like 10), then 01, then 10, then 11, then 000 (being like 100), then 001, then 010, then 011, etc.
Back to the topic, the color depth that your computer can display depends on the hardware and software. I believe a Voodoo card can only display 16-bit colors, but higher end cards (especially AGP cards) can display 32-bit colors.
Color depth should be somewhere in the game settings near resolution.

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Game-Specific Settings

Here is the part where we learn how to tweak individual games to run faster. These settings are all game-specific, so each has a different page. (Coming during the next update.)



If you have tutorials for tweaking any other games, please submit them!

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