The Cacheman Cometh

If there’s one thing Windows users share — other than their conflicted emotions toward Microsoft — it’s an insatiable yearning to boost the performance of their computers.

Windows, despite all its warts, gives them a dizzying number of ways to to do that — with the right tools.

Such a tool is CachemanXP (US$25) from Outer Technologies.

CachemanXP combines some common acceleration tricks — setting tweaks and memory management — with the less common tack of cache manipulation.

Proceed With Caution

Cache memory is used by computer designers to give their systems quick access to data that’s used over and over again. The idea is that it’s quicker to grab data from memory than it is to find it and fetch it from somewhere else, like a hard drive.

Of course, if you’ve been a Windows user for any length of time, you know that any tool that tinkers with Windows settings can create as many problems as it solves, so it must be used with caution.

However, CachemanXP does allow you to roll back your system to its original state, so it gives you a measure of protection against any overzealous changes you may make with it.

Dual Core Support

The main Window of the program is divided into five tabs.

The Information tab shows you your memory usage and processing workload. If you have a dual core processor, you can see the system demands on each processor — that’s a new feature with the latest release of the program, version 1.5.

In addition, the tab displays as a table with all the processes running on your system. Processes include not only the programs you can see on the Windows task bar, but the dozens of applications that you don’t see but load into your computer at startup.

From the info tab you can tinker with your processes’ configurations, but most users of CachemanXP will probably want to stick to its “Auto-Optimize” feature. It will examine your system and automatically apply the best settings and system tweaks to improve its performance and stability.

However, you have to buy the program to take advantage of the Auto-Optimize feature. It’s disabled with the trial edition of the program that can be downloaded for free.

Snatch Cache From Windows

The Cache tab lets you modify the amount of memory used for caches on your system.

As elsewhere in the program, blind experimentation should be avoided here, but one option you may want to take advantage of is wresting control of your system’s file management cache from Windows and turning it over to CachemanXP.

That’s because it is less inclined to write to the “virtual memory” on your hard disk when confronted with a low memory situation. As a rule of thumb, the more disk access your system has to do, the slower it will perform.

The Tweaks tab contains more than 30 ways to improve the performance of your system. Most of them can be turned on or off by clicking a check box. The program’s help file has good succinct explanations of how each tweak can boost your system’s operation.

Curiosity Control

The Backup tab lists all the times you’ve backed up your settings before changing them with CachemanXP. You can restore your system to any backup state by selecting the backup and clicking “restore system settings.”

The Options tab lets you customize the program’s Task Tray icon, define some hot keys and activate features like “always on top” and “load on Windows startup.”

You can control the software’s memory recovery feature from its tray icon. Although Windows has such a feature, CachemanXP’s is a little more savvy on how and when to use virtual memory to alleviate demands on system memory.

Users with a “black box” bent can stay away from CachemanXP, but those with controlled curiosity and an itch to squeeze more horsepower from their systems will find the software a valuable tool for keeping their computers purring.

John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].

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