Softnet Systems, Inc. Speech Recognition Specialists

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Setting up Your Computer (Older Systems Running Windows-XP)

A PC may run NaturallySpeaking more effectively if it is set up properly. NaturallySpeaking uses considerably more memory (RAM) than most programs and Windows is not always kind to such programs. It helped to tell Windows some things that will help it handle the demands of NaturallySpeaking.

Defragment Your Hard Drive

This is a job for the end of the day, or before you are going to walk away from your computer a while. Defragmentation is analogous to cleaning one's office -- it doesn't have to be done but one may operate more efficiently if it is occasionally done. Open My Computer, do a right-button-click on your hard drive, usually C:, go to Tools, and you should be on your way to defragmenting your hard drive. Philosophies on defragmenting vary. I suggest doing it once a week for heavy PC users, down to once a quarter for casual PC users. With Windows 7 and Windows Vista along with larger hard drives it is typically not needed that often, once a quarter may suffice if your hard drive has ample free space.

Reboot immediately after defragmenting your hard drive.

Swap File

If using Windows Vista or Windows 7, skip this. The information for the older OS's remains for the benefit of persons still using older versions of NaturallySpeaking.

Before you tackle this, defragment your hard drive. Most of you don't know or even care what a swap file is. I'd bore you if I told you what it is. But, it may need to be changed. Changing it may make NaturallySpeaking more responsive.

Windows-98SE, Windows-ME, Windows-2000

Go to "Start" then "Settings" then "Control Panel" then "System." Pause here to see how much memory your system has -- on Win95 and Win98 it will say something like 256.0MB RAM. Then go to "Performance" then "Virtual Memory."

Windows-XP

Go to "Start" then "Control Panel" then "System." Select the "Advanced" tab, then click the "Settings" button in the "Performance" section. Select the "Advanced" tab, then click the "Change" button.

Your system is probably going to have the "Let Windows manage my virtual memory settings" button marked. If it isn't, then someone has gotten to your system to change this setting for some reason.

Now, Windows manages some things OK but with large programs it doesn't manage virtual memory very well. I'd bet that Bill Gates does not let Windows manage his virtual memory settings! Follow his lead and set your own virtual memory settings. What is important is to set the minimum and maximum value the same so that you will have a fixed disk drive area for virtual memory. We suggest a setting of 800MB for most systems using NaturallySpeaking. Some will advocate less space, others more, but about 800MB is a number that works for a wide range of cases.

Set this value, then press OK. Windows may ask if you want to boot -- don't feel pressured to do so immediately, just do so at your next opportunity.

You must have adequate hard drive space for this -- if you don't, it doesn't really matter because you'll have other problems with NaturallySpeaking that will make you go and buy another hard drive ;-) If you have multiple hard drives, adapt the above instructions as you see fit.

Sound Card Drivers

The drivers distributed with the sound card are often not the latest available. If yours is over 6 months old, check with the sound card manufacturer or your system vendor for a later one. But in many cases the default drivers supplied with Windows will suffice. If using a USB audio device, don't bother checking as most of these use the default Windows drivers that are updated as part of the Windows Update service.

Optimize for Performance

Particularly on Windows-XP, the operating system allows control over several operations that collectively take CPU time away from the primary activities. On Windows-XP, go to Control Panel, System, then the Advanced Tab. Click "Settings" in the Performance area. Select "Adjust for Best Performance" or else select "Custom" and only select features important to you. This general tip also applies to people with slower systems (such as netbooks) using Windows 7 or Windows Vista.

Reducing Unnecessary Programs

This is an art, not a science. There are many different points of view. Some DNS users have hundreds of applications installed, others have only one. So guidelines and resources are presented which can be studied so that you can draw your own conclusions.

Minimizing processes is done differently depending upon your operating system. This is more important if your system is relatively slow. It is most important if your system is unstable, crashing often.

Be careful about stopping services and programs necessary for your system. Back up your registry as you go and record what you do (but not on the same machine) so that you can better recover. This sometimes requires intelligent guesswork Windows-XP, Windows-2000, and Windows-NT need several system services running to function properly.

http://www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_content.php and http://www.thetasklist.com are resources (among many others) providing multiple techniques for optimizing your system including reducing the unnecessary programs.

Windows-XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7

msconfig is available to control items loaded at startup.

Windows-2000

msconfig is not available. Rather than stopping individual processes you can download Startup Control Panel from:
http://www.mlin.net/StartupCPL.shtml and follow its instructions.

Windows-NT

Ars Technica <http://www.arstechnica.com> has articles in their archives on how to slim down running NT system services. Many also apply to Windows-2000 and Windows-XP. To remove unwanted apps started by the registry, edit the registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. (This assumes you have slimmed down the things in your various startup directories in C:\Documents and Settings.)

Windows-ME and Windows-98SE

msconfig is available to control items loaded at startup. Start, Run, msconfig to get it started. Using Ctrl+Alt+Del, you can determine which processes are running. Explorer and Systray are necessary to retain.

Booting Your System

Some people like to keep their system on all the time and only reboot when absolutely necessary. If you are one of these people, please reconsider this habit. Not only do you probably waste electricity, but you will probably have fewer NaturallySpeaking problems if you boot your system at least once a day. If you notice your system slowing down while dictating, reboot at your next break away from your computer.

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