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Windows tips and tweaks

Speed up Internet Explorer 8

When you go to a website and display a web page, the computer has to download many different files. There is the HTML, which contains text and code, there are images, there might be Java or JavaScript, style sheets, and so on. In addition to displaying web pages, you might want to download files too.

The web browser doesn't fetch one file at a time and wait until each one is complete because when you were downloading a file you wouldn't be able to browse the web at the same time.

Web browsers like Internet Explorer open multiple connections to the web server to simultaneously fetch several files at once. However, there is a limit to the number of simultaneous connections and this can limit the performance of Internet Explorer. Increasing the number of connections can provide a useful performance boost.

There are two types of web server and they can use HTTP 1.0 or the HTTP 1.1 standard. There are also several different versions of Internet Explorer and also broadband and dial-up connections. The default maximum number of connections varies depending on all these factors.

When Internet Explorer 8 is used with broadband internet access, the maximum number of simultaneous connections to a server is 6. This is greater than previous versions of Internet Explorer, which is one reason why it's worth upgrading. With a dial-up connection (does anyone still do this?), the maximum number of connections can be as little as 2.

Six simultaneous connections with IE8 on broadband isn't bad, but it still might be a bottleneck with today's super fast internet access and you might want to increase this. Don't go mad though - around 10 should be sufficient. The more connections Internet Explorer can make, the more things it can download at once.

Click Start (and then Run in XP) and enter regedit to open the registry editor. In the left-hand pane, expand the keys (folder icons) and select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SOFTWARE \Microsoft \Internet Explorer \MAIN \FeatureControl \FEATURE_MAXCONNECTIONSPER1_0SERVER. (This is only in IE8 and it is not in IE6 or 7.) Right click in the right-hand pane and select New, DWORD (32-bit) value. Name it iexplore.exe and then double click it afterwards. Select Decimal for the base and then enter 10.

Right next to FEATURE_MAXCONNECTIONSPER1_0SERVER in the left-hand pane of the registry editor is FEATURE_MAXCONNECTIONSPERSERVER. Select it then click in the right-hand pane and select New, DWORD (32-bit) value. Name it iexplore.exe and then double click it afterwards. Select Decimal for the base and then enter 10.

That's it. Close the registry editor and restart Windows. Internet Explorer should be a little bit faster to load complex pages on good web servers. Of course, not all web pages are that complicated that they need 10 simultaneous connections and some web servers are overloaded with people accessing them anyway, so don't expect a huge performance boost with every web page. It's a bit like having a big engine in your car. You can still get stuck in traffic jams, but when there's no-one around you can really go fast.


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