LangaList Plus Edition 2005-02-14
"Sure; in XP and Win2K, it's a cinch: Create a new user account called "games" or some such. Set that up with limited permissions, and install no additional load-at-boot software in that account.
Any system-wide software you've previously installed from an Admin-level account will still load and be running in the background of the limited gaming account. If that's still too much background activity, you can uninstall/reinstall some software so that it loads only on demand and/or only in the main accounts. Software in this category might include things like Office toolbars, browser add-ins, and such.
You also could temporarily shut down System Restore, Automatic Updating, mail downloads, and the like, before switching into the game account. And if the games account is a severely limited "guest" type or other low-permission-level account, and won't be used for anything except gaming, you could even shut down some background security tasks. For example, although I'd always keep a firewall in place, if the games account is never, ever used for file downloads or email of any types, then it might be OK to suspend active always-on anti-virus scans. (If no new files are added, the risks of a new infection are low.) Instead of always-on scanning, you could use periodic scans of that account's files when the game's not running to keep that account clean. (If it's just you on the PC, the above might not be too hard to enforce; but if others are going to use the game account, it might be more dangerous, as you wouldn't know what they might download or install.)
Once the games account is set up, then from inside that account, right-click My Computer/Properties/Advanced/Performance/Visual Effects and choose the highest-performance setting.
Next, right click anywhere on the desktop, and select properties. Under the "Desktop" tab, select "none" for the background picture; this eases the load on the CPU when drawing the desktop, and affects only the account in which it's selected.
Next, under "Settings," select the lowest resolution and color quality your game (and eyeballs) require: This reduces the amount of processing necessary to display the game. Don't make it look ugly or unplayable; just don't ask for higher visual performance that you need. For example, most games look fine in 16-bit color, which is much easier on your video system than 32-bit color.) However, resolution and color changes do spill over from one account to another; you'll have to change the settings back if you want different setups for gaming and normal use. (Here, a system tray applet that lets you change video settings with a single click can be a timesaver; most of the major video board makers include such applets with their driver software."