Will Vista Clean Up WinRot?

by Preston Gralla

You're not imagining it --- the older your PC gets, and the more you use it, the slower it gets. The phenomenon is called "WinRot." It's caused by lots of things: programs with sloppy uninstall routines that litter your hard drive with their leavings; conflicts between several different versions of the same DLL; Registry gunk; invisible startup programs; and more.

Microsoft claims that it's got the problem on its radar, and that Vista will stop the rot. Vista will include a control panel applet that monitors system performance, and that will suggest what startup programs may be causing problems. Microsoft also says it's cleaning up the plumbing to fix the DLL conflict problem. And it's adding new features such as automatic disk defragmentation that it says will help as well.

I'm only partially convinced. Some of the rot-stopping features, such as "SuperFetch" are essentially juiced-up versions of existing features, and don't seem as if they'll necessarily do much good. For example, even if you regularly defrag your system, it still slows down over time, and so automatic defragging won't solve the problem.

Still, it's heartening to know that Microsoft recognizes WinRot, and will at least partly solve it. On the other hand, the less WinRot there is, the less excuse there is to buy a new PC every year or two.

Do you think Vista will solve the WinRot problem?


2005-08-11 09:00:45
Pity they canít commit to the only truly effective fix for rot: getting rid of the registry. Itís too deeply rooted at this point. But anything they build for keeping the registry clean will just be fixes for symptoms that wonít address the root cause.

Iíve never experienced this rot phenomenon on any Unixoid system, and the reason is plenty simple: programs are not in the habit of updating system-wide configurations on that platform. In fact, save for user-initiated changes to preferences or such, programs donít even tend to update their own configuration. The result is as would be expected: where thereís no friction, thereís no rot. This is a computer, after all; bits donít magically decay.

If MSFT could implement a rigid separation between user-managed configuration and a system-managed store of dispoable information, and make it possible to use the system strictly as an unprivileged user (as is the norm in Unix; this is important because it enforces immutable configuration that apps cannot change), they would get very close to completely eliminating rot.