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A friend of mine keep telling me that if I keep bulky files on the desktop then Windows try to load them in cache and slow down? I'm (almost) sure that this is not the case but how can I demonstrate it?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 27 '09 at 14:19

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this kind of questions should be asked on superuser.com –  bernhardrusch Aug 27 '09 at 14:18

7 Answers 7

It depends on the type of file. If you have files for which Explorer is capable of generating a preview or metadata (either directly or through an installed handler/shell-extension), then it could cause the system to be slow since the desktop is always “visible” (even if it’s covered by windows, it still had to be loaded during boot). For example, a very large video file will cause Explorer to slow down when first loading the desktop (afterwards, it should indeed be cached, so unless you move it around or modify it, it should not cause slow-downs due to re-reads).

If the file does not get a thumbnail or preview and is represented by a static icon, then the size is irrelevant; you could have a 50GB file and Explorer won’t even flinch because it doesn’t care.

What you should be even more worried about than the size of the file is having thumbnail-able files that are corrupt. If the file is corrupt, then Explorer could all but freeze while trying to read it and generate a thumbnail. This is particularly common with damaged/half-downloaded video files (look up “avi windows freeze”).

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I have seen numerous cases were simply moving files off the desktop has noticabally increased the speed of a PC, I do not know the reason why (and in fact stumbeled on this artical while reaserching it) however I have only seen this problem on systems with less than 1GB of ram running Windows XP and less than 2GB of ram with Windows Vista, were multiple gigabytes of files are stored on the desktop. I have also had instances were moving files out-of the profile (documents picrtures, music ect) to another folder e.g. a new folder off the root of C: or on another partition/drive if available can noticabally speed up the PC.

I work in IT support, If someone compalins about a slow PC the first thing i try is removing files from the desktop, I then put shortcuts to the files back on the desktop

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If you have alot of shortcuts on your desktop it can impact performance on start up. This is mainly from offline/network shortcuts where the computer has to run off to all the places they link to, to check if they still exist and cache them so that when you want to use them they appear to be faster to access than they really are. Shortcuts that don't resolve will then try to resolve each time you drag items/files over the top of them, even if you don't drop them on that shortcut, giving you a small amount of system lag each time.

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Actually if you have a very large zipfile on the desktop, it can cause a lot of speed issues. Personal experience: Prevent Explorer from Freezing With Large Zip Files on Vista

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I always keep huge files (like dVD images to burn) on my desktop and it doesnt slow down at all. The only thing that might slow down things a lottle would be loading different icons (icons as in images), but with a semi-newer computer this shouldnt affect you at all.

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Even the icons shouldn't do much in terms of performance. Maybe that was the case when Windows 3 was new ... –  Joey Aug 27 '09 at 15:29
    
Thats why I used the word "might". –  mauro.dec Aug 28 '09 at 12:55

Well, if you have a roaming (network) profile that includes your desktop it could make logon/logoff very painful...

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3  
+1 Generally this should only really affect performance in the enterprise, where roaming profiles are common. –  Marko Carter Aug 27 '09 at 14:27

The only thing I can think of that could possibly be an explanation for what your friend is thinking is that files on the desktop will be indexed. That's also true for your Documents folder, however, and once the file has been indexed it won't continue to impact performance (and even for huge files the performance impact should be pretty minimal).

You could demonstrate it by putting massive files on the desktop and measuring performance, but I think this is something you can safely assume will not be an issue.

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The indexer will only index files it knows how to index. Since most really large files are not really really large text files the indexer will maybe look inside for metadata (for video files, for example) but not more. –  Joey Aug 27 '09 at 15:30

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