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When the Acrobat installer says "Optimizing performance...", what is it actually doing?


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It's Optimizing performance – Sathya Jul 18 '11 at 7:30
What operating system? – NSGod Jul 18 '11 at 11:57
@Sathya: Post it as an answer, that's good info you've got there! @NSGod: Windows. – Mehrdad Jul 18 '11 at 13:02
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I could not find much other than the link below, so much of this is conjecture based on what I know other programs do.

I believe it is defragmenting an area of the drive closer to the inner edge of the platters, then moving its files there.

I think it is also checking if there are any out-dated plugins, as in this sample directory: C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Reader 10.0\Reader\plug_ins

No matter what you do, and even though I use it, Acrobat Reader is a pig...fairly slow to load.

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WHOA! That's the first installer I've seen that defragments its program... good job Adobe! And btw, Acrobat Reader (version 9 at least) isn't that slow... it starts in a handful of seconds the first time, and pretty much instantaneously after that -- even though I have a hard disk, and I've disabled acrobat_sl and all that. If it's slow for you then maybe you have an antivirus or something running? Or maybe you're also loading the Typewriter toolbar, which is really slow at loading? Not sure, but +1 thanks for the info! – Mehrdad Jul 18 '11 at 14:33
Mehrdad, I did like the idea of moving some of the plugins out. Thank you for marking the answer. – KCotreau Jul 18 '11 at 14:36

I'll start with a history lesson. Once upon a time, Acrobat wasn't the bloated steaming pile we know and sometimes tolerate today. Up through versions 4 and 5 it was a decent piece of software. Then version 6 came along. Version 6 was a monster. It was slow to run, slow to start up, and ate up too many resources for machines of the day. It was almost universally reviled.

Then something amazing happened: Adobe actually listened to the complaints. For version 7, Adobe went to a lot of trouble making Acrobat faster and more responsive, and for the most part they were successful. Unfortunately, one way (of several) they accomplished this was to introduce a background process that pre-loaded Acrobat components in the background. This service ate up a lot of memory relative to what was available at the time. Acrobat would seem to be faster (especially compared to the rest your computer, which was now slightly slower). To remove this background service, you had to track down not one, but three different items, two of which were in less common locations that most users didn't know how to check.

Since Acrobat 7, two things have changed: the first is that computers have gotten faster, so that most users don't know what's going on anymore. The second is that Acrobat 8 added an auto-update mechanism, mainly to address security concerns. A quirk of the auto-update feature is that it will restore the background service if you have disabled it. That was two versions back, but nothing much has changed for Acrobat since then, at least in this area.

So that brings me up to your question. Note that this is conjecture, but based on times I've updated Acrobat on users machines, I suspect that "optimizing performance" really means checking that the background service is still operational, and installing it if it isn't.

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I'm not sure when you see that, but for many applications, that message means that it is setting up the .NET or other runtime libraries and making sure that they are present. It could mean compressing files in some contexts, cleaning up temp files created during a process, or converting a temporary file to a final format by removing needless space and placing contents according to the format's protocol.

So, a lot of things, really.

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Improve performance, you say?

That should be the part where it is uninstalling itself and installing some other PDF reader.

Anyways, to answer the question. There's no way anyone can tell, unless they perform a trace of the installation process. Applications like System Mechanic can take snapshots prior and after installation of applications and give you the changes some installation performed on the disk and registry. But this won't get you any closer to know what happened at that exact spot.

Certain user firewalls like Comodo can be configured to monitor and record system changes. This should help as they can record any activity your installation process performs. But it can be annoying since, in order to do a trace of the installation process, you must manually approve every change until the installation process reaches the desired point.

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You could attach a disassembler/debugger to the process, find the hard-coded string "Optimizing performance" in the disassembly, set a breakpoint there, and when the breakpoint is hit start System Mechanic while the process is paused. That would limit your scope enough to figure out exactly what's going on since this is basically the last step the installer performs. A lot of work, but if you're truly curious.. – Dan Mar 10 at 14:05

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