What is WinAlign? WinAlign is the name of a Windows 98 Resource Kit utility that implements a program-loading optimization.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

November 20, 2003

4 Min Read

How do I know if Walign worked?
Take a look at the file WinAlign Report.txt in the Windows System directory. For each file that was in the winali.ini file, there will be an entry in the log. (If Microsoft Office isn't installed on your system, Walign will exit immediately without creating a log file.) See theWinAlign How-To for information on what the messages mean.

Can/should I align other programs?
Yes, you can align programs other than the ones that Microsoft automatically aligns in Windows 98. Since program alignment primarily benefits program startup performance, you would only want to align a program if you run it frequently and it takes a long time to load. A program such as Netscape Navigator is an excellent example, which is why we used it for our performance testing. For information on how to align your own programs, see theWinAlign How-To.

Do I need to occasionally "re-align" files?
If you add new program files, or replace old aligned programs with new unaligned versions, you may need to run Walign or WinAlign again to align those components. However, since these files were never aligned, you are not re-aligning them. A particular program file only needs to be aligned once. Once a program file is aligned, it stays aligned -- even if you perform disk optimization or copy the file to another location. It doesn't hurt to run Walign every day, but it will only align the new, unaligned programs it finds each time it runs.

Do I have to run FAT32 to use aligned programs?
No. Windows 98 can use either FAT16 or FAT32 with the run-from-cache feature of aligned programs. The benefit of using FAT32 is that the typical 4KB cluster size of a FAT32-formatted disk matches the 4KB virtual memory page size. That way, the disk subsystem doesn't potentially waste time and disk cache space bringing in data that isn't required by the system. We haven't yet done testing to determine how much of a performance difference FAT32 versus FAT16 makes for aligned programs.

Will any programs break if I align them?
They might. Since the alignment process actually makes changes to the executable file, it is possible that some programs will not work correctly when you align them. That's why it is important to keep a backup of any file you align until you are sure everything is working properly. In particular, the following types of program files should not be aligned:

  • Virus checkers;

  • Windows NT system files;

  • Cryptographically signed executables;

  • Self-extracting EXE files, such as those created by WinZip;

  • Programs that perform CRC checks on themselves;

  • Programs that use the EXE file to store configuration data.

Microsoft is already aware of some programs that cannot be aligned, and has listed them in the file winalx.ini in the Windows System directory.

What other problems can arise from aligning a file?
After you align a program file, the file is bigger and the bytes are in different places than in the original file. Some vendors update their programs by sending out patch files that change specific locations in the existing program files. If the patch file is smart it will detect this condition and refuse to patch the program. If it's a pathetic patcher, it will try to apply the patch anyway and create a corrupt non-working program file.

But hey, this is why Microsoft doesn't align every existing program file on your hard disk as part of the install procedure. If you want to go fast and align applications not tested by Microsoft, you may have to take a few risks. In most cases the risk won't be much; all you'll need to do is to reinstall the original (unaligned) executable files before applying a patch or upgrade.

Does Windows 95/NT support aligned programs?
In most cases, Windows 95 and NT can run a program file that has been aligned, because it simply has had some harmless space inserted into the file. However, no current version of Windows NT or 95 performs the run-from-cache optimization that Windows 98 does. Early beta versions of Windows NT 5.0 do not yet support this feature either.

Many thanks to Mike Hale, Xin Li, and Vishal Arya for their help in testing WinAlign.

Continue to: WinAlign How-To
Return to: The Expert's Guide to Windows 98 WinAlign

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