Dean

Dean

Dean Walsh is the Founder, Editor, and lead writer for Cryptorials. Before starting this site Dean contributed cryptocurrency news articles to Bitcoin Magazine, and NewsBTC and CryptoCoinsNews as well as contributing articles on a wide range of topics to social publishing websites such as Hubpages.
Dean

If you regularly use more than one cryptocurrency, then you have probably spent quite a lot of time waiting around for wallets to download blockchains and sync with the rest of the network. It can be a real hassle having to wait, and if you are a trader looking to take advantage of a market opportunity it can really cost you money as well.

In this article I’m going to share some simple tips that you can use to optimize the performance of your Windows PC and increase the speed at which it is able to download and sync blockchains. Of course there is only so much that you can do: the tips on this page won’t make your bitcoin node or altcoin wallet magically sync instantly, and its entirely possible that they won’t make any significant difference for you at all; but I have been able to speed things up and reduce the stress and frustration of not being able to access my coins when I need to so hopefully you will be able to as well.

Is Your Wallet Actually Stuck?

Before we get into optimizing your PC performance, you need to check that you have a good connection to the network and that your wallet is working properly. If your wallet isn’t syncing at all for some reason, then there is no point trying to speed it up until you’ve got it started in the first place.

There are three ways to tell whether your wallet is actively syncing or if its completely stuck at a particular block: in most wallets you can view the number of blocks processed from within the wallet itself, often from a progress bar along the bottom, or by hovering over an icone that looks like two spinning arrows; if the block number doesn’t change for an extended period of time then its stuck. You can also monitor the chain folder itself to see if it is being modified and added to, or check your computer’s resource use (fluctuating values for memory and CPU use usually means that the wallet is actively syncing and not completely stuck).

If your wallet has got itself stuck and isn’t syncing at all then you may like to take a look at this article instead: Help, My Wallet Won’t Sync!

If it is syncing, but very slowly, or if you just want to optimize your PC so that you can speed this process up in the future, then read on…

Identifying the Bottleneck

When I first started looking into the issue of slow syncing it was immediately clear that on my computer – a Lenovo laptop with 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB Ram, 1TB HDD, and a broadband wifi connection – it was the disk transfer rate which was creating a bottleneck and slowing down the syncing of my wallets. I tested this with several different altcoin wallets and experienced the same issue of hitting up against 100% disk transfer usage repeatedly, so for the purposes of this article I’m just going to go ahead and assume that this is the area we need to optimize in order to get your wallets to sync faster. If you are happy to go with this assumption then you can skip this section and go straight to the tips in the next section if you like. Improving your disk transfer rate should boost your overall PC performance for other application as well, so you stand to benefit anyway.

But of course each of you will have a different computer with different hardware specs, different software running on it, and a different internet connection: so it is possible that your machine will be struggling in a different area or that it is your connection and not the computer at all which is the limiting factor. To start off with, therefore, I’m going to guide you through the basic process of checking resources usage so that you can find out which aspect of your computer’s performance, if any, is struggling to keep up the most.

For this article I’m not going to get into advanced performance reports: we are just going to use the ‘Task Manager’ to get a broad view of resource usage by different applications and as a percentage of the total resources your system has available. You should follow these instructions whilst you are in the process of syncing your wallet.

You can open the Task Manager in Windows 8+ by clicking the Windows button and the ‘x’ key together and selecting it from the menu, or by using the search function. This may not work for older versions of the operating system, but on all versions you can still get there quite easily by clicking and holding the ‘Ctrl’, ‘Alt’ and ‘Delete’ buttons simultaneously.

Click ‘More details’ to get the expanded view and make sure that you are on the ‘processes’ tab.

You should now see a list of apps and background processes that are running, along with four columns for ‘CPU’, ‘Memory’, ‘Disk’ and ‘Network’. At the top of these four columns it should show you how much of each of these resources are being used in total, expressed as a percentage of the total that is available. If your computer is struggling in one particular area it will be at or around 100%. If any column hits 100% it is highlighted in red to make it super easy for you to see:

task-manager

If you see a big red 100% in any of the columns then you can scroll through the lists and look for other applications and processes which are also using that resource. Closing these down may help to speed things up For example, on thing I have noticed is that Google Chrome leaves a background process for running for every plugin you have installed, even after you have closed your browser. These often use up memory and if you have a few of them it can make a real difference to shut shut them down. You can do this by click on the app or process to highlight it, and then hitting the ‘End Task’ button in the bottom right of the window.

You shouldn’t close down background processes unless you know what they are, however, as you may end up causing system errors.

How to Improve Disk Transfer Rate

In my experience it is the disk transfer rate which is most likely to limit the speed at which you can download a blockchain and sync your wallet. So here are some simple tips to help you improve your disk transfer rate performance on a Windows computer:

Tip #1: Changing The Virtual Memory Setting

This is the one which proved to be the most effective for me. With a standard Windows installation the virtual memory setting is set to automatic, which selects a conservative figure that may limit performance. We are going to change that to a custom size calculated to get the most out of your hardware. You need to know the amount of RAM your machine has to do this; if you don’t know this, then go to ‘PC info’ on your computer and it will tell you.

The following instructions to find the virtual memory setting are for Windows 8.1. They may vary on different operating system, but not by much so you should be able find it with a little initiative. If not you can always Google the exact instructions for your OS.

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Click ‘System and Security‘, then ‘System
  3. Select ‘Advanced system settings
  4. Go to the ‘Advanced‘ tab of the window that pops up
  5. Under ‘Performance‘ click ‘Settings
  6. Select the Advanced tab of next Window that pops up
  7. Under ‘Virtual Memory‘ click ‘Change
  8. Uncheck the box for ‘Automatically manage paging file size for all drives
  9. Select the Drive where your wallets are located.
  10. Set the Initial Size to be the same as your computers RAM – notice that you must enter it in MB so you will probably have to convert it from GB.
  11. Set the Maximum size to double the initial size
  12. Click ‘Set‘.
  13. Click ‘OK‘ on all the Windows you have opened.

You will need to restart your computer for these changes to take effect.

virtual-memoryTip #2 Enable Write Caching and Turn Off Buffer Flushing

  1. In your file explorer right click on the hard drive and select ‘Properties
  2. Under the ‘Hardware’ tab select your hard drive and click ‘Properties‘ again
  3. Click ‘Change Settings
  4. On the policies tab make sure the ‘Enable Write Caching‘ box is checked

On my system this was already selected as standard. You can increase performance further by checking the ‘turn of Windows write-cache buffer flushing‘ box: but if you do this then you need to make sure that you computer doesn’t lose power without being turned off properly, because otherwise you may corrupt your hard drive and run into serious problems. If there is any chance you could lose power or fully drain your battery without shutting down then you probably shouldn’t take the risk of doing this.

write-caching

Tip #3: Don’t Use Disk Compression

If you have set up disk compression at any point in order to increase available disk space then you should be aware that this can reduce disk transfer rates, so you may want to re-consider. I won’t provide instructions for turning it off, because if you managed to enable it then I’m presuming you will know how to disable it as well.