By Joel T. Patz
If your old CD-ROM drive is a bit slow on the uptake, take heart. Two new programs--Quarterdeck's SpeedyROM and PC-Kwik's CD-ROM Express--do a creditable job of speeding CD performance.
SpeedyROM installs quickly, using tabbed dialog boxes to set drive parameters. You select the hard drive the program will use for the persistent cache; then SpeedyROM suggests a cache size that can be overridden. You can establish a look-back cache, which retains data discarded from the persistent cache. You also set the number of CD-ROMs the persistent cache is to remember and the maximum number of files in the persistent cache memory. Because of the size and system demands of full-motion video clips and the like, the program will cache only 100KB.
Choose the Troubleshooting tab to turn off and clear the cache. Each time you start your computer and Windows 95, a momentary screen reminds you that SpeedyROM is running.
During installation, CD-ROM Express asks if you want to run a Hardware Performance test. If you say yes, the program will present you with complete information on both the speed of your hard disk and CD-ROM drive, and estimate the improvement you can expect from CD-ROM Express. The program lets you select cache size between 21MB and 100MB, which can be turned off temporarily.
I tested these utilities with a TEAC 4X CD-ROM, setting the cache to 70MB for each.
CD-ROM Express' documentation is far more extensive than SpeedyROM's, and it has been expressly tuned for dozens of CD-ROM applications, including Microsoft Bookshelf '95 and Encarta, Compton's and Grolier's encyclopedias, and disc games such as Myst. On the other hand, SpeedyROM has more extensive controls than CD-ROM Express.
Performance is the tie-breaker. My tests showed CD-ROM Express is better at improving CD performance. Transfer rate improved 100 percent with SpeedyROM, with an 83 percent average-access time reduction. But CD-ROM Express gave me a 150 percent transfer-rate increase and reduced access time by 82 percent. Your performance will vary by program type and access pattern.
Pros: Control; installation
Platforms: Windows 95; 3.1x; DOS (running inside Win95)
Disk Space: 2MB (20MB recommended)
RAM: 4MB (8MB recommended)
WinMag Box Score: 3.0
Pros: Performance; documentation
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, DOS 5.0
Disk Space: 30MB (minimum)
WinMag Box Score: 3.5