Microsoft, in an attempt to limit how fast viruses can propagate crippled the TCP/IP stack by restricting it to ten half-open TCP/IP connections.
Many perfectly legitimate applications use more than this and this limit slows things down considerably and causes unreliable operations.
I first discovered this while troubleshooting a problem with Shareaza, a peer-to-peer file sharing program. It was behaving erratically, refused to connect to gnutella1 or edonkey, and it’s firewall test thought it was firewalled even though it was not.
After much hair pulling I finally determined this was cause by Windows XP SP2’s silly restriction.
I found a third party patch that fixes this problem! Originally, I was just trying to get Shareaza to work right. To my amazement intermittent weirdness in MySpace, DeviantArt, and a host of other websites I visit went away after installing this patch. Sites which have a large number of images and used to crawl now come up very fast.
After you do that there are some tweaks you can do to Firefox that are collectively referred to as Firefox on Steroids that make it go even faster. If you have windows XP SP2, do not apply these until you’ve applied the above patch or it will cause flaky operation. Only apply these if you have a broadband connection, cable modem, DSL, satellite, high-speed wireless, etc. These fixes will particularly help if you are connecting over a high latency connection (wireless or satellite).
These things together will really help make your browsing experience a lot more pleasant.
Now, you may wonder why, if this makes such a big difference in performance, why doesn’t Windows XP and Firefox come preconfigured this way?
Firefox doesn’t come preconfigured this way for two reasons:
- On a dial-up it may cause slower unreliable operation. This change should not be made to Firefox used over a dial-up.
- Without modifying windows XP SP2 as described, Firefox will try to open too many connections at once and fail.
Windows comes with this limitation to restrict the rate at which viruses can propagate by restricting how many IP addresses they can try at once.
Personally, I don’t buy Microsoft’s explanation. If they want to stop viruses from propagating they need to fix the swiss cheese security of the operating system so it can’t be infected with viruses in the first place. I suspect the real reason was to make the operating system useless as a server so as to encourage you to buy more expensive server software for server applications.
Whatever the motive, this patch fixes the problem and makes your computer a lot more pleasant to use on the Internet. Spread the word, tell your friends, together we shall overcome the evil empire!