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Parchment Background Image for How To's: Optimize Your System And Kick Up Your Gameplay on

 Author: FlightToAtlantis

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This is a compilation of all the information I’ve observed since gaining an interest in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 when it was released. Now assembled from various places into one document, it was relevant to Windows XP but most of this information will apply to Vista and Windows 7. I can’t speak for Windows 8 or Windows 10 as I have never used those platforms.

If you find the below directions don’t apply to what comes up on your screen then click Start then click Help and Support and there type in what you need.

Reference and download links can be found at the end of this article.

Let’s start with the basics then .....

Desktop Wallpaper

Many people have no idea that maintaining a desktop background requires any effort on the part of our system, after all it’s only one static image and it’s just there, but it engages our system more than we may think. If your desktop wallpaper is not a BMP image or if it is a stretched image that will use even more resources. Running a wallpaper changer while playing RCT3 is an extravagant waste of your CPU’s ability.

The solution is to select a solid color desktop background from Windows own choices in the desktop settings menu. I prefer to see a desktop image when not playing the game so I frequently change back and forth between these two options dependent on whether or not I’m playing RCT3.

Desktop & Cursor Themes

Disable pimped up cursors and custom desktop themes (Windows Aero especially). A cursor that displays trails is a delight to behold in the Windows environment but is the main cause of a laggy cursor that winks into and out of existence on RCT3.

You don’t really need a sweet system GUI that looks great while playing RCT3 which is a game that comes with it’s own GUI and should be played in full screen mode. Right click My Computer, select Properties, then the Advanced tab, Performance then Visual Effects. Select for Best Performance. This will make your system look like Windows did 15 years ago but will improve your gaming experience.

We all want pimped up cursors and exotic desktop themes but they should be disabled while playing RCT3 and set up again after we're done with gameplay.

What Else Is On Your Desktop?

While gaining my qualification I was surprised when our IT instructor advised us that an excessive number of items on the desktop are a drain on system resources. I can’t get by with less than ten. I used to have many more than this but, per the instructor’s suggestion, I have sorted them into other folders and keep only those folders on my desktop.

Your System’s Health

Make sure your system is free of viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, and all variations of those nasties. Regrettably, I have never observed any benefit in using the one that comes with Windows. There are several free applications from which to choose but one should remember that the free versions are usually licensed versions that are pared down. Although many internet service providers and some internet browsers now come with this sort of protection built in, I’d recommend in addition to this that you get a license for a third-party application.

De-Clutter Your Process Queue

When you’re ready to play RCT3, to further free system resources use CTRL + ALT + DELETE to open Task Manager, then have a look see. It is surprising how many processes start unobserved of their own accord, or which do not shut down completely when we’re done with them and we close their GUI. End the process of any task that you know for sure is not necessary while you're playing RCT3.

Tasks running needlessly in the background will increase the overhead your system needs just to function and will diminish your RCT3 gaming experience because while you're playing your game your system is expending resources on these unnecessary tasks, resources that your game could otherwise be using. For example if you’re not going to be printing, listening to amplified CD’s, watching DVD’s, editing images or MS Office documents, running a scan, or creating PDF’s while playing RCT3 ... do you get the idea? ... you can safely shut down these processes should they still be running. End any unnecessary applications through the taskbar, then look into ending the remainder through task manager. Do be careful though that you only end a process if you’re sure it is safe to shut down.

Here are a few examples of processes you won’t ever shut down:


manages most graphical commands in Windows


a controller file which handles processes executed from .dll’s


responsible for everything you see in Windows except your desktop image


deals with local security and login policies


this manages the starting and stopping of services


responsible for handling sessions on your system


handles logins and logouts

Hopefully you’ve already identified all the processes that routinely run on your machine, have saved your observations somewhere to hand, and know what most of those processes are at a glance. (not free) and A Squared Hijack Free (free) are good applications to choose if you’d like to do a little further research on individual processes. If you don’t have these applications and you’re not sure what a process is you can look it up on

We will all do well to remember that suddenly stopping critical processes can cause harm to our system.

Fine-Tune Your Virtual RAM

In addition to motherboard RAM Windows uses virtual memory as RAM. In brief, this simply means we may adjust Windows settings so that Windows can use disk space for virtual RAM as if it were motherboard RAM. Written by someone more knowledgeable about it than I am, here is an excellent article on setting up and managing your computer's virtual memory:

Defragmentation And Free Disk Space

RCT 3 runs best on a system that is not fragmented, and on an HDD/SSD with plenty of room. Whatever else you've got on your drive I’d recommend an additional 50-100GB of free disk space so your game has plenty of elbow room.

Ensure your system is always defragmented. The defragmenter that comes with Windows is adequate but I recommend a third-party defragmenter. Defraggler was my application of choice until I upgraded to Windows 7 where it doesn’t seem to want to work. Now I use IOBit’s SmartDefrag (free).

Cache & temporary files (discussed later in this article) should be deleted and your Recycle Bin emptied prior to defragmenting your disk.

Most defragmenters are unable to defragment files that are in use by the system while we are logged in. SmartDefrag can be set up to defragment such files after a reboot and prior to entering the Windows environment.

HDD's are defragmented. The same process for an SSD is called trimming. You should never defrag an SSD. SmartDefrag can defrag HDD's and trim SSD's.

SmartDefrag comes with a Game Optimize tool which is NOT recommended for RCT3.

Large Address Aware And Motherboard RAM

If you have more than 3GB of RAM on your motherboard you will benefit from a copy of Large Address Aware. This will enable the RCT3.exe file to use more than the 2GB maximum that it uses by default. For further information and a link to the download, see our article about Large Address Aware here:

  PAE, DEP, and Large Address Aware

Extend Your Motherboard RAM With ReadyBoost

The ReadyBoost feature enables fast USB's or any SSD connected externally to Windows to be used as additional RAM, also known as flash memory. Introduced in Windows Vista, ReadyBoost's promise of accelerated performance fell flat for most users. Microsoft made two big improvements to the ReadyBoost feature for Windows 7.

Although the 32-bit version of Windows 7 can only recognize 3.5GB of RAM (excluding the 500MB always reserved for system use) with ReadyBoost you can connect an additional 256GB of flash memory. ReadyBoost flash memory may be spread out over up to eight different devices.

If using an SSD with a caddy, connect the caddy's power cable, connect its USB cable, slot the SSD in the caddy, then switch the caddy on. If you've chosen to use a fast USB simply plug it into a USB port. Whichever method you choose, after a moment or two Windows 7 will bring up the AutoPlay dialog. Choose Speed Up My System Using Windows ReadyBoost. Windows 7 will display the ReadyBoost tab in the drive’s Properties dialog.

Choose the Use This Device option and adjust the slider to reserve the maximum recommended amount of space you want to use for ReadyBoost in the connected drive. The faster the connected drive, the greater the memory boost.

If you remove the drive you'll lose ReadyBoost.

Your Sound Card

An on-board sound card could be a performance bottle-neck. If you're using on-board sound or have an older sound card that's slotted in, you might want to have a quick look over the situation with sound on your system.

On-Board Sound

If you're experiencing low performance, and occasional crashes, use DxDiag to set your sound's hardware acceleration feature to "None." This will enable your CPU to directly take over some of the sound processing required for your game.

Sound Card

Some sound cards also come with hardware acceleration.  If your card doesn't have this, or if you don't get any joy disabling this for your sound card, right click My Computer, select Properties, click the Hardware tab, click Device Manager, find your sound card on the list, right-click it and choose "Disable." If you see a huge increase in performance in your game after this it’s a sure sign you would do better with a sound card upgrade.

Sound Card Effects

Medium- and high-end sound cards usually come with sound processing effects such as echo, stadium, live, etc. Turning off these effects while playing your game will decrease the amount of sound processing done through your CPU.


To give a boost to your game and to further reduce the amount of sound handled by your CPU you can edit Options.txt to reduce the Max Sounds and Max Music parameters from their default values of 100 and 4, to Max Sounds 25 and Max Music 2.