Skip to main content

This theory suggests wiggling the mouse cursor actually did make Windows 95 run faster

Flickr via Hanul. Click for original. (Image credit: Flickr (Hanul))

There are many ways you can speed up your PC, everything from overclocking to upgrading your hardware. (A solid state drive in place of a mechanical hard drive does wonders.) One forgotten method, however, is moving your mouse cursor around like a lunatic.

You might remember frantically pushing your mouse around your desktop while waiting for Windows 95 to finish installing or loading a program, or some other task that was taking FOR-EV-ER. It was a much different era back then, before SSDs and fancy multi-core processors.

Well, guess what? That little trick might have actually sped things up. There's a thread on StackExchange that explains there is a very real reason why moving the mouse cursor appeared to improve performance in Windows 95. In short, that's because it did. There is the lengthier explanation, in full:

"This is because of a flaw in the way Windows 95 generates events, and the fact that many applications are event driven.

"Windows 95 applications often use asynchronous I/O, that is they ask for some file operation like a copy to be performed and then tell the OS that they can be put to sleep until that operation finishes. By sleeping they allow other applications to run, rather than wasting CPU time endlessly asking if the file operation has completed yet.

"For reasons that are not entirely clear, but probably due to performance problems on low end machines, Windows 95 tends to bundle up the messages about I/O completion and doesn't immediately wake up the application to service them. However, it does wake the application for user input, presumably to keep it feeling responsive, and when the application is awake it will handle any pending I/O messages too.

"Thus wiggling the mouse causes the application to process I/O messages faster, and install quicker. The effect was quite pronounced; large applications that could take an hour to install could be reduced to 15 minutes with suitable mouse input."

So there you have it, maybe all those mouse feet you wore out weren't for nothing.

Thanks, Tom Standage

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).