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How Can I Make My Windows XP Computer Run Faster

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There is a post on ehow.com showing how to speed up the performance of your Windows XP computer. The post is lacking in specifics and isn’t really much of a help, so I have expanded the post to be more useful for novices.

If you are trying to increase performance on an original hardware XP machine, then you are chasing small percentages. 2% here, 5% there. Nothing we can do, short of increasing the CPU speed will drastically improve performance. Even if we managed to increase the CPU speed by 25% using overclocking, then the hard drive interface is still slow, as is the RAM. There is one bottleneck after the next. You need to take a holistic approach to a computer, there can be no weak links in the chain. 90% of the time its better to upgrade the whole system than waste money upgrading single parts.

–> eHow Article Begins

A computer running Windows XP tends to slow down over time as programs and services leave temporary files scattered on the hard drive. These files become fragmented resulting in a significant decrease in performance. A hard drive that is almost full can also slow down disk access and virtual memory functions. Keeping your XP computer clean and optimized is not that difficult. Here are a few tips to make your XP computer run faster and more efficiently.

Instructions

1 Install the latest Windows XP updates. Open Internet Explorer, click “Tools” then “Windows Update.” Allow Microsoft to scan and update your system on a regular basis.

  • If your Windows Update icon is missing from the Start Menu, open Internet Explorer (the big blue e) and go to www.windowsupdate.com. It’s easiest just to chose express install. If it tells you that a Service Pack should be installed,  backup your data, then install the service pack. A service pack is a major update that combines many of the smaller incremental updates. It may also include a new version of Internet Explorer (your web browser) which may look different. Generally, if you are presented with any confirmation boxes asking permission, just hit Yes/Approve/I Agree.

2 Remove viruses and spyware. Use a free anti-virus program like AVG Free. Set the program to run a complete scan every 24 hours. Make sure the virus definitions are updated regularly.

  • If you already have Anti Virus installed, do not install another one over the top (or in addition to) as this may create conflicts. For people with existing AntiVirus update, then run a full system scan on all hard drives. If there is an option for a ‘rootkit’ or ‘PUP (potentially unwanted program’) select those options. Your AV might just have a 3 stage choice, like Minimal, Standard or Deep Scan; choose Deep Scan.
  • Never look for an antivirus or anti spyware program by searching for it in Google. You will almost always be directed to a fake program. Download the software from known safe locations such as these below:

3 Uninstall unused programs. Go to “Control Panel” then “Add/Remove Programs” to see what packages are currently installed on your XP computer. Click “Remove” to uninstall any programs you don’t use.

  • This one is a incorrect. Installed programs will have no affect on your Windows XP speed, it will only take up disk space. If your disk space is around 85% full, you should make room as full drives do hamper performance. To clarify, the only programs which will affect performance are ones that are always running, such as MSN messenger, Skype, Printer scanning software, etc. You can see whats running by clicking the little arrow down near the clock to expand the visible view. All those programs there are running; if its there and you don’t use it, then uninstall it (not yoour Antivirus though).

4 Clean your hard drive. Open “My Computer,” right-click the “C: Drive,” select “Properties,” then click “Disk Cleanup.” After the scan is complete, click “OK” to clean the disk.

  • Do a backup first. Disk cleanup will provide minimal performance increase

5 Defragment your hard drive. Close all running programs, open “My Computer,” right-click the “C: Drive,” select “Properties” then the “Tools” tab. Click “Defragment Now” to scan and defragment your hard drive.

  • Do a backup first. De fragmenting your hard drive takes all the files spread out around the disk and places them all next to each other. This in theory should provide increased performance, but probly wont as the drive is old by now. If your running XP on its original hardware from 2003 then looking for a performance increase is like praying for a miracle. 2003 hardware is not designed to run 2010 software. ***Note: De Fragmenting your drive will run it at 100% speed for hours on end, this is a high stress task on an aging drive. Be prepared for disk failure.

6 Disable unnecessary startup programs. Click “Start” then “Run.” Type “MSCONFIG” in the box, click “Enter,” then select “Startup.” Uncheck any programs you don’t need then click “Apply.”

  • I do not advise people go into MSCONFIG and start playing with settings, there is too much to break. MSCONFIG is an administrative utility, not an end user settings location, which is why its not in Control Panel! A safer alternative is to use CCleaner from here. This has an area where you can easy disable items, then turn them back on if need be. It’s in Tools-> Startup. CCleaner also has some other great features, the registry cleaner is a good one I use regularly. Also the cleaner is handy for just flushing your system of all the built up temporary files. This program is easy to use in it basic format, don’t play with or enable features you don’t understand.

7 Set virtual memory. Go to “Control Panel” then “System” then “Advanced.” Click the “Settings” button under Performance. Click “Advanced,” then the “Change” button under Virtual Memory. Make sure System Managed Size is selected, then click “OK.”

  • Virtual Memory is when the computer pretends that your hard drive is RAM memory. When Windows fills up the real RAM memory, it tricks programs into thinking there is more available by using part of your harddrive as Virtual RAM. Downside is that the hard drive is very very slow compared to RAM. As the post says, ensure its system managed. Also ensure you have at least 1Gb of real ram memory. 2Gb is even better. This item shouldn’t even be here, really it should just say, ‘increase your ram – if you have the original 256/512/768, its not enough.’