Easy Ways to Speed Up Your Windows XP Computer

We all have experienced issues of slowness with our Windows PC's. That, or we've experienced the slowness of our parent's PC's when we visit them and get the dreaded request to fix their problems. While we all know that the first step is to run a virus scan, that isn't always going to fix the issue of a slow PC. With today's powerful anti-virus software, a PC is far more likely to succumb to non-viral malicious software such as spyware and trojans. These aren't normally detected in the virus program you're running. Besides that, installing and uninstalling programs, switching and swapping files, and even simply browsing the internet can add things into you system that slows it down. Your system backbone, the registry, can easily get clogged up, and it is very dangerous to try and clean it up yourself. So what can you do? There are many advanced tutorials on the web that can help, but may be too in depth for some users. Follow these tips to keep your PC running as smooth as it did when you first bought it.

Tip 1: Don't be afraid to wipe out and start over.

Formatting the hard drive and starting over can be one of the most feared processes to the general user. What most don't realize is that when you format your drive and reinstall windows, you're wiping out all acquired spyware, viruses, system errors, and user errors. The PC is being reverted back to the way it was when it was purchased. For those who know how to do it and don't have any critical data, this can be the quickest fix for a slow machine. However, if you have data that is important, it will need to be backed up on a flash drive, or a cd. You will also need to know how your machine is reformatted. Most of the time a quick email to tech support can get you the steps, and they are generally easy for anyone to follow.

Tip 2: Anti-virus, Service Pack 2, Spyware Blocker

These are very basic necessities for a secure system. You need a strong anti-virus running to keep your system intact. What people don't realize is, choosing the wrong security software can slow your computer down in itself. If your computer is 4-5 years old, DO NOT purchase Norton Internet Security or McAfee Internet Security. Both of these programs are overkill, and they use too many resources on machines that only have 256 RAM. Simply purchase Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee Anti-Virus. These keep viruses off your system without dragging down your resources. Neither program comes with a firewall, but if you have Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2), you already have a decent firewall.

To find out whether or not you have SP2, right click on the 'My Computer' icon and click Properties. It should tell you that you have Windows XP Home, Pro, or Media Center, as well as what Service Pack you have. It is critical for a machine with an internet connection to have SP2, as it tightens the security of the system. SP2 can be obtained by clicking 'Windows Update' from your programs list, or by visiting microsoft.com.

Last but not least, you should have a spyware program to protect your system. It is possible to download Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal for free from download.com. This program does not keep spyware off your machine, but if run once a week it can clean out any acquired spyware. It's great for speeding up a system. However, there are spyware programs that run in the background and detect spyware before it gets into your system. These are not free, but can help your PC run smoother. Programs such as Spysweeper or Counterspy are good examples. Both can be found at Wal-Mart or Circuit City. It is a good idea to buy these programs at a store, instead of purchasing them online, because there are several scam programs out there that claim to be spyware blockers, but are spyware themselves.

Tip 3: Run Microsoft Bootvis

Does your system start up slow? Some computers, especially those who are 3-4 years old, may work fine after a 15 minute startup period. Why settle for that? Bootvis is a program made just for slow startups. You can get it from Microsoft's website, or a google search will give you a good download site.
To use Bootvis, install it of course, and you will see several options. Most of these aren't to be messed with by an ordinary user, as they could mess up system files. However, to perform a generalized speedup of your startup processes, follow these steps:

  1. Click 'trace' at the top menu bar.
    2. Click 'next boot', and click OK. The system will restart automatically. This lets the program get an idea of how long your startup process is, and what is using most of the resources during startup. Once the system is back to windows, Bootvis will automatically open, and show a report.
    3. Click 'trace' from the menu bar again.
    4. Click 'Optimize System' and click OK. The system will reboot again. Once restarted, Bootvis will automatically start optimizing your boot processes. Once done, your next boot should be faster.

Tip 3: Cleaning up unecessary files

There is a relatively unknown program called 'EasyCleaner' that works wonders on a PC. It's a free download, search google for it and it should render several download sites. I most recently got the program from the MajorGeeks website. After installing, EasyCleaner gives you several options. You can clean your registry, startup items, unecessary files, duplicate files, temporary files and internet cookies. Of all the options, be sure to use the 'Registry' option, 'Startup' option, 'Clear files' option, and 'Clear Cookies' option. There's also an 'Undo' option to choose if something happens to go wrong.

The Registry option allows you to clear out registry keys that do not point anywhere. This can save the system loading time.

The Startup option helps you to clear out programs that you don't need running in the background. There are some programs you do need in the background, so be careful not to delete the startup entry for your antivirus program, instant messenger, or any other program you want started when the computer is booted. However, if there are a lot of icons down by your clock, chances are you don't need most of them running in the background.

The Clear Files and Clear Cookies button do just that, take out temporary files that are no longer needed, as well as cookies. This can save disk space, as well as speed up your system.

There you have it! With these simple tips, we have learned how an ordinary user can prevent viruses, spyware, slow startups, invalid registry keys, background programs, and allocation of unwanted files. These problems are what cause slow system performance, but with these tools and tips, you should be able to get your system back up and running for years to come.