Quick HOWTO : Optimize Performance on Windows XP

Remove programs you don't need anymore
If you installed a program and it wasn't as useful or as fun as you had hoped, it's a good idea to remove it. Every program installed on your computer takes up space, and some programs
slow your computer down (even if you don't use them).
To remove a program
1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2. Click Add or Remove Programs.
3. In the Currently installed programs list, click the program that you want to remove. Then, click Remove or Change/Remove.
4. Follow the instructions that appear to remove your program. Each program has a different process. Restart your computer if prompted.
Note:  There may be programs on your computer that you're not directly using but that are important. (Operating system updates are an example.) If you're not sure what a program does, it's wise not to remove it until you're sure it's something you do not need. Some programs cannot be removed from the Add or Remove Programs window
Free up wasted space
By freeing disk space, you can improve the performance of your computer. The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk. The utility identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files.
Use Disk Cleanup to:

Remove temporary Internet files.
Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
Empty the Recycle Bin.
Remove Windows temporary files.
Remove optional Windows components that you don't use.
Remove installed programs that you no longer use.
To run the Disk Cleanup tool
1. Click Start, and then click My Computer. Right-click Local Disk and then click Properties.
3. On the General tab, click the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup will spend a few minutes examining your disk.
4. The Disk Cleanup dialog box will appear. Select each of the check boxes in the Files to delete list, and then click OK.
5. When prompted, click Yes. Disk Cleanup will spend several minutes removing these files, which will provide you with more space.
If you have more than one hard disk drive, repeat this process for each hard disk drive listed in My Computer.
Defragment your hard disk drive
Disk fragmentation slows the overall performance of your system. When files are fragmented, the computer must search the hard disk when the file is opened to piece it back together. The response time can be significantly longer.
Disk Defragmenter is a Windows utility that consolidates fragmented files and folders on your computer's hard disk so that each occupies a single space on the disk. With your files stored neatly end-to-end, without fragmentation, reading and writing to the disk speeds up.
When to run Disk Defragmenter
In addition to running Disk Defragmenter at regular intervals—monthly is optimal—there are other times you should run it too, such as when:

You add a large number of files.
Your free disk space totals 15 percent or less.
You install new programs or a new version of Windows.
Defragmentation improves your computer's performance by reorganizing your files.
To defragment your computer
1. Click Start, and then click My Computer. Right-click Local Disk, and then click Properties.
3. Click the Tools tab, and then click Defragment Now.
4. The Disk Defragmenter appears. Click your hard disk drive, and then click Defragment.
5. Disk Defragmenter will work for at least several minutes, although it might take several hours. When prompted, click Close.
If you have more than one hard disk drive, repeat this process for each hard disk drive listed, starting at step 4.
Disconnect unused network connections
The problem with network drives is that Windows XP will attempt to connect to the network drive when it starts up. If the remote computer does not respond immediately, Windows XP will wait, which will slow down your startup time. Additionally, some programs will attempt to connect to the network drive when you browse for files and folders. If you have ever tried to open a file and had to wait several seconds, it is probably because the program was trying to establish a network connection—even if the file you are opening is on your local computer.
To reduce the problem, disconnect any unused drives
1. Click Start, and then click My Computer.
2. On the Tools menu, click Disconnect Network Drive.
3. Select the network drives that you no longer need, and then click OK.
Performing the five steps in this article once a month will help you keep your computer running at peak performance.
Set your clock automatically
Like most clocks, the clock on your computer gradually becomes inaccurate as it loses a few seconds each year. However, if you have an Internet connection, Microsoft Windows XP can automatically synchronize your clock to keep it accurate.
To configure your clock to automatically synchronize with Internet time servers
1. Right-click your clock, and then click Adjust Date/Time.
2. Click the Internet Time tab. Click the Server down arrow, and then click time.nist.gov. Notice that Internet time synchronization is enabled by default. Check whether the proper time zone is selected
3. Click Update Now. Windows XP contacts the Internet time server and sets your clock.
4. Click OK.
Now, your computer is connected to the Internet time server.
Remove Auto start Programs
The next step in restoring your computer's performance is to identify any unnecessary programs that start automatically. Often, programs configure themselves to run in the background so that they appear to start quickly when needed. Some of these programs show an icon on your taskbar to let you know that they're running, while others are completely hidden. These auto start programs probably won't noticeably slow down your computer as it starts up, but they will steal away trace amounts of memory and processing time as your computer runs.
Windows XP comes with the System Configuration Tool (Msconfig.exe), an excellent way to manage the startup process. To start it:
1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then press Enter.
2. On the Startup tab, you'll see a list of all the programs and processes that are set to run when Windows XP loads.
3. Speed up your overall start time by clearing the check box next to any item you think you don't need.
4. Click Apply, and then restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

Detect and Repair disk errors

In addition to running Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter to optimize the performance of your computer, you can check the integrity of the files stored on your hard disk by running the Error Checking utility.
As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing (such as file saving) difficult, or even impossible. The Error Checking utility scans the hard drive for bad sectors, and scans for file system errors to see whether certain files or folders are misplaced.
If you use your computer daily, you should run this utility once a week to help prevent data loss.
To run the Error Checking utility:
1. Close all open files.
2. Click Start, and then click My Computer.
3. In the My Computer window, right-click the hard disk you want to search for bad sectors, and then click Properties.
4. In the Properties dialog box, click the Tools tab.
5. Click the Check Now button.
6. In the Check Disk dialog box, select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box, and then click Start.
7. If bad sectors are found, choose to fix them.
Tip: Only select the "Automatically fix file system errors" check box if you think that your disk contains bad sectors.

Make your computer more secure

Install and Update antivirus software

Viruses install themselves on your computer by exploiting a security weakness. Once installed, viruses attempt to propagate to other computers across the Internet. Windows XP does not include antivirus software, so you need to download and install an antivirus program,

Install antispyware software

Spyware is a broad term used to describe software that might install itself without your knowledge, take unwanted actions (such as monitoring your computer usage or displaying advertisements), and make itself difficult to remove. If you have ever had your Internet Explorer home page change, seen a toolbar appear unexpectedly, or noticed new icons near your system clock, you may have spyware on your computer. It is recommended to install antispyware tool such as spy-bot search & destroy or adaware professional.

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