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Top 10 Easy Tips To Speed Up Windows XP

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How To Speed Up Your Computer Running Windows XP

I recently decided to see what I could do to speed up my pathetically slow Windows XP laptop, and was amazed at how much faster it was with just a few simple tweaks. I scoured the Internet for easy tips on how to speed up my computer that didn't require messing around with the registry - even as an advanced computer user, I try to avoid directly changing the registry whenever I can. The potential for screwing things up is just too great, and I reserve that kind of action only for major problems!

The laptop I wanted to speed up is a Sony Vaio that is about six years old. It has 512 MB or RAM and a screen that doesn't work anymore, so I've set it up with and external monitor, keyboard and mouse. I now use it as my home-office computer, and I do all of my online writing on it. I also have a newer HP Pavilion laptop with Windows Vista that is remarkably faster than the Sony, but after implementing the tips below the Sony's speed is now comparable to the HP, which has 4 times more RAM and a newer, faster CPU!

So here are 10 simple changes that should significantly increase the speed of your Windows XP computer...

Make Your Computer Faster !

1. Disable The Windows Indexing Service

The Indexing Service built into Windows XP allows you to search your local hard drive more quickly. It uses a lot of memory in the background and takes up space on your hard drive. If you only occasionally use the Search feature in Windows Explorer to find files on your hard drive, disabling the indexing feature can greatly increase performance, as well as free up some space on your hard drive. You will still be able to search the files on your computer, and those occasional searches will be slower, but your overall performance will be faster.

Disable The Windows Indexing Service

Disable The Windows Indexing Service

To Disable Indexing:

  • Click Start -> Settings -> Control Panel
  • Double-click the "Add or Remove Programs" icon
  • Along the left side, click "Add/Remove Windows Components"
  • Un-check the "Indexing Services" box
  • Click Next and follow the instructions
  • You may need to reboot your computer for the changes to take effect

Remove the existing indexing

Remove the existing indexing

If you previously had the Indexing Services box checked, you can also remove the indexing that already exists to free up a little hard drive space:

  • In Windows Explorer, click on "My Computer"
  • Right click the entry for your hard drive and select "Properties"
  • At the bottom of the Properties screen, un-check the "Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching"
  • Click OK
  • Depending on how many files are on your computer, this can take a while as Windows un-indexes all of your files...

2. Optimize Windows Display Settings

Windows XP has many display features that give it a different look and feel from older versions of Windows. While these features look nice, they can cost your computer a good deal of speed. Since none of these features affect the way your computer operates, feel free to pick and choose which ones you want and which you don't care about. By default, all of the options are selected, so just un-check each one that you no longer want.

Optimize Windows Display Settings

Optimize Windows Display Settings

To change display settings:

  • Right click on My Computer and select "Properties"
  • Select the "Advanced" tab at the top right
  • Under "Performance" click the "Settings" button
  • Un-check to options you want to disable

Alternately, you can select the "Adjust for best performance" option at the top of the screen to speed up your computer.

3. Optimize Your Virtual Memory Pagefile Size

You Virtual Memory Pagefile is a chunk of hard drive space that Windows XP uses to supplement your physical RAM. By default, this file is constantly being resized in the background, which can waste a lot of resources. For most users, there is usually no need to have a pagefile that is more than 1.5 to 2 times the amount of physical RAM in your PC.

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Optimize Your Virtual Memory Pagefile Size

Optimize Your Virtual Memory Pagefile Size

To set the pagefile size to a fixed amount:

  • Right click My Computer and select "Properties" - at the bottom of the screen, note the amount of physical RAM on your computer
  • Select the "Advanced" tab at the top right
  • Under "Performance", click the "Settings" button
  • Choose the "Advanced" tab of the top
  • At the bottom, under "Virtual Memory", click the "Change" button
  • Click on your main hard drive at the top
  • In the middle of the screen, select the "Custom size" button and enter a number that is 1.5 to 2 times the amount of physical RAM in both the "Initial size" and "Maximum Size" boxes
  • Click OK

4. Run Disk Cleanup

Over time, Windows XP will collect a lot of data in files that are no longer being used. By running the Disk Cleanup tool, you can safely choose which of these files to delete, freeing up resources on your computer:

Run Disk Cleanup

Run Disk Cleanup

To run Disk Cleanup:

  • In Windows Explorer, click on "My Computer"
  • Right click the entry for your hard drive and select "Properties"
  • Next to the graphic showing your disk space usage, click the "Disk Cleanup" button
  • After a few minutes, Windows XP will show a dialog box of files you can safely delete, along with an explanation of what type of files they are
  • Read the explanations for each suggestion and delete the ones you no longer need

5. Remove Your Desktop Wallpaper

A large image file used as desktop wallpaper may look pretty, but how often do you really see it? After the first few seconds of booting your computer, you probably open up some application windows and completely cover up that image! And desktop wallpaper, especially if it's a photograph, takes a lot of memory to load at startup, plus extra resources to reload each time you show the desktop again.

Remove Your Desktop Wallpaper

Remove Your Desktop Wallpaper

To remove the desktop wallpaper:

  • Minimize all open windows and right click any empty space on the desktop
  • Select "Properties"
  • Click the "Desktop" tab at the top
  • Scroll all the way up to the top of the Background list and select "None"
  • Choose a color from the drop-down box on the right
  • Click OK

6. Disable Automatic Network Search In Windows Explorer

Did you ever notice that when you open My Computer or Windows Explorer, there is a pause before the window loads? That may be caused by a default setting that tells Explorer to search for network files and printers every time it loads. If your home computers are not networked to each other, then there is no need for this feature.

Disable Automatic Network Search In Windows Explorer

Disable Automatic Network Search In Windows Explorer

To disable it:

  • Open "My Computer"
  • Go to the "Tools" menu at the top of the screen
  • Click "Folder Options..."
  • Under the "View" tab, un-check the box that says "Automatically search for network folders and printers"
  • Click OK
  • You may need to reboot your computer for the change to take effect

7. Enable DMA On All Drives

Windows XP has a hard drive feature call Direct Memory Access, or DMA. This allows data from your drives to transfer directly from the device into memory without passing first through the CPU, thereby reducing the workload on your processor. To speed up your computer, you can make sure DMA is enabled for all of your drives (including CD/DVD drives).

Enable DMA On All Drives

Enable DMA On All Drives

To enable DMA:

  • Right click "My Computer"
  • Select the "Hardware" tab at the top right
  • Click the "Device Manager" button at the top
  • Double-click the "IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers" entry
  • Double click "Primary IDE Channel"
  • Under the "Advanced Settings" tab, select "DMA if available" under Transfer Mode
  • Repeat for each Device listed
  • Click OK
  • Double click "Secondary IDE Channel" and repeat the steps above

8. Disable Performance Statistics Gathering

Windows XP has a built-in performance monitor that most users will never access, and which actually gobbles up some of the resources that it's measuring!

Disable Performance Statistics Gathering

Disable Performance Statistics Gathering

  • Go the folder where you installed the tool (by default, C:/Program Files/Resource Kit) and doucle-click the file "exctrlst.exe"
  • One by one, highlight each entry in the list and un-check the "Performance Counters Enabled" box
  • Once all the entries have been un-checked, click "Refresh" at the top and make sure each is still un-checked
  • Close the tool
  • You may have to reboot for the changes to take effect

9. Run Microsoft's Free Online OneCare Scan Tool

Microsoft offers a free, all-in-one virus, spyware and performance checker called OneCare

Run Microsoft's Free Online OneCare Scan Tool

Run Microsoft's Free Online OneCare Scan Tool

Scroll down and select the blue "Full Service Scan" button.
You will need to install the ActiveX control - click the yellow bar at the top of the screen and follow the prompts.
Once the tool is installed and running, you can do a Complete Scan or Quick Scan.
If you already have a virus and/or spyware software on your computer, you can choose the "Customize..." option under the Complete Scan and un-check the virus and/or spyware scan, each of which can take several hours to run if you have a lot of files on your computer.

The tool will run for a while, depending on which options you choose. When it's done, you will get a report of any problems it found and options to repair them. The tool checks for viruses, spyware, disk fragmentation, unneeded files, registry entries that are no longer in use and open network ports that may make your computer vulnerable to hackers and viruses.


10. Install Service Pack 3 to Optimize Windows XP

If you haven't already, you can install Service Pack 3 to speed up your computer. Many users report up to a 10% increase in performance just by doing this one step! You can find all the details about the Service Pack at Microsoft's website.

I Made My PC Faster!

I've implemented all of these steps on my own Window XP computer and was shocked at how much faster it is!

The Service Pack took a long time and some rebooting install, and the Microsoft OneCare tool took several hours to complete, but was well worth it! It found some spyware on my machine and showed that I needed to defragment my hard drive. Many Windows advice sites online consider defragging unnecessary with modern hard drives, but there was a definite increase in performance after I did it...

The other tips were quick and easy to implement and most showed immediate results!


pranil on September 22, 2011:

good suggestions for speeding pc! i will try it.

computer repairs melbourne on September 17, 2011:

To maintain a speed of our computer is essential. This can be done by Removing temporary Internet files, Remove downloaded program file, 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, thanks a lot.

computer repairs melbourne

apersonalmoney from Malaysia on August 12, 2011:

Good to read about this. I am having this speed problem for quite some time. Try to do disk clean and deframent not helping much. Good tips to try.Thanks.

Edweirdo (author) from United States on August 08, 2011:

@Julie Lussier & @michifus - Thanks!

@ComfortB - I don't use Windows 7, but from past experience with Microsoft OSes, I would have to answer "Maybe" - sometimes these types of tricks work in newer versions of Windows and sometimes they don't...

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on August 08, 2011:

Do these steps work the same for Windows 7?

michifus on August 08, 2011:

Congratulations on the Hubbie award - wouldn't have found this otherwise. I shall apply said techniques, thanks a million.

Julie Lussier from Canada on August 05, 2011:

Congratulations on your Hubbie Award! Great hub.

I am also a big fan of defrags. I did not know about the DMA setting, I'll try it!

Xavier Nathan from Isle of Man on May 20, 2011:

This is a great hub and I will be following you and your advice from now on. Thank you.

myi4u from United Kingdom on May 06, 2011:

Nice hub.

Something to add. Check the Microsoft Configuration and remove any unnecessary start up programs. To access Microsoft Configuration: Click Start --> Run --> Type msconfig and go to Startup tab.

Abid REhman on September 12, 2010:

very good

klb on August 25, 2010:

Wow, this is really a nice page. I know only few things listed here. I have to try other options provided by you, I am sure, I can improve my performance of the PC. Thanks

WebTechEngineer from Houston, TX USA on August 09, 2010:

good tips. WinXpSP3 will be around for another 4 years if I recall correctly. I am not going to migrate to Win Vista or Win 7 anytime soon....

save my system from United Kingdom - London on July 20, 2010:

Edweirdo, Thanks for giving information about windows with such simple manner. Those are so simple instruction and plus you provide the screen shot at every steps which simplified more.

Windows XP Tips on July 19, 2010:

Wow, this is really a nice page. I know only few things listed here. I have to try other options provided by you, I am sure, I can improve my performance of the PC. Thanks.

Alejandra on July 15, 2010:

I just loved this post, it helped me a lot with my users.

Thank you so much =)

It will be great if you do something like this but for Windows Vista

SteveoMc from Pacific NorthWest on June 13, 2010:

Edweirdo, this is great information. Having a list of 10 things that you can actually do, what a relief. I suggest running a good reliable anti-malware app while you are at it.

vrajavala from Port St. Lucie on June 12, 2010:

I found it under "administrative Tools" in the control Panel. Mine said "manual", so I guess it doesn't have to be disabled.

Edweirdo (author) from United States on June 11, 2010:

@vrajavala - it should be just as I explained it in the hub...

Jiberish from florida on June 11, 2010:

Great tips...thanks for sharing!

vrajavala from Port St. Lucie on June 11, 2010:

thanks Edweirdo!!! May I ask where can I find the Indexing on a Dell Windows XP?

5tranger on June 09, 2010:

nice tips...these things really help to avoid bottlenecks...

Joy on May 28, 2010:

Thanks for the tips on how to speed up my PC.keep up the good work sir

Edweirdo (author) from United States on May 24, 2010:

@Granny's House - I agree, ActiveX is a pain! But the tool does eventually give good results, so I found it worth the effort (and the time) to let that one run ;)

Thanks for stopping by !

Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on May 24, 2010:

It is weird, thay want to use ActiveX and they say not to. ActiveX is bad. I would never allow this to run. it has slowed my computer down before

Edweirdo (author) from United States on March 17, 2010:

Good luck johnee - let me know how it turns out :)

johneee from San Jose, CA on March 17, 2010:

great tips, I'm using a sony vaio right now and am about to do everything you suggested! Thanks for the tips.


How 2 Defrag on March 07, 2010:

Great Article,

I find that the best way to speed up a computer is by defragmenting it.

You can use the Windows Defrag Tool that can speed up your computer by miles, I recently ran it on my five year old Windows XP Machine and now it flys!

Saves you money as you don't have to buy a new computer.

Edweirdo (author) from United States on March 05, 2010:

@muftdagyan - when you run disk cleanup, you choose which files will be deleted, so it will not delete anything that you do not tell it to...

Hope that helps :)

muftdagyan from India on March 05, 2010:

great information but can you please tell me if i do disk cleanup will it also erase any useful files

sushiltl from MANCHESTER on March 02, 2010:

hi gud post

nadp from WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA on March 01, 2010:

Thanks Edweirdo! I will definitely try all of these. Great hub!

Bibleseo on February 26, 2010:

Nice tips. This seems more of technical tips. I often use ccleaner to do some of basic speeding.

Vivian Daisy on February 25, 2010:

Very nice post! In my opinion, though every computer will become slow, there are still some ways that we can do to fix a slow computer. See more further information here... Good luck every one!

Edweirdo (author) from United States on February 24, 2010:

@ddalgleish - I agree, but every little bit helps ;)

ddalgleish from Canada on February 24, 2010:

Thanks for the tips -- these computers can never go fast enough! ;-)

Edweirdo (author) from United States on February 23, 2010:

Great news, Eddy! Thanks for the update :D

Eddy2106 from Chicago Suburb, IL on February 23, 2010:

Great hubpage, i have followed all the steps and it seems to run faster now, thanks.

Edweirdo (author) from United States on February 23, 2010:

Pamela, Good luck with the new PC! And FYI, none of the steps I listed here can hurt your computer in any way, so give them a try :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2010:

Sounds like some good suggestions but I just got a new computer with Windows XP at my request and I don't want to mess up anything. I will try a few of your suggestions however. Thanks.

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