Restore Your Computer's Performance with Windows XP
Published: March 8, 2004 By Tony Northrup, Windows XP Expert Zone Community Columnist
If your computer seems slower than it used to be, it probably is. My one-year old Dell laptop is much slower now than when it was new. Over time, computers get slower for a variety of reasons: files become disorganized, unnecessary software consumes resources, unused network drives slow startup, or too many programs automatically run at startup. Larger, serious issues can dramatically slow your computer's performance too. You may have a virus or need to troubleshoot problems by clean booting.
Fortunately, Windows XP includes tools to clean your computer and restore its performance. As I write this column, I'll be cleaning up my own computer and explaining how its performance improves. I'll cover Backup, Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter, Add or Remove Programs, and the System Configuration tool.
Back Up First
Back up your computer before you run any system tools or do any troubleshooting. This is not just an over-cautious warning. Some of the steps I recommend in this column can cause pre-existing but hidden problems to surface, which may keep your computer from starting. Windows XP includes Backup, a tool that helps you protect your data.
To open the Backup or Restore Wizard • Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Backup.
For information on how to use this tool, see Ed Bott's column, Backup Made Easy and the Microsoft Knowledge Base article, How to Use Backup to Restore Files and Folders on Your Computer in Windows XP.
Before I make any changes, I'm going to time my computer to see how long it takes to restart. That way I know which of the changes helps the most. My computer took about three minutes to shut down, restart, and then open my e-mail client and browser. Of course, I hope to improve the computer's overall performance, but the time it takes to restart is easiest to measure.
Clear Out Forgotten Programs
The first step in tuning up your computer's performance is to remove any unnecessary programs. I install new programs all the time. Sometimes I'm thrilled with the new program and I continue to use it. Other times, it doesn't do what I hoped, and the program sits on my computer consuming resources and hurting performance.
Follow these steps to remove unneeded programs:
1.Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2.Click Add or Remove Programs.
3.Scroll through the list and examine each program. Windows XP lists how often you use a program and what day you last started it. As shown in Figure 1, the Age of Mythology Trial is a good candidate for removal from my computer. Though I liked the game, I haven't used it recently and it's consuming a lot of disk space. You shouldn't remove anything labeled as an Update or Hotfix, however, because they improve the security of your computer.
Figure 1: The Add or Remove Programs window.
4.Click each program you no longer need, click the Remove button, and then follow the prompts to uninstall it.
You may have to restart your computer after removing a program. After your computer restarts, repeat the steps above to remove more programs.
Free Up Wasted Space
Removing unused programs is a great way to free up disk space, which will speed up your computer. Another way to find wasted disk space is to use the Disk Cleanup tool by following these steps:
1.Open My Computer, right-click Local Disk, and then click Properties.
2.On the General tab, click the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup will spend a few minutes examining your disk.
3.The Disk Cleanup dialog box opens. As you can see in Figure 2, it found almost three gigs of space on my computer that it could free up!
Figure 2: The Disk Cleanup tool.
4.Select the desired check boxes in the Files to Delete list, and then click OK. Disk Cleanup will spend several minutes clearing space.
5.If you have more than one hard disk, repeat this process for each hard disk listed in My Computer.
You can save yourself some time by automating the disk cleanup process. For more information, read the Microsoft Knowledge Basic article, How to Automate the Disk Cleanup Tool in Windows XP.
Defragment Your Computer
I hate newspaper articles that start on the front page but continue somewhere in the middle of the newspaper. I could get through the article much faster if it was printed on consecutive pages like a magazine article. Files on your computer can either be fragmented like a newspaper, or unfragmented like a magazine. Over time, more and more files become fragmented. When a file is fragmented, it takes longer for the computer to read it because it has to skip to different sections of the hard disk—just like it takes me a few seconds to find a page in the middle of a newspaper. Figure 3 compares how a computer reads unfragmented and fragmented files.
Figure 3: Fragmented and unfragmented files compared.
You need administrator privileges to defragment a drive or volume. Although fragmentation is complicated, it's easy to defragment your computer by following these steps:
1.Open My Computer, right-click Local Disk, and then click Properties.
2.On the Tools tab, click Defragment Now. The Disk Defragmenter opens.
3.Click your first hard disk, and then click Defragment. As shown in Figure 4, Disk Defragmenter will work for at least several minutes, though it may take several hours.
Figure 4: The Disk Defragmenter tool.
4.If you have more than one hard disk, repeat this process for each hard disk listed starting at Step 3.
My laptop's files were not terribly fragmented, so defragmenting them didn't speed it up much. However, after defragmenting the hard drive on my desktop computer, Windows and other programs started about 20% faster!
Disconnect Unused Network Connections
If you've ever had a network with more than one computer, you probably found it useful to share files between the computers by mapping a network drive. Network drives allow one computer to read and write files to another computer's hard disk as if it were directly connected. I use network drives all the time, and for me, they were the most significant source of slowness.
The problem with network drives is that Windows XP will attempt to connect to the network drives when Windows starts. If the remote computers don't respond immediately, Windows will wait patiently. Additionally, some programs will attempt to connect to the network drives when you browse for files and folders. If you've ever tried to open a file and had to wait several seconds (or minutes!), it's probably because the program was trying to establish a network connection—even if the file you are opening is on your local computer.
I am not as patient as Windows, and I'd rather not wait for unused network connections to respond. To reduce this problem, disconnect any unused drives by following these steps:
1.Open 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.
After I disconnected the network drives on my computer, my computer was able to restart in 1 minute, 45 seconds—about 40% faster!
Remove Autostart 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 autostart 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 Configurationtool (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.
My favorite way to examine autostart programs is to use the Autoruns freeware tool from Sysinternals. Autoruns lists every program that will automatically start and allows you to quickly delete the link to the program. Many autostart entries are important parts of Windows XP, including Userinit.exe and Explorer.exe. So you should not simply delete everything that you don't recognize. Instead, you should look up each entry at Paul Collins' Startup Applications List to determine whether you want it to start automatically.
For example, Figure 5 shows Autoruns revealing a file called nwiz.exe that is set to start automatically. I visited The Startup Applications List, typed in nwiz and discovered that it's used to set my desktop layout preferences. I'd like to keep this functionality, so I won't delete it.
Figure 5: The Autoruns freeware tool.
I also found a file named Wzqkpick.exe. After reading the description at The Startup Applications List, I decided I don't need to load that file automatically. I deleted the link using Autoruns by right-clicking it and then clicking Delete. This procedure works best for advanced users of Windows XP. If you aren't sure a program is unneeded—leave it!
The Startup Applications List may provide instructions for removing the startup program. If available, you should follow those instructions instead of deleting the link by using Autoruns.
How to Fix Bigger Problems
Many of the Windows XP Performance and Maintenance newsgroup users are experiencing serious, sudden performance problems. One day, their computer was fine and the next it was painfully slow. This type of problem is often caused by a computer virus or failing computer hardware. The suggestions in this article probably won't fix those types of problems. Instead, perform a virus scan on your computer. If that's not the issue, you should contact your computer vendor's technical support team for additional assistance. The troubleshooting process for this type of problem requires the knowledge to examine the computer's performance on a process-by-process basis, and usually includes a "process of elimination" phase where drivers, services, and hardware are removed/replaced one-by-one until the problem disappears. There's a very good chance that the computer won't start at all at some point in this process, so it's best to have support during the process.
Searching for "Windows XP Performance" on the Internet turns up a large number of performance tweaks. Some of these are useful, but most should not be attempted unless you understand exactly what you are doing. In particular, many of the tweaks that claim to improve your performance may only help under very specific circumstances. For example, in our own Windows XP Performance and Maintenance newsgroup, one user recommended disabling Internet Connection Firewall to solve a performance problem. Even if this did improve performance, it would leave the computer vulnerable to attacks from the Internet. I'd rather have a slightly slower computer than a hacked computer!
Expert Zone columnist Tony Northrup is an Internet engineer, a part-time photographer, and author of dozens of books and articles. He writes to help people safely use the Internet to communicate, share, and learn.
All Caps_________________CTRL+SHIFT+A Annotation_________________ALT+CTRL+M App Maximize_________________ALT+F10 App Restore_________________ALT+F5 Apply Heading1_________________ALT+CTRL+1 Apply Heading2_________________ ALT+CTRL+2 Apply Heading3_________________ALT+CTRL+3 Apply List Bullet_________________CTRL+SHIFT+L Auto Format_________________ALT+CTRL+K Auto Text_________________F3 or ALT+CTRL+V Bold_________________CTRL+B or CTRL+SHIFT+B Bookmark_________________CTRL+SHIFT+F5 Browse Next CTRL+PAGE DOWN Browse Previous CTRL+PAGE UP Browse Sel ALT+CTRL+HOME Cancel ESC Center Para CTRL+E Change Case SHIFT+F3 Char Left LEFT Char Left Extend SHIFT+LEFT Char Right RIGHT Char Right Extend SHIFT+RIGHT Clear DELETE Close or Exit ALT+F4 Close Pane ALT+SHIFT+C Column Break CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER Column Select CTRL+SHIFT+F8 Copy CTRL+C or CTRL+INSERT Copy Format CTRL+SHIFT+C Copy Text SHIFT+F2 Create Auto Text ALT+F3 Customize Add Menu ALT+CTRL+= Customize Keyboard ALT+CTRL+NUM + Customize Remove Menu ALT+CTRL+- Cut CTRL+X or SHIFT+DELETE Date Field ALT+SHIFT+D Delete Back Word CTRL+BACKSPACE Delete Word CTRL+DELETE Dictionary ALT+SHIFT+F7 Do Field Click ALT+SHIFT+F9 Doc Close CTRL+W or CTRL+F4 Doc Maximize CTRL+F10 Doc Move CTRL+F7 Doc Restore CTRL+F5 Doc Size CTRL+F8 Doc Split ALT+CTRL+S Double Underline CTRL+SHIFT+D End of Column ALT+PAGE DOWN End of Column ALT+SHIFT+PAGE DOWN End of Doc Extend CTRL+SHIFT+END End of Document CTRL+END End of Line END End of Line Extend SHIFT+END End of Row ALT+END End of Row ALT+SHIFT+END End of Window ALT+CTRL+PAGE DOWN End of Window Extend ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+PAGE DOWN Endnote Now ALT+CTRL+D Extend Selection F8 Field Chars CTRL+F9 Field Codes ALT+F9 Find CTRL+F Font CTRL+D or CTRL+SHIFT+F Font Size Select CTRL+SHIFT+P Footnote Now ALT+CTRL+F Go Back SHIFT+F5 or ALT+CTRL+Z Go To CTRL+G or F5 Grow Font CTRL+SHIFT+. Grow Font One Point CTRL+] Hanging Indent CTRL+T Header Footer Link ALT+SHIFT+R Help F1 Hidden CTRL+SHIFT+H Hyperlink CTRL+K Indent CTRL+M Italic CTRL+I or CTRL+SHIFT+I Justify Para CTRL+J Left Para CTRL+L Line Down DOWN Line Down Extend SHIFT+DOWN Line Up UP Line Up Extend SHIFT+UP List Num Field ALT+CTRL+L Lock Fields CTRL+3 or CTRL+F11 Macro ALT+F8 Mail Merge Check ALT+SHIFT+K Mail Merge Edit Data Source ALT+SHIFT+E Mail Merge to Doc ALT+SHIFT+N Mail Merge to Printer ALT+SHIFT+M Mark Citation ALT+SHIFT+I Mark Index Entry ALT+SHIFT+X Mark Table of Contents Entry ALT+SHIFT+O Menu Mode F10 Merge Field ALT+SHIFT+F Microsoft Script Editor ALT+SHIFT+F11 Microsoft System Info ALT+CTRL+F1 Move Text F2 New CTRL+N Next Cell TAB Next Field F11 or ALT+F1 Next Misspelling ALT+F7 Next Object ALT+DOWN Next Window CTRL+F6 or ALT+F6 Normal ALT+CTRL+N Normal Style CTRL+SHIFT+N or ALT+SHIFT+CLEAR (NUM 5) Open CTRL+O or CTRL+F12 or ALT+CTRL+F2 Open or Close Up Para CTRL+0 Other Pane F6 or SHIFT+F6 Outline ALT+CTRL+O Outline Collapse ALT+SHIFT+- or ALT+SHIFT+NUM - Outline Demote ALT+SHIFT+RIGHT Outline Expand ALT+SHIFT+= Outline Expand ALT+SHIFT+NUM + Outline Move Down ALT+SHIFT+DOWN Outline Move Up ALT+SHIFT+UP Outline Promote ALT+SHIFT+LEFT Outline Show First Line ALT+SHIFT+L Overtype INSERT Page ALT+CTRL+P Page Break CTRL+ENTER Page Down PAGE DOWN Page Down Extend SHIFT+PAGE DOWN Page Field ALT+SHIFT+P Page Up PAGE UP Page Up Extend SHIFT+PAGE UP Para Down CTRL+DOWN Para Down Extend CTRL+SHIFT+DOWN Para Up CTRL+UP Para Up Extend CTRL+SHIFT+UP Paste CTRL+V or SHIFT+INSERT Paste Format CTRL+SHIFT+V Prev Cell SHIFT+TAB Prev Field SHIFT+F11 or ALT+SHIFT+F1 Prev Object ALT+UP Prev Window CTRL+SHIFT+F6 or ALT+SHIFT+F6 Print CTRL+P or CTRL+SHIFT+F12 Print Preview CTRL+F2 or ALT+CTRL+I Proofing F7 Redo ALT+SHIFT+BACKSPACE Redo or Repeat CTRL+Y or F4 or ALT+ENTER Repeat Find SHIFT+F4 or ALT+CTRL+Y Replace CTRL+H Reset Char CTRL+SPACE or CTRL+SHIFT+Z Reset Para CTRL+Q Revision Marks Toggle CTRL+SHIFT+E Right Para CTRL+R Save CTRL+S or SHIFT+F12 or ALT+SHIFT+F2 Save As F12 Select All CTRL+A or CTRL+CLEAR (NUM 5) or CTRL+NUM 5 Select Table ALT+CLEAR (NUM 5) Show All CTRL+SHIFT+8 Show All Headings ALT+SHIFT+A Show Heading1 ALT+SHIFT+1 Show Heading2 ALT+SHIFT+2 Show Heading3 ALT+SHIFT+3 Show Heading4 ALT+SHIFT+4 Show Heading5 ALT+SHIFT+5 Show Heading6 ALT+SHIFT+6 Show Heading7 ALT+SHIFT+7 Show Heading8 ALT+SHIFT+8 Show Heading9 ALT+SHIFT+9 Shrink Font CTRL+SHIFT+, Shrink Font One Point CTRL+[ Small Caps CTRL+SHIFT+K Space Para1 CTRL+1 Space Para15 CTRL+5 Space Para2 CTRL+2 Spike CTRL+SHIFT+F3 or CTRL+F3 Start of Column ALT+PAGE UP Start of Column ALT+SHIFT+PAGE UP Start of Doc Extend CTRL+SHIFT+HOME Start of Document CTRL+HOME Start of Line HOME Start of Line Extend SHIFT+HOME Start of Row ALT+HOME Start of Row ALT+SHIFT+HOME Start of Window ALT+CTRL+PAGE UP Start of Window Extend ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+PAGE UP Style CTRL+SHIFT+S Subscript CTRL+= Superscript CTRL+SHIFT+= Symbol Font CTRL+SHIFT+Q Thesaurus SHIFT+F7 Time Field ALT+SHIFT+T Toggle Field Display SHIFT+F9 Toggle Master Subdocs CTRL+\ Tool SHIFT+F1 Un Hang CTRL+SHIFT+T Un Indent CTRL+SHIFT+M Underline CTRL+U or CTRL+SHIFT+U Undo CTRL+Z or ALT+BACKSPACE Unlink Fields CTRL+6 or CTRL+SHIFT+F9 Unlock Fields CTRL+4 or CTRL+SHIFT+F11 Update Auto Format ALT+CTRL+U Update Fields F9 or ALT+SHIFT+U Update Source CTRL+SHIFT+F7 VBCode ALT+F11 Web Go Back ALT+LEFT Web Go Forward ALT+RIGHT Word Left CTRL+LEFT Word Left Extend CTRL+SHIFT+LEFT Word Right CTRL+RIGHT Word Right Extend CTRL+SHIFT+RIGHT Word Underline CTRL+SHIFT+W
I never used to write a lot of documentation code, but I spent a lot of time reverse engineering in front of OllyDbg (IDA PRO was just too expensive for me), and writing hooks in C++ during my final university years. It was fun and frustrating at the same time
programming today is an another level..... especially event based single thread servers WTF!!! they play so good but impossible to debug....
if we give more hints here, then SAXANs will trace us easily ... we better stop right here!!
Most of the programmers and many software companies I know put their politicial and philosophical views in the code of their software. Take for example id Software with games such as Wolfenstein and Doom. I don't think anyone of them ever had any problem.
I can share one good service for students. If you have some problems with math I can recommend to contact this excellence in every technical task service - do my math homework. They helped a lot of times! I always was bad in math...
Pyrros: it seems my dark days chasing after vlah and albo women are over.
May 26, 2020 6:22:34 GMT -5
Pyrros: I am getting back to pro-Slav full throttle funkers!!!
May 26, 2020 6:23:01 GMT -5
ulf: I thought your wife is Bosnian
May 26, 2020 7:24:47 GMT -5
Pyrros: Yup, I was not chasing my wife.
May 26, 2020 14:12:51 GMT -5
Pyrros: good month ppl!
Jun 1, 2020 23:54:54 GMT -5
alsawyn: Per rimanere in salute devi solo mangiare bene, fare esercizi mattutini e fare più passeggiate all'aria aperta, ma a volte i miei amici vengono da me e sono molto ben aiutati comprare Priligy, qui possono rap
Jun 2, 2020 9:17:30 GMT -5