It seems that the longer you use your PC, the slower it gets. If only there was a way to get Windows to run as fast as it did in the beginning...
Well, the only way to get Windows XP to run as fast as it did in the beginning is to format your hard drive and reinstall everything. But I'm sure you'll agree that that's a bit drastic.
It is, however, possible to get your PC to run a lot faster than it is now. There's the hardware route, which includes getting more RAM, but this doesn't always fit into your budget.
Fortunately there is a series of house cleaning steps that will also help getting things streamlined:
- Get rid of all viruses and malware (spyware, adware, etc.);
- Defragmenting your hard drive;
- Cleaning out the system registry;
- Uninstalling all unnecessary programs;
- Cleaning up the hard drive.
If you do all these housecleaning functions on a regular basis, your computer should be running a lot smoother and friendlier.
Getting rid of malware
Viruses, adware, spyware and other forms of malicious software do have a very negative influence on your computer's operating speed. The best thing is prevention, so make sure you have software in place that will protect your computer against malware.
If you've got Windows XP, you can download and install Windows Defender to protect you against spyware and adware. It's free and seems to be doing a really good job.
Another great program that helps against spyware and adware is Ad-aware. The free version will search and destroy on demand, but it doesn't give any live protection (i.e. it will only pick up malware when you search for it, not when it's installed). Still, it's a good backup to have.
As far as viruses go, you usually get what you pay for, i.e. if you buy an anti-virus package, you tend to get a good service. There are, however, a myriad of free anti-virus programs available, which do give you good protection, albeit in a slimmed down fashion. Read this article for a selection of these.
Finally, make sure you download and install all the updates that Windows Update prompts you with. These are vital security fixes that plug the holes through which malware enter your computer.
To activate this function in Windows, right-click with your mouse on the "My Computer" icon on your desktop, select "Properties" and then go to the "Automatic Updates" tab. Choose the setting that suits your liking (if in doubt, select the automatic option) and click on "OK".
Defragmenting your hard drive
As time goes by, files get scattered all across your hard drive. This sometimes causes Windows to waste a lot of time looking for a file before it can open it up. Defragmenting your hard drive will neatly line all the files up next to each other, resulting in less computing time needed to run certain applications.
Before you do it though, read this article first to make sure you're not running anything in the background that will interfere with the defragmentation process and cause you to pull the hair from your head in frustration.
To run the defragmentation on your computer, go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and click on "Disk Defragmenter". Now click on the button that says "Defragment". Switch off your computer screen and walk away, as it's going to take a while...
Tip: Since it takes so long to run, it's best to let it do its thing during the night.
Cleaning out the system registry
The system registry is the place that monitors all the different functions of your computer. It keeps tabs on what programs are installed and where all the files are on your computer. In short, it's the computer's index system.
As you install and remove programs, things can get quite messy in there though. Hence the need to clean out the registry from time to time.
Read this article on how to clean your registry.
Uninstalling all unnecessary programs
If you did some investigation, you will probably find that you've got a lot of things installed on your computer that you're not using. All of this slows down your computer by unnecessarily taking up disc space.
So uninstalling unneeded software is a good idea, giving your computer some breathing space.
Cleaning up the hard drive
As you browse the internet, install and remove programs, your hard drive will begin to look like a bone yard after a while because not all the files are uninstalled when you remove a program, while temporary files used during installation of programs often stay put. This and other scattered files take up unnecessary space and contribute indirectly to sluggish computer performance when you add it all up.
Fortunately Windows has a built-in function that helps you sort out this problem. Go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and click on "Disk Cleanup". Windows then calculates how much space you can clean up and removes all unnecessary files when you click on "OK". Make sure you browse through the other options under the "More Options" tab as well before clicking on "OK".