Tips For Speeding Up Windows XP - Without Utilizing Defrag

Sunday, May 22, 2011
If you're still relying on 'Defrag' to improve system performance, you are behind the times. Defragmenting is the process of reorganizing all files on a hard drive so that each file is arranged into a single uninterrupted or contiguous location on the disk. Many system builders and technicians still believe that defragmenting a hard drive on a regular basis will keep a machine operating at peak performance. That was true with older PCs, but today we have 7200 rotations per minute disk drives with improved seek and latency times; many contain an 8MB cache buffer. For today's machines, defragmentation no longer has a big impact on system performance.

Defragmenting is still an important task. Excess power consumption and over heating can directly relate to a fragmented hard drive. If a file is not contiguous when the computer's operating system requests it, extra seeking on the disk is required. More importantly, if a hard drive crashes, the likelihood of successfully recovering data from the damaged drive improves greatly if the data is contiguous rather than fragmented. Defrag just doesn't cut it anymore when it comes to speeding up a PC.

The following tips will improve system performance on any PC running Windows XP and some will improve system security as well:

(Note - If your computer is on a Local Area Network or LAN at your business or you have a laptop that is at times on a workplace LAN, don't change ANY configuration settings without approval from your Network Administrator).

Before you begin, do a backup of your essential data

For details on performing a proper backup in Windows XP, go to and enter 'Backup Windows XP' in the search bar.

There are a few basic system attributes that may need to be adjusted so that the system will allow you to make necessary changes:

I. Make sure that you're logged on to your machine as an 'Administrator'

II. Make sure that you can properly navigate 'System Files'-

Open any folder and go to 'Tools' > 'Folder Options...' > 'View'

Under 'Advanced Settings' make sure that the following boxes are checked:

'Display the contents of system folders'

'Show hidden files and folders'

Make sure that the following boxes are NOT checked:

'Hide extensions for known file types'

'Hide protected operating system files'

III. Enable the 'Run' feature in the 'Start' menu

Hit the 'Start' button. If 'Run...' is not visible in the 'Start' menu do the following:

'Right-click' on the 'Task Bar'. Go to 'Properties' > 'Start Menu'

If 'Start menu' is selected, select and utilize 'Classic start menu' instead.

(Many viruses replace the 'Folder.htt' file utilized by the Windows XP 'Start Menu' with a corrupt VBScript. Once infected, each time you utilize Windows Explorer to view a folder you will execute a virus that will dramatically slow down your machine.)

After selecting 'Classic start menu' hit 'Apply' then go to 'Customize...' and make sure that the 'Display Run' box is checked.

Now, let's crank it up!

Eliminate all spyware

Utilize free programs such as AdAware by Lavasoft and SpyBot Search & Destroy by Safer Networking. Once these programs are installed, make sure that there aren't any items listed or checked in the 'Ignore' section. Be sure to check for and download updates before starting a scan.

Run a complete virus scan

Update your anti-virus software and run a complete system virus scan. Many viruses are designed for the sole purpose of draining system resources. Make sure that you only have one anti-virus software package installed. Unlike anti-Spyware programs, mixing anti-virus software is a sure-fire way to spell disaster for system performance and reliability.

Run 'Disk Cleanup'

Open 'My Computer' from the desktop. 'Right-click' on your main hard drive, (usually 'C:'). Select 'Properties' and press 'Disk cleanup'. Allow it to run. Once finished, the 'Files to delete' window will show the file categories on the disk that can be deleted or compressed. Check the boxes by those that you don't need and press 'OK'.

Check each hard drive with 'scandisk'

With time and heavy use, data and physical problems can develop that drastically decrease system performance. Defragmenting the drive can help, but there are other issues such as lost clusters and bad sectors that the defragmentation utility cannot touch. It's a good idea to run XP's built in error checking utility on your drives every 2-3 months. This utility will scan your disks for errors and optionally attempt to correct them.

Open 'My Computer' from the desktop. 'Right-click' on your main hard drive, (usually 'C:'). Select 'properties' then 'tools' and under 'error checking' select 'check now...'. Check both 'Automatically fix file system errors' and 'Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors'. Restart your machine. 'Scandisk' will run during startup and can take a while depending on the size of your drive.

Clean out your 'Temporary Internet Files' and 'Cookies' folder

'Start' > 'Settings' > 'Control Panel' > 'Internet Options'

Select 'Delete Cookies...'. When the confirmation window appears, press 'OK'.

Select 'Delete Files...'. When the confirmation window appears, check 'Delete all offline content' and press 'OK'. (If you checked the 'Temporary Internet Files' box during 'Disk Cleanup' this should only take a second or two.)

Change 'Days to keep pages in history:' to 0. If you visit certain Web sites on a regular basis, add them to your 'Favorites'. Don't utilize 'History' to keep track of frequently visited sites.

Press 'OK'.

Eliminate programs that run during startup

Preventing programs from running at startup can be frustrating because there is no single location from which to stop them all. Some programs run because they're in the 'Startup' folder, others because they're attached to logon scripts. Others run due to Registry settings. With a little determination and persistence, you will be able to prevent unnecessary programs from running during startup.

Clean out your 'Startup' folder

C:Documents and Settings'your username'Start MenuProgramsStartup

Delete 'shortcuts' to unnecessary programs that run during startup. (You can also remove startup 'shortcuts' by going to 'Start' > 'Programs' > 'Startup', then 'right-clicking' on and deleting the 'shortcuts' you want to remove).

(Note - You can prevent all programs in your 'Startup' folder from running by holding down the 'Shift' key during startup. The items will still remain in the 'Startup' folder, however, and they will start the next time you boot).

Clean out your 'Scheduled Tasks' folder


Delete the 'shortcuts' to programs that you don't want to run automatically on a schedule.

Utilizing the 'System Configuration Utility'

The above steps will prevent most obvious programs from running during startup, but others are hidden. To view these programs, go to 'Start' > 'Run...' type 'msconfig' and press 'OK' or hit 'Enter'. You are now utilizing the 'System Configuration Utility'. Go to the 'Startup' tab and you will see the hidden programs that run during startup.

None of these programs are needed for Windows XP to startup properly. You do, however, want your anti-virus software and certain programs that your machine utilizes such as touchpad, graphics, audio and networking drivers to run during startup. This is where persistence pays off. Many times these programs aren't clearly marked. To identify one of these programs, go to 'Start' > 'Search' > 'For files and folders' > 'All files and folders'. Then select 'More advanced options' and make sure that 'Search system folders', 'Search hidden files and folders' and 'Search subfolders' are all checked. Then type the name of the unidentifiable program, ('SHSTAT', for example), then press 'Search'.

Once the program shows up in the 'Search Results' window, press 'STOP'. Then 'Right-click' on the program and select 'Open Containing Folder'. Now you are in the program's directory and should be able to identify it by reading the address bar. 'SHSTAT' resides in my ' C:Program FilesNetwork AssociatesVirusScan' folder, therefore, I want it to run during startup. 'Msmsgs', on the other hand, resides in my 'C:Program FilesMessenger' folder. I never use the Microsoft Instant Messenger, therefore, I would uncheck it in the 'System Configuration Utility'. Once you have unchecked each program that you don't want to run during startup, press 'Apply' then 'Close' and select 'Restart'. After startup you will receive a 'System Configuration Utility' message stating, "You have used the System Configuration Utility to make changes to the way Windows starts." Simply check 'Don't show this message...' then select 'OK'. I realize that this is a borderline ridiculous process, but until Microsoft comes up with a better way to modify hidden startup programs... oh well.

Eliminate services that run during startup

Constantly running processes that help the operating system run or that provide support to other applications are known as 'services'. Many 'services' launch automatically at startup and constantly run in the background. While you need many of them, some are not required and they can slow down your system.

To view 'services' go to 'Start' > 'Run' and type 'services.msc' then press 'OK' or hit 'Enter'. To stop a 'service' from running during startup, 'Right-click' on the 'service' and select 'Properties'. Change 'Startup type:' to 'Manual' and press 'Apply'. Then press 'Stop'. The following are some of the common services that can be prevented from running during startup:

- Portable Media Serial Number Service

- Removable Storage

- Task Scheduler Service - Schedules unattended tasks to be run. If you don't schedule any unattended tasks, turn it off.

- Uninterruptible Power Supply Service - Manages an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) connected to your PC. If you don't utilize one, turn it off.

- Wireless Zero Configuration Service - only if you don't utilize a wireless internet connection.

- Telnet - (Certain versions of Windows XP Pro only) Unless you're a 'hacker'. Then you probably wouldn't be reading this article. Instead of changing 'Telnet' to 'Manual', go ahead and select 'Disable'.

Disable 'file indexing'

The 'Indexing service' extracts information from documents and other files on the hard drive and creates a "searchable keyword index." As you can imagine, this process can be quite taxing on any system.

The idea is that the user can search for a word, phrase, or property inside of any document or file. Windows XP's built-in search functionality can still perform these searches without the Indexing service. It just takes longer.

Open 'My Computer' from the desktop. 'Right-click' on your main hard drive, (usually 'C:'). Select 'Properties'. Uncheck 'Allow Indexing Service to index this disk for fast file searching'. Then select 'Apply changes to C:, subfolders and files', then select 'OK'. If a warning or error message appears (such as 'Access is denied'), select the 'Ignore All button'.

Enable 'DMA' for each hard drive

'Start'>'Settings'>'Control Panel'>'Administrative Tools'>'Computer Management'>'Device Manager'

'Double-click' on the 'IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers device' and ensure that 'DMA', (Direct Memory Access), is enabled for each drive connected to the Primary and Secondary controller. Do this by double-clicking on 'Primary IDE Channel'. Select the 'Advanced Settings' tab. Ensure the Transfer Mode is set to 'DMA if available' for both Device 0 and Device 1. Repeat this process with the Secondary IDE Channel.

Turn off unnecessary animations

'Start'>'Settings'>'Control Panel'>'System'>'Advanced'

Windows XP offers many settings related animated icons, fonts, window displays, etc. When enabled these features utilize valuable system resources. under 'Performance' select 'Settings' then select 'Adjust for best performance'.

Eliminate unnecessary 'fonts'


The more fonts you have installed, the slower your system will become. While Windows XP handles fonts much more efficiently than previous versions of Windows, too many fonts, anything over 500, will noticeably tax your system.

Speedup Windows Explorer

Every time you open a folder there is a delay before the folder's content appears. Windows XP automatically searches for network files and printers every time you open Windows Explorer. To correct this and to significantly increase browsing speed open 'My Computer' from the desktop. Select 'Tools' then 'Folder Options'. Select 'View' and uncheck 'Automatically search for network folders and printers'. Select 'Apply' then 'OK' and restart your machine.

Optimize Your 'Pagefile'

If you assign a 'fixed' file size to your 'pagefile' the operating system no longer needs to resize it to fulfill memory needs.

Windows XP sizes the 'pagefile' to about 1.5x the amount of actual physical memory by default. This is fine for systems with smaller amounts of memory, (under 512MB). If you have less than 512MB of memory, leave the 'pagefile' at its default size. If you have 512MB or more, change the 'pagefile' size ratio to 1:1.

'Right-click' on 'My Computer' from the desktop and select 'Properties' > 'Advanced'. Under 'Performance' choose 'Settings' > 'Advanced' > 'Virtual Memory' > 'Change'. Highlight the drive containing your page file, (usually 'C:'), and make the 'Initial size' of the file the same as the 'Maximum size' of the file. Then select 'Set' > 'OK' > 'OK' > 'OK'. Restart your machine.



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