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Maintaining Windows XP System Performance?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the recommend-regular-use-of-registry-cleaners dept.

Windows 159

jerud wonders: "I assume that most people on Slashdot are forced to, at some point, touch Windows. Further, I assume that many of them are forced to administer Windows boxes. I am in the unfortunate situation of using Windows for about 90% of my tasks, due to the nature of my job. As a firm believer in 'if it isn't broke don't fix it', I've delayed moving to XP for just about as long as possible, holding onto my Windows 2000 installation, while my brother spent a lot of time complaining about the XP issues he dealt with, at work. Finally, I made the transition and, low and behold, it didn't seem to bad. In fact, there were a few things that I really liked. Now, a few years later I have quite a few XP machines and they all share the same problem: over time they have slowed so noticeably that they have made even the most solid configurations run like they were made in 1999. Is there any regular treatment out there that can minimize this kind of system degradation?""Solid practices are in use on most of these machines, or at least the ones that are completely under my control. Even with that, I know these machines are much slower now then when I bought them. I really don't want to spend two weekends every year starting over from scratch, simply because thats the only way to reclaim performance."

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Services (2, Informative)

BishonenAngstMagnet (797469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14086930)

Start -> Run 'services.msc' Cut off most of these. Many are useless, and yet are enabled by default.

Re:Services (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14086966)

also start -> run -> msconfig.exe -> startup tab

Re:Services (1)

mashade (912744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087219)

There are two other ways to check what's starting up. 'msconfig' from start > run is a good one, but I find it a cleaner solution to simply remove the entries from the registry.
start > run: regedit and navigate to a couple of entries and subkeys:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Curre ntVersion/Run (and RunOnce)
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Curr entVersion/Run (and RunOnce etc..)

You may also check for Windows NT subkeys instead of Windows.

Any time you do a repair by removing Spyware/Adware/Virus, make sure you disable system restore and then reenable it after you clean the virus -- you risk restoring back to the old 'infected point'.

-- Shade

Re:Services (1)

B'Trey (111263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089575)

There are two other ways to check what's starting up. 'msconfig' from start > run is a good one, but I find it a cleaner solution to simply remove the entries from the registry.

Hijack This [spywareinfo.com]

Lists everything that is autostarted, and removes the autostart entry with a simple check box and button. If you're comfortable with editing the registry, then by all means feel free to do it manually. But if you're not a hard core geek (or you want something to recommend to your non-geek friends and loved ones), then check out Hijack This. (Not affiliated with the program in any way. It's just a super handy tool to have around - I keep a copy on my pen drive that I carry around with me.)

defrag the registry. (5, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14086943)

defragment your hard drive. Of course, you can't defrag the registry. So use sysinternal's PageDefrag utility [sysinternals.com] which can. Over time, the registry accumulates a lot of stuff, and defragging it can help quite a bit.

Start up monitor (4, Informative)

Pacifix (465793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14086974)

http://www.mlin.net/StartupMonitor.shtml [mlin.net] - it's a freeware app that tells you each time something tries to register itself to run at startup. Those damn on-startup apps are what slow the machine down the most, especially for non-technical home users. You'll be amazed at how many things believe they must run every time you start your computer.

Re:Start up monitor (0, Redundant)

quadbox (567013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087311)

Thank christ for that, a program that starts up automatically, runs in background, and warns me if anything else tries to start up automatically and run in background

Re:Start up monitor (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088098)

While that certainly can be helpful, WindowsXP itself turns to sludge over time -- it does not need spyware or HP printer drivers or Quicktime or Skype or AIM or whathaveyou in order to slow down.

My solution was to install Windows 2000 SP4 instead. That sucker is the Rock of Gibraltar,
as long as you don't do anything stupid.

Re:Start up monitor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088636)

An easier alternative: Start - Run - msconfig [Enter]. Select tab "Startup" and uncheck anything you don't need.

Self-destruction is a "feature". (4, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089588)

We use Startup Monitor and ZoneAlarm Security Suite software firewall. The newest ZA pops up a window the first time anything suspicious happens. It's a big problem convincing users to report the ZA popups, but if they do, Windows is much safer.

However, it's a losing battle. The problem is that Microsoft makes more money if its operating systems self-destruct. What you call "vulnerabilities" billionaires call "maximizing shareholder value".

If rich people sold good operating systems, poor people would not buy the next upgrade.

Using an operating system is like having a partner in your business. If it is a Microsoft OS, your "partners" want some things that are bad for you. If you use Linux or BSD, you can breathe a huge sigh of relief; your partners want what you want.

It's absurd that governments of countries use Microsoft products. It's even absurd that state governments in the U.S. use Microsoft products. The U.S. federal government spends more money on world-wide surveillance than any country in the history of the world. Exploiting computer systems is now one of the biggest new frontiers in surveillance.

The U.S. government's Echelon [echelonwatch.org] surveillance [fas.org] system [hiwaay.net] watches everyone all the time. (Echelon quote: "Since the close of World War II, the US intelligence agencies have developed a consistent record of trampling the rights and liberties of the American people.")

The biggest discretionary expense of the U.S. government is the cost [nationalpriorities.org] of war [informatio...house.info]. The president and the vice-president of the U.S. are people who themselves and their families and friends made their money through oil and weapons. Is it any wonder that the price of oil is so high and we have war?

When a country uses Microsoft operating systems, it effectively has the U.S. government as one of its partners. Given the present climate of corruption and conflict of interest and adversarial behavior and using war as a justification for anything, why do countries want the U.S. government and U.S. billionaires as partners?

If volunteers can make a secure operating system [openbsd.org] ("Only one remote hole in the default install, in more than 8 years!") is it difficult to believe that the amazing number of vulnerabilities we've seen in Windows are deliberately allowed?

I have the same feeling (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14086988)

My Dell laptop seemed full of crud. I know that I had installed quite a few systems just to test them over the first year that I had the laptop. And now it was showing mysterious symptoms - Programs would seem to just hang when I started them. The responsiveness seemed down.

So I wiped the hardrive and re-installed XP plus all the packages that I knew I needed. After I got it all running again, it seemed as repsonsive as when I first got it.

But that was 10 months ago. Now it is back to the same feeling of molasses at times with the inexplicable behaviour. So obviously I have installed something that has slowed things down. But what? There is no way to tell what it is. So it looks like I am headed for the yearly rebuild again.

[Note 1 that in all of this, I have been using virus protection, adware protection, software firewalls, and up-todate patches]

[Note 2 To all you people who will say wipe XP and put *nix on. I can't as I have custom software development tools that *only* run on windows. And no, it is not possible to rewrite them from scratch - and anybody who thinks so hasn't been out in the world of PLC programming and heavy industries]

Re:I have the same feeling (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087412)

Oh don't give up so easily. There are plenty of very simple to use and powerful utilities that can help you keep your Windows system running perfectly. And if you pay thousands of dollars for a MSDN subscription, you can use those tools on your computer too.

Re:I have the same feeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14087668)

She-yit muthafucka, where's the torrent's?

Re:I have the same feeling (3, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087607)

"My Dell laptop seemed full of crud. I know that I had installed quite a few systems just to test them over the first year that I had the laptop. And now it was showing mysterious symptoms - Programs would seem to just hang when I started them. The responsiveness seemed down."

Ditto. I've basically gotten in the habit of reinstalling every 6 months to a year or so. I don't have problems with Windows stability, but the 'spring cleaning' bit is something I am not thrilled with at all. I have done a few things to minimize the down time, though:

1. I maintain a drive letter on every install of Windows I use. Either I format a partition to that drive letter, or I use the dos 'subst.exe' command to make the drive letter based on a folder. (depends on if I have a free partition or not.)

2. Since I have a constant drive letter, I keep folder around that has copies of the software I use. Most of the apps I use don't need to muck with the registry to be installed, so I can just fire up the app right away. For other apps like Office, I keep the installer around as well.

3. I have a 'Shortcuts' folder where I put shortcuts to these apps. When Windows is done installing, I set up the quicklaunch bar to look in that folder. (I rarely use the Start Menu.)

4. I'm using GMail now so my email's never interrupted.

5. Since I have so much giggage on my computer, I usually keep 10-20 gigs of partition space around so that when I do reinstall Windows, I can install it to that partition instead of having to blow away what I have. In an 'oh shit!' emergency, I can get it going again. (funny, I haven't needed that in a while.. hopefully I didn't just jinx myself.)

6. I also keep a running tally of drivers I need on this partition. Once I need the scanner or something, getting it going doesn't take long because I know where I kept my files.

The added benefit of my approach here is that I can mirror this setup to my laptop or to a new computer just by getting things hooked up to the network. Plus it simplifies backups by a considerable margin.

Re:I have the same feeling (1)

shadowzero313 (827228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088729)

Last time I reinstalled, I rebooted into Linux right after I had my drivers in place and tar.bz2'd the thing. My install hasn't gotten laggy yet, but when it does I'll have 90% of the work done for me already. The rest is pretty much reinstalling registry fanatic software.

Re:I have the same feeling (2, Funny)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087774)

That's the nice thing about Dell systems - you don't normally see a gradual reduction of responsiveness because they come conveniently pre-encumbered. Last system I had I built. This August out of laziness (and because I wanted a deal on a 26" LCD) I ordered a Dell system. Holy CRAP - since my last Dell (1998) they have made great strides in loading in all sorts of horrible crap in their systems. Straight out of the box the system wouldn't shut down properly 19 times out of 20... errors, hangs, etc, forcing a manual power-off without shutdown. STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BOX. So much spyware and other crap pre-installed its mind boggling.

Re:I have the same feeling (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088232)

To all you people who will say wipe XP and put *nix on.

I wouldn't tell you that. Use what makes sense. However, I can't resist gloating just a little... the Debian installation I'm using to type this was initially installed in 1999. That was a couple major releases of the OS and three computers ago. I upgrade every couple of weeks (this is Debian unstable, so it changes frequently) and whenever I get a new laptop I just 'dd' the image to the new hard drive. It still runs great, without all those time-wasting reinstalls. Not only that, but moving my system to a new machine takes less than an hour. Compare that with my Windows-using colleagues who seem to end up carting two laptops around for weeks while they slowly get all of their apps installed and their data moved.

I can't as I have custom software development tools that *only* run on windows.

VMWare might be a solution. Or it might not, depending.

Use whatever causes you the least pain. For me, that's a Linux system with VMs for the occasional Windows work. When the Windows system gets too crufty, I just revert to an old snapshot. Problem solved!

Re:I have the same feeling (1, Insightful)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088883)

[Note 1 that in all of this, I have been using virus protection, adware protection, software firewalls, and up-todate patches]
Well, there's your problem. Anti-virus and active adware protection on server machines can't be a good idea. How's it going to get a virus? It's a server, not a user's email and browsing machine. Even my own WinXP laptop has been running for 18 months with no anti-virus and I've had not a single incident. Anti-virus is grossly over-rated.

Re:I have the same feeling (2, Interesting)

tommertron (640180) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089472)

[Note 1 that in all of this, I have been using virus protection, adware protection, software firewalls, and up-todate patches] Virus protection and adware protection constantly running in the background? Those are almost always performance drains. Especially if they're set to scan every file change, addition, install, email, and download. Maybe I'm lucky, but I haven't ever used a virus protection program on my computer (3+ years now), and I've been fine. I also don't download apps from P2Ps, I use Firefox, and my email is all webmail, where I never open attachments I don't trust.

Re:I have the same feeling (1)

tacocat (527354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089599)

I don't believe you have to install anything or even run XP to experience this.

This has been a common complaint that I have heard since Windows 95.

Disk defrag doesn't help and I've seen it happen with computer that have had nothing installed for 4 years. I suspect that this has been a problem all along and is far more ubiquitous than imagined. But when you consider that Microsoft OS timelines require you to get a new computer and new software almost every 3 years, it's harder to identify. Now that hardware has somewhat leveled out, I think you will find this more often.

Planned Obsolescence?

Re-install from scratch (3, Insightful)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087038)

Otherwise, it will never be clean.

And that includes re-formatting the partition.

Re:Re-install from scratch (3, Informative)

invisik (227250) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087065)

Correct. I don't know anyone who could really say what was happening. I've heard in tech shops the recommended lifespan is 18 months of a Windows installation. I'd say that was about right, with minimal crashes during that time.

I'd recommend reinsatlling Windows, installing all your apps and patches. Then get a copy of Norton Ghost and take an image of your machine. Save that to a jillion CD's or a couple of DVD's and shelve them. When your box gets trashed again, slap the image back on and apply any updates from there. Saves some time.


Re:Re-install from scratch (1)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087260)

I've heard the same.

Except one in particular said he did it about every 6 months.

Re:Re-install from scratch (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087455)

I reinstall my primary desktop about every 3 months, and it runs Linux. I mostly reinstall out of boredom or curiosity. There's always some other distro I'd like to try for a while. I can't do that with Windows. There's just Windows XP, or something older.

Re:Re-install from scratch (1)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087842)

I actually used to be the same way, just not so often.

It slowed down significantly when I switched from Gentoo to Debian, which is when I started needing a system more as a tool than a toy. I don't mean to imply any thing. That's just the way I was/am.

Ultimately, all that stopped all together when I started using FreeBSD this last Summer.

Re:Re-install from scratch (1)

0xygen (595606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088879)

I am pleased to see another user moving to FreeBSD - I've installed it now on two machines (an aging laptop and a current desktop) and was pleasantly surprised with the experience on both.

Unfortunately for work I am stuck with Windows XP, but from the experiences with both machines, it certainly looks like a better candidate for desktops that the variety of Linux offerings, especially with the improved hardware support in 6.0

FreeBSD seems to solve many of the Linux "constant upgrade" problems which I seem to experience - it's possible to track a supported release for a number of years with only minimal patching.

Re:Re-install from scratch (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087724)

  Also, have another, seperate CD or DVD with all the Microsoft patches and updates on them. Major, MAJOR timesavers, especially as a relatively upatched windows XP box can be compromised within minutes of connecting to the net if you don't alter it's startup services first. Best to simply patch it while unconnected first. (An external USB harddrive is an even better way, almost as portable)

  Also make sure to do regular backups - create a saved project for them with a scheduler reminder to open up and burn that project. MyDocs, Email, Registry, and various other things (it can get to be quite a list :)

  Thoroughly scan *them* too...

  And, if you have the ability to, image your hard drive before reinstalling. This can save many of the "Oh, Damn, I Forgot That" headaches later on.

  (What are all us PT techs going to do if the virus problem vanishes? Not worried :)

Re:Re-install from scratch (1)

KevinKnSC (744603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088238)

This is what I do, except I use the partimage program on the System Rescue CD [sysresccd.org]. If you're at all proficient with Unixish systems you can skip Ghost and use partimage or g4u instead.

Re:Re-install from scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14089589)

I'm confused. Norton Ghost, Ghost for Linux, Ghost for Unix. Are some of these the same product?

A problem I had recently (3, Informative)

mrs dogbreath (888220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087063)

Nikon slidescanner attached via FireWire; couple of years old and every now and again gets put on a new machine, scan time improve but the after all the updating both windows and Antivirus etc do suddenly slows.
Ask around, do dependancy checks run spy+ no great insight
Then a friend says "What anti-virus you use?"
"AVG, you know the free one"
"ARGHH dumpit, replace it with something else"
Turns out AVG puts some drivers into the pipeline so it can scan ethernet,USB and FireWire, so everytime the scanner sent a glob of the slide this software was checking to see if it was a virus!

And yes this continued AFTER I removed the 1364 network stuff, I even go as far as trying another card

My scanning speeds have droped from 5 mins a slide to 1.35mins, do you know how much more of a life I can have!

So have a look at device manager, choose view->devices by connection & tick hidden devices box, right near the top you'll see among much else you Antivirus drivers, some dumb some not so dumb

Re:A problem I had recently (2, Insightful)

BusDriver (34906) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087081)

I agree.

To me the biggest way to put the brakes on a new system is to install Anti-Virus software. Also programs that install new associations or things in the right-click context menu don't help much either.


Re:A problem I had recently (1)

flarn (578125) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087343)

over a minute to scan? That's crazy, sounds like my old HP scanner. I got the canon LiDE LED scanner. It's fast and a fraction of the size of most other scanners. Not to mention a lot less noisy.

Re:A problem I had recently (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088923)

He's using a Nikon slide scanner. He's probably talking about a $20k scanner and doing 4000 dpi +. We have one at the lab. 4000 dpi takes time.

Re:A problem I had recently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14089269)

Of course, when you say "replace it with something else" you can't possibly mean mcafee or Norton antivirus. You need a whole other computer just to run those.

few things I've found (2, Informative)

Deathlizard (115856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087075)

1)Like Lone Starr said in Spaceballs, "Take only what you need to survive". Basically only install what you need for the primary task the computer does. The more stuff you install, the slower it gets.

2)Disk Cleanup, Chkdsk, and Defragment the hard drive at least once a month. a lot of speed can be gained just by doing this regularly.

3)Protect windows like the plague. Patch to the latest revisions of Service packs, critical, and recommended updates. also use third party protection to protect against malware. Spywareblaster, Microsoft Antispyware and Grisoft AVG free edition are my personal favorites.

4)Keep system restore on and always make a restore point before you install anything. That way, if it screws up the machine after you installed it, you can uninstall it and roll the computer back to ensure that the system is totally clean of it.

5) If you got Norton ghost lying around, use it to make an image of your machine after you set it all up, that way you can roll back to that image just in case something really hoses windows.

So far, I've kept this mantra going with my machine. It's been a good 1 to 2 years since I reinstalled windows either from scratch or by ghost and I've haven't noticed any slowdown to date that I couldn't attribute to the machine getting more obsolete by the day.

nLiteOS? (2, Informative)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087807)

If you want a minimal Windows install, use nLiteOS -- it creates an install CD for Windows from your existing copy, only including what you choose.

Also, remember to have a sane partitioning scheme, in case you need to reinstall. You might want to use FAT for your data partition; that way, you can read it via a Knoppix CD in a real emergency.

Re:nLiteOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088309)

You might want to use FAT for your data partition; that way, you can read it via a Knoppix CD in a real emergency.

Knoppix has no problem reading NTFS.

Re:nLiteOS? (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089414)

Yeah, almost forgot about a bootable CD solution. Although I prefer Pebuilder with XPE over Knoppix, either one works fine.

The Ultimate Boot CD and the UBCD 4 Windows (Basicially PEBuilder with a lot of diagnostic utilities) are also something you should keep around just in case.

Run as a Non-admin User (2, Interesting)

tgbrittai (599035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087118)

This is the best way, by far! It's more secure and stops almost all spyware cold. And no spyware == better performance.

Re:Run as a Non-admin User (5, Funny)

Kraeloc (869412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087160)

The thought of using one of my own computers and not having absolute, immediate control over it, makes my skin crawl. I rule each box with an iron fist.

Re:Run as a Non-admin User (1)

tgbrittai (599035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087193)

Same here. However, there is only a small percentage my time spent on the computer that I am actually configuring or troubleshooting it and need admin rights. I use runas for this. It has become much more usable in Windows XP. The rest of my time is spent running as a regular user.

Re:Run as a Non-admin User (3, Insightful)

Johnno74 (252399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087851)

I'll second that. As well as the regular cleanups advocated elsewhere on this story (defrag (inc registry), prune startup crap with autoruns) you will accumulate a lot less crap if you run as non-admin.

I ripped this quote from somewhere...
              Q. Why is Windows so insecure?
              A. Because everyone runs as Administrator.

              Q. Why does everyone run as Administrator (even when they know better)?
              A. Because they don't understand security and are afraid they will be prevented from doing things.

              Q. Why don't they understand security?
              A. Because they run as Administrator, bypassing all security.

This [msdn.com] microsoftie blog has lots of good info about running as non-admin. It can be painful to switch, but once you do, you won't regret it.

You probably won't hear this elsewhere... (3, Interesting)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087142)

I run with system restore turned off. Also clearing out your logs Control Panel|Administrative Tools|Event Viewer may or may not make a difference. You may actually try reading some of them first, but good luck making sense of them.

Example Log Entry:
The description for Event ID ( 20158 ) in Source ( RemoteAccess ) cannot be found. The local computer may not have the necessary registry information or message DLL files to display messages from a remote computer. You may be able to use the /AUXSOURCE= flag to retrieve this description; see Help and Support for details

So do I, BUT (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087698)

Ironically enough, when I was stuck trying to remove the "lower filter" from my sister's DVD driver on her new laptop after she installed the Sony rootkit, I ended up giving up and rolling back, because I hadn't yet turned off her restore.

Performance without reboot (1)

Fanro (130986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087185)

On that note, is there a way to keep windows running smooth without rebooting it every two weeks?

I absolutely hate rebooting, but after a while of playing hibernate/standby/wake up with my laptop the system becomes more and more unresponsive, and some weird bug keeps cropping up that prevents the opening of new windows (even dialog boxes) until I close some of the old ones.

And how does linux handle this kind of thing for you? On my few tries I had even less luck with Linux and hibernate than with windows.

Re:Performance without reboot (0)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087288)

Buy decent hardware with good drivers and stop installing crap software. (Including spyware.)

Bruised registry (3, Informative)

rocjoe71 (545053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087187)

Try these, in order:
  1. Uninstall every application you're positive you don't want/need, including Indexing Service (which you could replace with Google Desktop or Copernic)
  2. If you (shudder) use Outlook, it gets pretty logey around 800Mb or so, especially if you frequently recieve or send attachments, use the archival function to stow away old email, at work I do mine my year. Another handy tool is "Google GMail Loader", I have archived all my email at home in my Gmail account, which turns your GMail into offsite backup of your email.
  3. Create a new logon, your user profile is probably quite bloated and mangled. A new profile will let you start from zero. Migrate bookmarks, email and your My Documents folder... DO NOT delete your original user logon until you're satisfied that you've migrated everything you want to keep (deleting the profile will delete everything associated to that logon in Documents and Settings).
  4. Quick pagefile defrag tip: Move your page file to a different hard drive partition through the Virtual Memory dialog (Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance > Virtual Memory)-- set the min and max sizes to the same number so it never has to grow again once its been initialized as this will limit the opportunity for it to fragment.
  5. Do some housekeeping, delete files you don't need, empty your internet cache, then defrag the hard drive.
  6. Through Google, you can find alot of advice on which services you can turn off without hapering the funcitoning of XP. I manage fine without doing this step but some swear by it.

clean the crap out (3, Interesting)

xiong.chiamiov (871823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087202)

As well as everything suggested above, run Crap Cleaner [ccleaner.com]. This has cleaned so many gigs of junk from my computer over time, I don't know what I would do without it.

Don't install any applications... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087205)

Seriously. Install only the core number of applications that you need. In Windows, every program you install ends up creating registry entries. That registry DB grows over time, and needs to get parsed all the time - resulting in sluggishnes.

Use sensible applications wherever you can (like Firefox; it stores its config info in flat files).

Also, Microsoft products are the worst offenders - Visual Studio, Office, etc.. all become bloated pigs.

Re:Don't install any applications... (1)

mchawi (468120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087272)

The registry as a cause of slowdown has been true in almost every version of Windows - given enough time. I know that there are also tools out there to clean up the registry if you've cleaned up everything else but it still reacts slowly.

Config files have always seemed like a smarter idea than a registry :/

Re:Don't install any applications... (1)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088449)

The concept of a registry is not a bad one per se. The problem is that Microsoft's implementation of the registry concept stinks.

CCleaner (3, Informative)

rincebrain (776480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087208)

Most of the other tips are good, but nobody's mentioned CCleaner [ccleaner.com] yet. That is one awesome app for cleaning out old cruft.

Re:CCleaner (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088995)

Mod the parent way up!

CCleaner, while it won't solve all of your problems, will certainly improve things. I keep a copy on my ThumbDrive and I use it on any Windows XP PC I can.

Combine this with Spybot-Search & Destroy [spybot.info] with it's TeaTimer app running in the background to warn you of Registry updates, and you have an excellent defense against crap accumulation.

GmailTips.com [gmailtips.com]

Windows XP Tune-Up Guide (5, Informative)

MattPF (898138) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087227)

I actually got sick of family and friends asking me to tune up their XP installs, so I wrote a detailed article on the entire process and posted it on our family website here: http://www.farleyfamily.net/articles/tuneup/ [farleyfamily.net]

It's a comprehensive step-by-step of what any aunt or uncle should be able to follow in order to free system resources and make for a better (faster!) desktop experience.

What about (1)

CsiDano (807071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087244)

Imaging, at the college I use to work at we would just re-image the machines on a regular basis. Of course this is assuming files are stored and accessed on a server as apposed to locally. Just a thought, the question doesn't give much detail as to how many machines or what the work environment is.

Stop installing crap. (1)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087269)

Windows won't magically start slowing down after time, it's all the crap that is installed (and/or uninstalled) over and over again.

Install windows.
Set your pagefile to the size you want it (max and min the same or put the whole thing on a separate drive to avoid fragmentation).
Install the programs you want.
Patch everything.
Defrag the whole thing (just to be sure)
Make a drive image you can keep for emergencies.
Then use it. (Log in as a limited user so that others don't install crap either.)

If you insist on installing loads of programs "just cus" then don't expect it to run perfectly forever. (But hey, at least you'll have a drive image you can quickly restore to.)

Re:Stop installing crap. (1)

Procyon101 (61366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087608)

It does magicaly slow over time. Patching happens constantly and most patches slow the machine a little more. I've seen bery noticable slowdown over time on controlled servers.

Re:Stop installing crap. (1)

vonsneerderhooten (254776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087811)

Then use it. (Log in as a limited user so that others don't install crap either.)

Have you any idea how many Windows programs require administrative rights just to run? MS programs (or rather the OS itself) have no idea of any difference between user space and system space. My terminology may be off here, im trying to convey the concept of /home in linux and user-installs. Linux will allow you to install whatever you want, but most stuff ends up in /home/joesixpack. Install all ya want. Reinstall useful stuff as root. Create new user, delete old - good as new.
oops. i solved the problem in linux.
Windows solution?
Reinstall OS :-(

Parent's advice is sound, too. Esp. the part about making an image.


Re:Stop installing crap. (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087872)

> Have you any idea how many Windows programs require
> administrative rights just to run?

Far too many, but you can still survive as a normal user.

It's a pain having to type in the admin password every time I want to synch my Palm Pilot, etc. but at least my email client/web browser/other well behaved apps are running with sensible permissions.

I've been known to download cracks for games that require admin access to the CDROM for copy protection checks etc.

Viru^H^H^H^HSystem Restore... is evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14087285)

System Restore is the best place to get viruses from on your computer. Heh. Turn System Restore off permanently and things get much better quick. System Restore::Viruses -> Caves::Osama BinLaden

I Detect A Conspiracy... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14087298)

Microsoft built the gradual slowdown into Windows on purpose. When the machine slows, it convinces the average user that they need a new computer. They upgrade unknowingly, and pay the Micro$oft tax once more.

Re:I Detect A Conspiracy... (1)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087348)

Actually something like this wouldn't surprise me. I mean, really, here on my linux computer, I can go weeks at a time without rebooting, and it STILL runs like a champ. My parents' computer... even without anything new installed on it, it runs like a 2-legged dog.

Re:I Detect A Conspiracy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088236)

Well, didn't Windows just have it's 20 year anniversary, and, in all those years, Microsoft Windows still has the same general problems today as it did ever since day one? Can they just not make a system that lasts longer than a year at a time? My Solaris installs last until _I_ decide to upgrade them. They just don't decide on their own to get real slow after several months of running. They just don't. Microsoft has and always will confuse the hell out of me as to how they can keep selling Windows.

Re:I Detect A Conspiracy... (1)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089635)

That’s probably the single thing that bugs me the most about the Winders Empire: most of the time, when somebody buys a new PC, it’s because Winders simply stopped working or got so gummed up inside that it was effectively dead. So how do they punish the company whose product has failed so miserably as to convince them that the hardware itself has gone south? That’s right, shovel more money at them! That’ll learn ’em!

I mean, completely aside from the fact that they’re buying new hardware when the problem is solely in software (Yes, I know that usually means they’re getting faster, more modern stuff; but it’s not exactly what I would call an ‘informed choice’), they’re rewarding the people that forced them into buying faulty software in the first place!

With such a nuanced understanding of punishment and reward, I can only hope these people aren’t currently raising the next generation.

Keep it clean, Keep it safe (2, Interesting)

CosmicDreams (23020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087326)

At work these two steps usually do the trick.

1. Run CCleaner. Both to find useless files AND to weed out unneeded registry entries.

2. Run Microsoft's Antispyware program.

Additionally you can run MS's antispyware program to look for unwanted apps that start at runtime.

As others have mentioned shutting down extra services you don't need may be a good idea. But in my experience those services don't effect a computer nearly as much as runaway Hard drive consumption by IE and unchecked spyware.

The three "re"s (1)

mildness (579534) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087357)

Reboot nightly or as often as possibile.

Reformat and reinstall every six months.

In the meantime don't install anything you don't really need.

This is a good question. I'll be watching this thread!


Re:The three "re"s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14087748)

You forgot the 4th one:

Billbob is a retard

Windows(TM) Auto-Fragmenter(TM) (2, Interesting)

Richard Dick Head (803293) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087377)

Anyway, Windows XP tries to defrag your HD when it is idle, which could be bad. I know my work laptop, now running XP, suffered a lot more fragmentation after the upgrade from 2000 (before I turned auto defrag off). I think it has to do with the fact that either I'm working on my laptop, or its off. There is some accidental idle time in there, but only enough time to fragment the HD even worse before I resume my work. So, I turned it off, and it seems to be fragmenting normally now.

So, YMMV, I've done no quantitative analysis on this, it may be due to changing usage patterns, but if your users keep their computers busy, turning off auto defrag could help. It certainly won't make it worse then you had before the upgrade, since you're back at Windows 2000 behavior.

Another thing I thought of, but haven't tried, is set the registry size limit to something low like 1 MB, possibly cutting down on all the crud in there. I'd do it myself, but my laptop is too important to risk downtime, and the rest of my machines don't have registries.

Re:Windows(TM) Auto-Fragmenter(TM) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088979)

Anyway, Windows XP tries to defrag your HD when it is idle, which could be bad.
Does it? [annoyances.org] The responses to that post all say that it doesn't.

The usual speedups (5, Informative)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087415)

Run msconfig. Despite what your better judgement might say, you can safely disable everything in the startup tab. Then glance through the list and recheck anything that you can both identity and wish to have running in the background.

Other small speedups:
Switch to the classic win2k theme.
If your wallpaper is a gif or jpeg, replace it with a bmp and disable active desktop. For anything other than bmps, it uses Internet Explorer to render your desktop.
Get more ram.
If less than about 20% disk free, delete stuff you don't need and then defrag.
Disable window animations and other eye candy.
Check for malware.
Install and run ShellExView. Some programs install shell extensions which can (but not usually) cause slowdowns and pauses in Windows Explorer. It should color code items depending on if they come with windows, if they are known, if they are known to be bad, or if they are unknown. I encountered a system where a Eudora shellexecute hook was causing the system to freeze for 2 minutes whenever you tried to start a program.
Disable the indexing service.
Disable/uninstall your virus scanner, if you're the type who never installs viruses.
16bit color is sometimes faster. You'll have to test for yourself.

Sometimes I get lucky with this one: In control panel->hardware->device manager, open the properties for the "Primary IDE Channel" and see whether it's in DMA or PIO mode. If it's in PIO mode, right click the "Primary IDE Channel" and click remove/uninstall, and reboot. I've encountered several systems where this was the cause of major slowdown. Windows occasionally encounters timeouts reading from the hard drive, and sometimes mistakingly assumes that stepping down to a slower transfer mode will solve the problem. I see it happen most on systems that go to sleep a lot. Microsoft's website says it's fixed, and shouldn't happen much at all in the future, but you'll still need to do the fix I described on systems that already have the problem.

Some people suggest removing System Restore. I've had occasions where it helped out a lot, like when a Microsoft Windows Update badly broke my system, so I can't recommend disabling it unless you don't mind the occasional reinstall.

I'm typing this on Linux, so some of the above instructions might be slightly off, but are generally correct.

Re:The usual speedups (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087965)

Parent has some extremely useful, technically sound suggestions.

The bottom line is this: nothing will slow your system down more than installing (and uninstalling) lots of programs, shell extensions, API hooks, unneccessary device drivers, applets, and COM objects. There are two rules of Windows Zen you must learn.

1. Install only what you need.

2. See rule number 1.

Avoid virus scanners and spyware programs. You won't need them if you are not downloading and running lots of programs. Find a stable set of software, and try really hard not to install anything more unless you really, really need to. You should not get a slowdown problem.

Re:The usual speedups (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088906)

Wow. Windows Zen... use it as little as possible, don't ask much of it. Makes sense I guess.

Wndows and Linux KVMing (1)

bluethundr (562578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087555)

It's interesting. I have a Windows XP machine that is a pretty barebones configuration that I use mainly (okay, almost solely) for gaming purposes. And I have another machine attached to the same monitor via a KVM. The machines are identical in every way (1.6GHz Athlons with 1GB Ram, only the windows machine has a monster video card).

But when my Windows machine starts boggin' down I just fire up X on my debian box and the speed difference is inCREDIBLE. The pointer just moves so fast on that GUI that I can barely keep up with it! So I even play some games on it using WINE (like the classic Starcraft). Not particularly helpful for your situation, but it sure illustrates for _me_ the difference in how the two OS'es make use of system resources.

Ghost is your friend (1)

gmerideth (107286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087649)

Every system I get I've installed the "base" set of applications, antivirus, patches and so forth and then ghosted a working configuration to an external drive. A base XP will take about 4-6 gigs of storage compressed which sits on your external drive until you need it. I've ghosted my Win2k3 machine and my linux machine all to my external drive.

When (not if) the machine goes south as it did when I was testing the various beta's of Visual Studio, I backed up my important source files and ghost loaded back over my machine. From a screwed up install to a fully working copy of Windows in 11 minutes I call pretty good. Six minutes for my laptop is all it takes.

So when your XP install becomes sluggish, backup the important files, ghost, and spend an hour or two downloading up-to-date patches and installing your new apps.

Once you've done it 20-30 times (over a 3 year period, all from testing software) it's like drinking coffee.

Re-install regularly (1)

photon317 (208409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087662)

The only solid practice for maintaining Windows, if it can be said to be one, is to re-install on a regular basis. Set a schedule for yourself, somewhere between every 1-6 months. Keep a list of all the things you need to do (settings, software to re-install, etc).

TOO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14087681)

...it didn't seem to bad...

Too bad. Too bad.

First, buy a Mac... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14087802)

Then, use it for all your "real" computing needs-- e-mail, web browsing, word processing, etc.

Run one last time, and then uninstall, your virus checker and anti-malware apps from the XP box-- they slow things down, and you won't need them anymore. Disconnect its network connection, and use it for nothing but games.

Re:First, buy a Mac... (1)

Kraeloc (869412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087831)

For 95% of games worth playing, Games = Multiplayer. Multiplayer = Network connection. You can only play the single player Starcraft campaign so many times before you crave a real opponent.

Re:First, buy a Mac... (1)

Kraeloc (869412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087847)

I should mention, though, that that's exactly what I do. I have this Mac right here, using Adium and Thunderbird and Firefox and iTunes and such; then I have that PC to my right, running Steam and Tribes 2 and Quake and Doom and such.

Create a partition for an image (1)

gothzilla (676407) | more than 8 years ago | (#14087808)

At work I maintain about 30 computers and many of them are different configurations. I make a 4 gig partition and when I'm done installing windows, updates, and the base apps we need I put an image in that partition. Restoring each pc is easy and I don't have to keep digging up all the different drivers I need. It's especially useful since different people use different apps.

Switch to Mac! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088094)

It's not Windows' nature to maintain performance however how hard you try. I rescued myself after switching to Mac.

Fucktard... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088215)

it's fucking "lo and behold". not fucking "low". fucking fuck you up the fucking ass with a fucking 13 fucking inch spiked fucking dildo for fucking being a fucking fucktard. fuck, i fucking hate everyfuckingone.

Re:Fucktard... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14088234)

fuck you.

Easiest thing to do, best results (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088320)

I make 2 partitions, one for My Documents and one for my C: drive that will have the Windows partition and the program files and all that good stuff. Then I update Windows and get the latest everything installed. Then I install all my programs. I make all my registry tweaks (I found one that auto-unloads DLL's after you close an application to be incredibly handy, and to keep my XP fresh and fast), install all my drivers, and get everything set up perfectly. Then I create a system restore point, where everything is perfect.

That way, should I ever have a problem, I can just role back to when it all was perfect; or if I should need to reformat, I don't have trouble backing up all my data. Just move all the special folders with configs and save files and anything else important on the C: drive over to the D: partition, reformat and reinstall Windows on the C: partition, and you're good!

I don't run any antivirus besides MS Antispyware Beta, Adaware Personal SE, and Spybot S&D. Haven't had any problems whatsoever for at least 6 months.

Some registry tweaks (2, Informative)

Gary Destruction (683101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088372)

The following registry tweaks should be used with caution:
IoPageLockLimit: increases the amount of pages that can be locked into memory. Changing this setting can improve performance although there is some controversy over this setting's effectiveness. Make sure that you have at least 256MB of RAM. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CONTROL\CURRENTCONTROLSE T\CONTROL\Session Manager\Memory Management\IoPageLockLimit. If it is no there you can create it. This is DWORD value. For systems with at least 256MB of RAM, 8000 hex (32768 decimal) or 10000 hex (64536 decimal). You can use 20000 hex (131072 decimal) on systems with 512MB+ of RAM. Warning: this setting may not be compatible with some drivers; especially video drivers. Enabling this option could cause critical processes and services to fail. You might not be able to log in.

LargeSystemCache: This setting is primarily used for servers but can help improve performance. Again, it's effectiveness may be controversial. It is located at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CONTROL\CURRENTCONTROLSE T\CONTROL\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache. If the key is not there, you can create it. This is a DWORD value. 0 for disabled. 1 for enabled.

DisablePageExecutive: Again this is a controversial setting. You may or may not notice a difference in performance and it is driver sensitive so be forewarned about using it. It too has the potential to cause crashes after being enabled. This setting prevents kernel memory from being paged. It is located at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CONTROL\CURRENTCONTROLSE T\CONTROL\Session Manager\Memory Management\DisablePagingExecutive. This is a DWORD value. 0 for disabled. 1 for enabled.
Note: Any problems encountered from changing these settings will be noticed on next boot. They are a "either it's fine or it isn't" settings.

To reduce boot time, you can disable autodetection of devices on IDE controllers that have no devices connected to them. This can be done from the device manager. Also, adjust Windows for best performance and turn off the themes service.

Lastly, there's XPlite [litepc.com] which can help cut down on some of the fat. Also, be sure to check out TweakXP.com [tweakxp.com] for more XP performance tweaks. And there's nLite [nliteos.com]. Unlike XPlite, nLite allows you to remove Windows components before installation. It also has service pack integration.

Maintenance Installation (2, Informative)

brucmack (572780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088491)

If you've got multiple partitions, try installing a maintenance OS on an extra partition. If you've still got a license for Windows 2000, just install it on the other partition, it should go smoothly and give you a nice boot menu when you're done.

The main advantage of doing this is that you'll have full access to your XP installation without having any system files blocked. What I did was take a fresh install of XP (with all of my base drivers and applications installed) and make a copy of the Windows, Program Files, and Documents and Settings directories. Now, if I feel that my XP installation is getting bloated to the point where I can't fix it anymore, I can "reinstall" XP by booting into my maintenance partition and replacing those directories. As long as you are booted into another partition when you do it, Windows is completely oblivious to the fact that you've just replaced your primary OS.

Having a maintenance partition is also advantageous when defragmenting your primary partition, since no system files will be locked. It's also handy if you suspect you've been infected with a rootkit, since that seems to be a trendy topic at the moment.

Its Explorer (2, Informative)

baadfood (690464) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088792)

A lot of the system slowdown on Windows boxes can be traced to explorer. Explorer is a single threaded application, and when used on a network, over time it tends to collect many network relative paths to resources like icons. Later the network shares dissapear or are moved. The result is, every time explorer tries to generate lists of icons to display for files it pauses - using 0% CPU - waiting for non existant network hosts to respond.

Careful with defrag (1)

Frodo420024 (557006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088872)

Instead of defragmentation, I suggest to make sure the hard drive has enough capacity and free space. NTFS is fairly fragmentation-resistant, so unless the hard drive is full to over the 90 % mark, defragmentation is not that important.

And it's dangerous. If the hard drive has a flaw, defragmenting it risks propagating the fault or even breaking the drive itself. An extreme case: Once I was called out to fix a machine with problems. The owner thought it'd be nice of him to defrag the drive before I arrived. When I came, it would not boot at all. The problem turned out to be defective ram, and defrag, combined with faulty memory, had destroyed the directory structure of the drive.

A better cure for slow HD performance is to get a bigger/faster drive to begin with. Big drives are inherently fast, and assuming the user doesn't just fill it up with junk, there'll always be enough space that fragmentation becomes a non-issue.

The only effective way.... (3, Interesting)

Raisputin (681604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14088955)

The only effective way that I have found to keep a Windows box running even halfway decently is install Windows (we'll assume XP for right now), immediately perform all Windows Updates, both Critical and optional and any driver updates, then install:

  1. Ad-Aware SE [lavasoftusa.com]
  2. Spybot Search & Destroy [safer-networking.org]
  3. SpywareBlaster [javacoolsoftware.com]
  4. Microsoft Anti-Spyware [microsoft.com]
  5. Some Anti-Virus Program [grisoft.com] that you like (at my work, we install Norton [symantec.com] even though it is a resource hog, but never Norton Internet Security since it eventually always fucks a computer up)

Set your Anti-virus program to scan at least weekly, and automatically update itself, Update and sca with Ad-Aware and Spybot weekly at a minimum, and update and protect with SpywareBlaster weekly at a minimum.

It is absolutely ridiculous that a person should have to do this to keep their computer running decently. We get so many Windows machines in the shop that it isn't even funny, but thusfar, whenever we have managed to convince someone to upgrade to a MacOS X [apple.com] machine (Typically when their Dell [dell.com], Compaq [compaq.com], HP [hp.com], E-Machines [emachines.com] has a motherboard failure). They have came back completely excited and astonished that they don't really have to worry about spyware and viruses so much.

My reccomendation on keeping your WIndows XP machine in top performance. Go buy a high-end Mac [apple.com] and run VirtualPC [microsoft.com] if it can run whatever program you NEED to run (Note: Games do not count), if you cannot run your Prorgram under VPC, buy a low-end PC and keep it off the network.

Keeping an XP install going (2, Interesting)

Ogun (101578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14089426)

Regularely doing these things:

Running "sfc /purgecache" to empty the system file checker cache.
Emptying the folder "C:\windows\prefetch" to clean the prefecth buffer.
And the usual things like removing spyware etc.
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