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Maintaining Windows XP System Performance? 159

Posted by Cliff
from the recommend-regular-use-of-registry-cleaners dept.
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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Maintaining Windows XP System Performance?

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  • Services (Score:2, Informative)

    Start -> Run 'services.msc' Cut off most of these. Many are useless, and yet are enabled by default.
    • 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)
      and
      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 remo
      • 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
        • Lists everything that is autostarted, and removes the autostart entry with a simple check box and button.

          Which differs from "msconfig" in that it is called "Hijack This" instead.
    • Check this site out, it tells you most of the services you don't want, and the ones you definately don't want to kill.

      http://www.theeldergeek.com/services_guide.htm [theeldergeek.com]
  • defrag the registry. (Score:5, Informative)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:01PM (#14086943) Journal
    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.
    • I can't believe no one's bothered to state the obvious: Use imaging.

      If you're very lucky, the worst that will happen over a period of months with Windows is a bit of clutter in the registry and startup menu caused by programs that are generally considered benign [iTunes sneaking in with quickTime, iPod Manager etc. comes to mind]. That's the best-case scenario.

      If you're not lucky, you'll get hit by some spyware that creeps in through IE, or worse, a serious exploit like the one mentioned [slashdot.org] earlier. Most

  • Start up monitor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pacifix (465793) <zorp&zorpy,com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:05PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ignominious Cow Herd (540061) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:23PM (#14087095) Journal
      Also, AutoRuns from http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/Autoruns.htm l [sysinternals.com] is very useful for this kind of thing.
    • 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.
      • 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.

        I just don't agree with that at all. I've been running this WinXP install since 2002, with no problems. Throughout that time I've swapped a lot of the hardware out and, oh yeah, this has been my daily machine all that time. Running 24/7, with 10+ hours of work/play active use a day.

        I've done pretty minimal maint
    • 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?
      • As far as I'm aware, ECHELON is just a myth. Even if it does exist, there is no way that anyone has said anything about it without being executed for treason... (you can't hide yourself under ECHELON, so they would know it was you who told people about ECHELON in the first place...).
        • Nice try, but that's not a valid argument. "Doesn't function perfectly" != "Doesn't exist".

          Come to think of it, liquidating anyone who ever mentioned such an organisation would be (if you'll excuse the pun) something of a dead giveaway. Letting them continue more or less unmolested whilst encouraging people to dismiss anything they say would be a much more effective of cloaking its existence.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:06PM (#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]

    • by NanoGator (522640) on Monday November 21, 2005 @11:05PM (#14087607) Homepage Journal
      "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.
    • 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, forci
    • 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 ti

      • 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.


        Although I can't imagine it not being ideal, unless performance is absolutely critical (in which case you're already using a multiprocessor box and/or constantly showing CPU loads of 99%, right?). I run (among many other virtual machines) Oracle on Solaris--hardly a light load--on an ancient AMD Duron and it's perfectly acceptable
    • [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.
      • That's all fine and dandy, until some clueless wonder unintentionally releases a worm on your network.

        I have never infected a machine myself with a virus. I have had numerous machines infected on me though. Laptops, desktops and servers.

        You are only as safe as your weakest link. You may be a _very_ strong link in the chain, but if you aren't the ONLY link, you will likely eat those words one day.
    • [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
    • 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 hard

    • Reinstalling Windows every 6 months was standard practice for me until XP. It seems to handle itself a bit better, although I had to reinstall a month or so ago (corrupted registry... grr...) and it feels a bit more responsive again; a few things which were a little slow are better. However, the slowdown wasn't nearly as bad as I used to get in 95, NT or 98.
    • 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.

      I'm sure your sick of hearing this, but too bad.

      My PowerBook gets faster and more responsive over time without hardware upgrades.

      I have heard even better results on older hardware, where performance is more noticeable.

      Oh,
  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:13PM (#14087038)
    Otherwise, it will never be clean.

    And that includes re-formatting the partition.

    • by invisik (227250) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:17PM (#14087065) Homepage
      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.

      -m
      • I've heard the same.

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

        • 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.

      • 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
      • A more open altenative for Norton Ghost is Ghost For Linx [freshmeat.net]. Only downside: no multicasting.
      • 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.
      • Imaging is your friend. I set up this box in August as follows:

        Partitions for Win XP system, Win 2000 system, Linux, and Data.

        XP system is assigned to C: and has Windows, Netware, Office, plus misc applications. I save an image of C: using ntfsclone with --save-image option from the ntfstools package in the latest knoppix. The bzipped image file is 1.9GB, and is scp'ed to a server drive. A dvd-rom or 4 cdroms would work too. It took a while to get Windows just the way I wanted it for the image, but I c
    • I used to do clean reinstalls every 6 to 12 months. It helps force you to make good backups. It's amazing how many settings are stashed somewhere you'd never think to back up.
  • 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
    • 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.

      Tim
    • 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.
  • by Deathlizard (115856) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:19PM (#14087075) Homepage Journal
    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? (Score:3, Informative)

      by dhasenan (758719)
      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.
      • 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.
    • What I find amazing, is how some people can call this OS easy to use, when you have to be so expert and do so tedious things to prevent it from destroying itself (not even get it working) ...
      It's understandable that since I stopped repairing their PCs, lots of my neighbourhood just gave up on computing.
  • by tgbrittai (599035) *
    This is the best way, by far! It's more secure and stops almost all spyware cold. And no spyware == better performance.
    • by Kraeloc (869412) <kylet AT definitive DOT com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:33PM (#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.
      • But that's just the point. When you run as root, you don't have absolute control over your box; the apps that you run do. By using a non-admin account, you are not locking out yourself, you are locking out arrogant apps that think they can run your computer.
      • The thought of using one of my own computers and not having absolute, immediate control over it, makes my skin crawl.

        If you need absolute control, why are you running Windows in the first place?
    • by Johnno74 (252399) on Tuesday November 22, 2005 @12:11AM (#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...
              START
                    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.
              LOOP TO START


      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.
      • Most of this is plain wrong and comes from a Windows shill, you should not repeat such nonsense in your posts !

        START
        Q. Why is Windows so insecure?
        A. Because everyone runs as Administrator.


        I'm sorry to say it to you, but mail attachements (which is insecure by nature) that run apps on your system when you
    • A couple of tips, in case someone might not be familiar with these...

      Running as a plain old User privileges may be good for some situations, but I run my XP box with Power User privileges for a bit more power. This option is not presented by the Control Panel applet, but is available through Computer Management, opened by right-clicking My Computer and selecting Manage. Once there, go to System Tools -> Local Users and Groups -> Groups. Double-click Power Users on the right-side window and add your

    • BTW, you can even run your normal apps as a nonadmin user AND then for normal websites run IE as yet another nonadmin user (for important sites use a different account - just create different shortcuts, and change the colour scheme so you don't get confused).

      That way even if IE gets taken over, it's a fair bit harder for it to mess up data owned by your main nonadmin user. Maybe you lose bookmarks you didn't backup and some recently downloaded files.

      It'll take extra effort for someone to take over your syst
  • by hackwrench (573697) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:31PM (#14087142) Homepage Journal
    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
  • 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.
  • Bruised registry (Score:4, Informative)

    by rocjoe71 (545053) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:38PM (#14087187) Homepage
    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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xiong.chiamiov (871823) <xiong.chiamiovNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:41PM (#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.
  • 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.

  • CCleaner (Score:4, Informative)

    by rincebrain (776480) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:42PM (#14087208) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.

      -Jim
      GmailTips.com [gmailtips.com]
  • by MattPF (898138) on Monday November 21, 2005 @09:45PM (#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.
  • 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.
  • 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
    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
    • 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 buy
  • by CosmicDreams (23020) on Monday November 21, 2005 @10:02PM (#14087326) Journal
    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.
  • 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!

    Billybob

  • 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
  • The usual speedups (Score:5, Informative)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Monday November 21, 2005 @10:20PM (#14087415) Journal
    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.
    • 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 s

    • some firewall and antivirus programs will take your connection down when you disabled them from start up, others will look disabled, but they're really running as services and you're just disabling their GUI's (which'll cause all kinds of fun when you're trying to do a Windows update and you're not seeing the little pop up from your anti-virus to allow it). Some Creative Labs soundcards stop working when you disable their start up items (I know, bad design, but they own the market more or less). Some printe
      • Windows Explorer loads before the startup items begin to load, so it's pretty safe to assume that disabling those startup items won't prevent your system from booting to a working desktop. You're unlikely to make it so that you can't easily reenable them.
  • 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 c

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Some registry tweaks (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gary Destruction (683101) * on Tuesday November 22, 2005 @02:42AM (#14088372) Journal
    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.
  • by brucmack (572780) on Tuesday November 22, 2005 @03:26AM (#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 (Score:3, Informative)

    by baadfood (690464) on Tuesday November 22, 2005 @05:21AM (#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.
  • 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

    • If you are constantly filling and emptying the drive, such as using it as a secondary drive for p2p apps such as Bit Torrent and Emule, then you will fragment the drive quite quickly for the files that remain on the drive. You'll end up with some parts of a file at the beginning, some at the middle, and some at the end (not necessarily in that order from start of the file to the end of the file).
    • My cousin bought a new 17" HP laptop. XP SP2 installed. This is a month ago. He's very software conservative; no warez, no installing much of anything, really. He put on guild wars, office 2003, openoffice.org, firefox, AV, and spybot.

      In a month, he was at 60% fragmentation. This is an NTFS drive.

      _shrug_
  • by Raisputin (681604) on Tuesday November 22, 2005 @06:22AM (#14088955) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • by Ogun (101578)
    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.
    Defragging.
    And the usual things like removing spyware etc.
  • Windows Installations definitely don't have an artificial lifespan. I have one Windows XP installation still going strong after 3.5 years of heavy use as a software developer. A second work installation for 1.5 years (it's a newer machine) and a home installation for 2 years without a hitch. What is the secret? Don't install things!

    You don't need that random app that someone said was cool. You sure don't need that cool new screensaver, or that "rad" game.

    All you need to install are driver updates (when your
  • No, this isn't for every situation. Common hardware is a must (or at least a real help). But, it does neatly solve other common issues, like system builds.

    A freind of mine does just this on his home system about once a month (well, and at work...as he says, we're not in the business of installing an OS by hand anymore). I'm going to take the same plunge. Pick an automated system rebuild method, test it, build new systems with it and rebuild your systems on some sort of regular basis. There are lots of cavea
    • I'm the friend in question :)

      My strategy (and I'll leave the debate on the relative merits of having an OS that you have to reinstall to clean to others) is based on my usage. I'm a technologist by nature, so lots of stuff gets loaded/unloaded on my various systems.

      I've looked at most of the registry/system/startup cleaners available, and, for me, the choice to move to reinstalls was the simplest.

      BUT...

      Being the simplest solution is predicated on the fact that I build unattended installs for my job
  • by Mr. Competence (18431) on Tuesday November 22, 2005 @11:04AM (#14090265)
    CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives can revert to using PIO mode, despite being set to use "DMA if Available." Here's how to make Windows XP redetect the DMA capabilities of the drives.
    This behaviour occurs with the following conditions:

    Windows XP is the operating system
    A CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or sometimes even a HDD, which is known to support DMA mode now works only in PIO mode.
    The drive controller is set to use "DMA if available" but reports to be only in PIO mode.
    Following is the mechanism that has worked for me, please try it at your own risk, it involves hacking the registry:

    Open RegEdit
    Find the following KEY:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contro l\ Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}\000x
    The last four digits will be 0000, 0001, 0002, 0003, and so on.
    Under each key, delete all occurences of the following values:
    MasterIdDataChecksum
    SlaveIdDataChecksum
    Reboot the computer. Windows will now redetect DMA settings.

    This happens if a device on the bus has been getting periodic errors either because of a hardware problem or because of scratched or copy-protected CDs. XP steps down the DMA to try and stop the errors because it assumes it is a hardware problem.
  • This is what I do: I install XP from scratch on an newly-formatted C partition. About 3GB holds all my programs. Forget about hibernating and system restore, and put your temp directories and your pagefile.sys on the D partition (to prevent fragmentation as much as possible and keep your C as small as possible).

    Now the important step: As soon as everything is running correctly, do a backup of the C partition with Acronis TrueImage. The best program ever! Then you don't need to reinstall; your C partition

  • In my experience, a lot of the speed loss over time is because I like to keep up with the latest apps. More features = more resources = slower speed. I've also found that the resources taken up by antivirus and antispyware apps are continuously growing. The net effect is that rebuilding your machine will help, but it won't usually return you to where you were in the beginnning unless you rebuild with the app versions you had in the beginning. And, of course, that wouldn't be wise when it comes to your a
  • what exactly do you define as "solid practises"?

    i personally say they are these...

    regular spyware scan (by adaware, spybot S&D, and MS antispy)
    regular defrag (not with the windows defrag. i like diskeeper)

    about the only way that is sure fire is to backup/wipe/reinstall. it helps if you make a disk image after a clean install once you install as the applications. i would say update the image about every other year or in the event of an OS upgrade (duh).

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