Maintenance tasks that improve performance

Over time, computers get slower because files become disorganized and resources are consumed by unnecessary software. Microsoft Windows XP includes tools to clean up your computer and restore its performance.

Before you do anything, back up your computer.

Remove unused programs

First, remove programs you don't use anymore. Programs take up space on your computer, and some run in the background without your knowledge. Removing programs you don't use can help restore your computer's performance.

Install and run antispyware software

Most programs can be removed using the Add or Remove Programs function accessible from Control Panel, but spyware programs are more stubborn. Windows Defender (a free download from Microsoft) or another antispyware program can detect and remove these programs. You should always have an antispyware program installed, because spyware might install itself on your computer without your knowledge. After you install the antispyware program, run it to detect and remove any unwanted programs.

Free up wasted space

Removing unused programs is a great way to free up disk space, which will speed up your computer. Another way to find wasted disk space is to use the Disk Cleanup tool.

To run the Disk Cleanup tool

  1. Click Start, and then click My Computer.

  2. Right-click Local Disk, and then click Properties.

  3. On the General tab, click the Disk Cleanup button. Disk Cleanup will spend a few minutes examining your disk.

  4. The Disk Cleanup dialog box will appear. Select each of the check boxes in the Files to delete list, and then click OK.

  5. When prompted, click Yes. Disk Cleanup will spend several minutes removing these files, which will provide you with more space.

    If you have more than one hard disk drive, repeat this process for each hard disk drive listed in My Computer.

Defragment your hard disk drive

When a file is fragmented, it takes longer for the computer to read it because it has to skip to different sections of the hard disk drive. Defragmentation improves your computer's performance by reorganizing your files. While fragmentation looks complicated, it's easy to defragment your computer.

To defragment your computer

  1. Click Start, and then click My Computer.

  2. Right-click Local Disk, and then click Properties.

  3. Click the Tools tab, and then click Defragment Now.

  4. The Disk Defragmenter dialog box appears. Click your hard disk drive, and then click Defragment.

  5. Disk Defragmenter will work for at least several minutes, although it might take several hours. When prompted, click Close.

    If you have more than one hard disk drive, repeat this process for each hard disk drive listed, starting at step 4.

Disconnect unused network connections

The problem with network drives is that Windows XP will attempt to connect to the network drive when it starts up. If the remote computer does not respond immediately, Windows XP will wait, which will slow down your startup time. Additionally, some programs will attempt to connect to the network drive when you browse for files and folders. To reduce the problem, you can disconnect any unused drives.

To disconnect unused network drives

  1. Click Start, and then click My Computer.

  2. On the Tools menu, click Disconnect Network Drive.

  3. Select the network drives that you no longer need, and then click OK.