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Here is a basic writeup on how to clean and set up your Windows XP system for speed, performance, and reliability at no cost to you (just a little bit of your time). As many know, I'm a computer technician by trade and I deal with things like this on a daily basis.

The suggestions below will not cause any harm to your system (provided your hardware is in good shape) but I assume no responsibility for you screwing up your computer. These are listed in no particular order and some will help more than others.


First thing's first - do your backups! Sometimes even running hardware diagnostics can push a failing system over the edge. Either back up your critical files the old-fashioned way by copy/paste, write a batch file to be run periodically which copies specified files to an external location, or utilise a backup solution such as ArcServe or Acronis or Ghost, etc.

Run hardware diagnostics. Grab a copy of the Hiren's BootCD from your favourite torrent site. I generally use Memtest86+ (for RAM) and Test Hard Disk Drive 1.0 and Spinrite (for hard drives). Spinrite is no longer included on the Hiren's disc as of v.9.3 and newer, so I recommend downloading both versions 9.2 and whatever the latest version is [currently 9.9 as of 26JUN09]. This will give you the opportunity to replace any failing hardware before it completely dies on you.

Kill startup items. Start>Run and type msconfig. Hit the Startup tab and uncheck everything but antivirus and important vendor-specific apps (such as hotkey, blutetooth, temp sensor, and printer drivers). Then, click the Services tab, place a check in the box for "Hide all Microsoft services", and then uncheck everything above except antivirus and important vendor-specific apps. Hit Apply, then OK, then reboot your machine. You should notice an immediate improvement in your startup time.

Set Windows performance options. Go into the Control Panel and open up the System applet. Click the Advanced tab, and click Settings under the Performance category. Fill the radio button for Adjust for best performance. Click OK. I personally leave the following settings checked just because I like them: Show window contents while dragging, and Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop.

Adjust the pagefile [EDIT 27JUN09] My recommendation for swap settings are as follows: If you have lots of RAM (>2GB) you're likely safe to just disable the pagefile altogether... unless you're constantly filling up that RAM with running applications. I successfully ran my server with no pagefile with 1.5GB of RAM. If you do use lots of RAM-intensive apps, set your pagefile to a fixed size instead of the default "system managed" configuration. Switching from dynamic to static swap file size decreases the amount of disk activity that occurs from the file constantly being resized. At work, we typically set customers' machines to have a 1500MB size. **NOTE TO SSD-based NETBOOK USERS: Don't do this. There are guides out there regarding the configuration of swap space on SSDs.**

Disable System Restore. Disabling this will eliminate a lot of overhead and free up some space on your HDD. System Restore also has a habit of backing up spyware and viruses too, not just the important stuff.

Clean temp files. Start>run and type %temp% - delete the contents (some may be in use, just skip them). Then Start>run and type temp - delete the contents (again, some may be in use, no big deal). Then, run Disk cleanup and select everything EXCEPT "compress old files" - that's not needed unless you have like a 10GB HDD. I also recommend DustBuster and CCleaner.

Run malware removal tools [EDIT 27JUN09] I recommend Malwarebytes, SUPERAntiSpyware, and Spybot. They're pretty self-explanatory. ComboFix is very powerful for stubborn rootkits. If ComboFix won't start, try renaming the executable to something like "CF.exe" and running it again. HiJackThis is an essential tool for more advanced users.

Remove junk programs. Go into Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel and uninstall any toolbars, "search enhancers", IncrediMail, Webshots, Vongo, Viewpoint, etc etc. Only you know what you do and do not use. PC Decrapifier is pretty cool too.

SFC and chkdsk [added 27JUN09] The System File Checker is a built-in tool which will scan Windows' critical OS files and check their integrity. This actually seems to clear up a lot of issues if you can get the scan to run. Start>run, type sfc /scannow and hit OK. It will then launch and may prompt you to insert your Windows XP installation media if it finds any discrepancies. You should also run periodic chkdsks, which will check NTFS (or FAT, if you're still using that...) for file system integrity. Start>run, type cmd and click OK. Enter the following into your command prompt: chkdsk /f /r . Answer Y to the question about rebooting your computer. Then, give it a reboot and let the chkdsk run its course.

Defragment your HDD(s) I recommend using JKDefrag or Defraggler. JKDefrag can also be found on the Hiren's disc. At the very least, use Windows' built-in defragger. Right-click My Computer, select Manage, and choose Disk Defragger from the pane on the left.

I will be revising this as new apps are released and as I think of more little tips. Feel free to make suggestions of your own.

For additional misc reference, check out my website. It does go down on occasion since it's just hosted on a home DSL line but it's up for the most part. You'll find links to most of the apps mentioned above, as well as warranty checkers and driver download locations for some common manufacturers. I use the site every day when I'm working at a customer's site.

Guide copyright nezwick @ FEOA.net. Please contact me before copying this to any other website.
 

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I will also be posting screenshots eventually.
 

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Great write-up. I know that this should help quite a few people. I know that since i must use windows, it better be as fast as possible :twisted: Never heard of DustBuster, I'll have to give it a try. Will it do anything CCleaner cant?
 

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I did a few of these suggestions on my EeePC900, which helped out a bit. The only issue I had with any of these was killing startup items. It comes up with a dialog box upon startup, because I deselected tea timer and star office. It forces me to go back into the config window.

Another good program is TempFileCleaner. It can be downloaded from download.com, and it works very well. I run it often, to ensure that nothing is lurking in my temp files.
 

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I haven't actually checked the differences in cleaning "quality" between CCleaner and DustBuster, but the difference is, DustBuster is completely automated. Just run it and it does all the work and gives you a report. I haven't had any issues with it removing anything important.

TempFileCleaner is pretty cool too - I added it to the list. Just be aware that it requires Java to run... even though most people should have Java already so there shouldn't be a problem.

Added HiJackThis to the malware section.

Added SFC scan.

Dave (and other SSD-based netbook users), don't follow my recommendation for configuring your swap file. You can find a guide out there for dealing with pagefiles on SSDs, especially small SSDs.
 

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hehee.. that is one of the steps that I skipped.

HiJackThis is a GREAT program. I have it on my laptop, haven't yet loaded it on my netbook.

BTW Nezwick... if I can't find a good deal on Super Talent SSD in the near future, I may convert this over to HDD. The stock Asus SSD is a little slower than I would like.
 

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I just tried CCleaner and now some of my programs no longer open. I also cannot find some documents i had saved to my desktop. Im not sure if they were deleted or moved but i cant find them anywhere.
 

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Maybe stop the excessive, unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous background programs? Stuff like SSDP, Remote Registry, Windows Time (utterly useless). For the power users I'd suggest turning off Help and Support, Themes if they're using the old style Windows look anyway, Wireless Zero Config if they don't use wireless, Print Spooler if they don't have a printer, Telnet, TCP/IP Netbios helper, Security Center, Error Reporting Service, Fast User Switching if only one account is on the computer, and Computer Browser. Also....stop the hidden Administrative Shares.
 

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Good point - those are all things I do to all my Windows workstations and VM's at home... and to all systems I set up for my "on the side" clients. Feel free to write up a bit about those, otherwise I'll do it when I have a little free time. I will add it to my main one with due credit.
 

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Can anyone give me a good method to move a hard drive from a dead pc to another if I am runnign windows xp pro? Our LR pc died, so I did not have a chance to back anything up. I can't find the original cd and product key, as yet. I was able to get it to start up in the old pc one more time, so i ran a program to retrieve it from the windows registry. I am in the middle of running setup from a different cd, but it wants the product key and says the one I have from the software I ran is not valid. It only runs the setup when I restart, I can't seem to boot normally now, so I am stuck.
 

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Yup: pull the hard drive, and hook it up to another machine that already boots/runs properly. Then rip the data off the drive. If the drive itself is dead; you're hosed unless you want to spend a lot of money on getting the data resurrected.
 

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In your guide you have Remove junk programs listed. I have one question about that. Do all the previous updates need to be in there? For example; Java updates, .NET Framework (1.1, 1.1 Hotfix, 2.0 SP2, 3.0 SP2, 3.5 SP1).
I also have two versions of System Requirements Lab, one @ .73MB, the other @ .40MB, as well as two MS Visual C++ 2005 Redistributale, one @ 5.2MB, the other @ 4.61MB. What are these for, and do I need them?
None of these are taking up a lot of space, but if I don't need them, why keep them in there?
 
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