Make Windows XP Run Faster!

Category: Windows

How do I make Windows XP run faster? My Windows startup is taking longer than ever, and once it finally stops churning, everything runs slower than it used to, when my computer was new. Any maintenance tips or tweaks to speed up Windows would be appreciated!

How to Speed Up Windows XP

For Windows 7 Speed Tips
See Speed Up Windows 7

Your computer and your car's engine are similar in one important way. Over time, digital sludge builds up inside a computer. It doesn't start right up like when it was new, it stalls unexpectedly, and performance is sluggish on the (information) highway. This article will show you, step by step, how to revive your computer, speed up Windows XP, and make it run fast and reliably.

But first, why does this happen? Think about what happens over time with your Windows computer. You're downloading, installing and removing software; applying service packs and security updates; tweaking your settings; browsing the Internet; maybe upgrading your operating system; and all the while defending against viruses and spyware.

With all that churn, your hard drive can get fragmented, clogged up with huge files, and littered with left over pieces of partially removed software packages. Your startup programs bloom like weeds as you add new software. Maybe a bit of nasty malware sneaks past your defenses. And the Windows registry, which tries to keep track of all the relationships between hardware, software and the operating system, starts to resemble the tangle of string and rubber bands in your junk drawer.

When cars get older and sluggish, we flush the radiator, change the oil and filter, install new spark plugs, and dump a quart of engine cleaner in for good measure. So that begs the question: Are there simple steps we can take that are akin to automobile maintenance? And is there something like engine cleaner we can pour into our personal computer to restore that "like new" performance? Actually, yes!

Here's my special recipe to clean that icky goo out of your computer's pipes, and tune up your hard drive, so Windows will start quicker, run more reliably, and go faster on the information superhighway.


  • 1 tbsp Windows Updates
  • 2 cups Virus/Malware remover
  • 3 lbs Software Cleanup powder
  • 2 tbsp Hard Disk Scrubber
  • 1 slice Defrag
  • 1 tsp Startup Weeder
  • 1/2 cup Registry Shavings
  • 2 cups Virtual Memory Sanitizer
  • 1 Extraneous Services Remover


  1. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl
  2. Sprinkle over monitor, keyboard and system unit
  3. Click to restart

If only it was so easy! But actually, it's really not so hard to take action on the items I listed above. You don't need a degree in computer science, a slide rule, an oscilloscope or any power tools. You might need a screwdriver. But maybe not, we'll see. Here's the scoop on how to implement each step.

Apply Windows Updates

If you run Windows and you use the Internet, you simply MUST stay up to date with the Windows system patches from Microsoft, that come out in response to the privacy and security exploits that are discovered every week. Failure to do so is an open invitation to hackers and crackers to invade your privacy and enslave your computer with viruses and spyware. To get the latest Windows fixes, open Internet Explorer, click on Safety, then Windows Update.

Clean out Viruses and Malware

Are you running a good anti-virus program, with automatic updates? Have you scanned your system for spyware and other unwanted pests? If not, see my article about free anti-virus programs for details on how to protect yourself from those risks. Viruses and malware can slow down your system a LOT, because they use your resources to generate popup ads, send spam, and often interfere with the operation of good programs.

Remove Unnecessary Software

You may have a bunch of software packages on your hard drive that are no longer needed, or they were gratuitously installed when you downloaded some other package. Toolbars, file-sharing programs, free email enhancers, online shopping "companions" and download managers are notorious for this practice. These uninvited guests can put a big drag on your startup time, cause web pages to load slowly, and generally bog down your computer. Go to Control Panel, then Add/Remove Software to see what packages are installed. Remove the ones you know you don't need, and do a web search to learn about the ones you're not sure about.

Update and Secure Your Software

Speaking of software, new security exploits are discovered daily on the Internet. It's important to keep your Windows operating system up to date and secured with anti-virus protection, as I've already mentioned. But the other software on your computer may leave you vulnerable to attack as well. Your web browser, office applications, PDF viewer and many others must be kept up to date. Some will prompt you to install an available update, but others will not. See my article Secure Your Software.

Scrub That Hard Disk

Both Windows and application programs tend to leave temporary files lying around on your hard drive, taking up space needlessly. A hard drive that is close to being full can cause Windows to act strangely, and will slow down or interfere with efficient disk access and virtual memory operations. And if you surf the web a lot, your temporary internet files folder can become quite large, causing Internet Explorer to slow down or malfunction. Cleaning up unneeded files, scanning for disk errors and defragmenting the hard drive can help to restore some zip to your system. First, open My Computer, right-click on the C: Drive icon, select Properties, then click on Disk Cleanup. (Optional: Select the More Options tab to find and remove even more unwanted files.)

To run a defrag, open My Computer, right-click on the C: Drive icon, select Properties, then Tools. Click the Check Now button to scan your disk for errors. When the scan is complete, click the Defragment Now button to run the defrag, which reorganizes your hard disk so Windows can find and access files more efficiently. (It's highly recommended that you close all running programs and disable your screen saver before running a defrag. Otherwise, updates to your files may trigger defrag to restart endlessly.)

Okay, Now Take a Breath...

We're more than half-way done with the process of cleaning the junk out of your computer. The rest of the steps may seem a little more geeky, and you can skip any or all of them if you don't feel comfortable digging a little deeper into the workings of the Windows operating system. But there is definitely bang for the buck here. Some of peskiest Windows performance problems can be solved by giving attention to these areas.

Slim Your Startup Selections

There are certain programs that Windows will start every time you boot up your system, and during the startup phase, they're all jockeying for a slice of your CPU. Extra or unwanted items in the startup list will defintely increase your startup time, perhaps by several minutes. To manage the list of startup programs, click on Start / Run, then type MSCONFIG. Press Enter, then select the Startup tab. If you see items in the list you know you don't need to run at startup time, UNcheck the box(es) next to them and press Apply. Some common examples are things related to AOL, iTunes, QuickTime, instant messengers, and video managers. If you're not sure about an item, no big deal. You can turn it off, restart your PC, and see if everything seems to work. If not, you can always go back and re-enable an item in the Startup list. This page may help you decide what to keep or drop.

Clean Your Registry

The Windows Registry is a database that enables the operating system to track the relationships between hardware and software. Unfortunately, problems with the registry can make Windows run slower. Sometimes an "orphaned" registry entry can confuse Windows during startup and cause a delay. And in general, slimming down your registry will make Windows run faster. There are several utility programs that will clean your system registry of unnecessary and erroneous entries. Read more about the Windows registry, and find some free programs you can use to correct registry problems in my article Do I Need a Registry Cleaner?

RAM and Virtual Memory Settings

When you run out of physical memory (RAM), Windows will use a chunk of your hard disk to create virtual memory. This is a nice feature, because it allows application programs to access huge amounts of memory. The only problem with virtual memory is that it's a lot slower than real RAM. So installing extra RAM is a good idea because it's pretty cheap and easy to pop in. Find out how much your system will accommodate and install the maximum amount. Extra RAM will probably do more to boost your overall system performance than anything else! See my article on How to Upgrade Your Memory for help with this task, and where the screwdriver may enter the scene.

But getting back to Virtual Memory, it's wise to let Windows manage the amount, unless you are a Wizard, with a capital W. Go to Control Panel / System / Advanced, then press the Settings button under Performance. Click Advanced again, then press the Change button under Virtual Memory. If System managed size is selected, you're all set. If you want to fiddle with the Custom Size options, be my guest! If you're getting errors about low virtual memory, see my article How to Fix 'Low Virtual Memory' Errors.

Turn Off Extraneous System Services

We're heading into uber-geek territory here, so be forewarned. Windows doesn't know exactly how you're going to use your computer, so it starts a whole bunch of system services that manage network connections, database access, error reporting, remote access and other nerdy-sounding things. You may not need all these services, and disabling some of them can reduce your startup time and system overhead. But choosing which ones to nuke is a bit daunting, unless you are an expert on Windows operating system internals. Here's my advice... look at these explanations and advice then disable only the ones that you're sure about. If you encounter a problem, you can always turn a service back on.

I hope these tips help to restore some zing to your Windows XP computer. You might so surprised at the results, you'll decide to put off buying a new computer for another year or two! If you have success with this recipe, or you have other Windows speed tips to share, please let me know. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Make Windows XP Run Faster!"

(See all 184 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Roy Ferris
30 Aug 2011

Hi Bob,

I have a HP Pavilion dv 2000 Laptop that has a dual boot with windows XP pro on both drives ( C: & E:). However when I boot up on the C: drive everything works fine and my broadband speed is over 2meg, and the PC runs OK. But when I boot-up using the E: drive my connection speed is less than half and the PC runs very slow. The hardware is of course the same, the broadband connection is the same, I can only think it is the OS. I have purchase a number of Registry cleaners etc, but none of them make any difference. Any ideas?? Roy Ferris

Posted by:

Dell Hill
19 Sep 2011

You may also reach a point in time when following all of these important steps just doesn't cut the mustard...and you're also hearing a louder sound emanating from your machine. I experienced this "slow machine" - "louder sounds" from my 11 year old computer and I knew that hard drive failure was just around the corner. Best to back up all of your photos, documents, music, etc,, and bite the bullet. I did so. Didn't lose a thing. In fact, I gained an excellent new computer.

Posted by:

19 Sep 2011

The dll program costs $43 plus
and the other program
cannot be downloaded at other site to test.

Might be good programs, but.....

Thanks for great help, Bob!!

Posted by:

22 Sep 2011

I use the free Advanced SystemCare program to work for executes most tasks you mentioned .

Thanks Bob for your internet courses .

Posted by:

25 Sep 2011

Windows XP needs to be defragged more often than Vista and Windows 7. Defraggler is a great tool, made by Piriform, the same company that makes CCleaner. It works better than Windows disk defragmenter.

Posted by:

05 Oct 2011

Hi Bob,We need a .pdf to .xls converter, but cannot find anything suitable on the internet. We need an app that would keep the same format after converting as the original pdf.
Any suggestion would be appreciated.


Posted by:

11 Oct 2011

have a look at here for a little more tips of speeding up a PC.

Posted by:

Microsoft support
15 Nov 2011

An excellent article on how to speed up windows xp..You can also check with might give you some insight into this issue.

Posted by:

30 Dec 2011

Any computer will get slower over time if gets used.
I don't really mind more bootup time in my 'oh-so-busy' schedule, why am I in a hurry?
I fire up 'Slowpoke', go for coffee and when I'm back I'm good to go. I keep my system clean; anti-malware scans, remove temp files, etc, etc.
IMHO, we have gotten used to instant gratification and demand everything RIGHT NOW!
Mr. Bob, your advice is very good, as usual, but you can't do everything for everybody.
As for RTP's post, I'm a poor speler.

Posted by:

31 Dec 2011

ive installed windowz 7 professional in my laptop. n my laptop is a dual core processor,1 gb ram,120 gb hdd. When i start my computer ,after 30-40 minute it became to slow.ive run all the system tools but again the system is too slow so ive decided to format my laptop so i did. After formatting also my computer is too slow. plz help meh n give me some suggestion.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2012

My computer was pretty fast already. But ever now and then it would be super slow. After trying this, Now my computer is faster than ever. This was very helpful.

Posted by:

24 Jan 2012

Hi Bob,

I tried to improve my PC's speed by slimming the startup selections as you suggested above, but it didn't work. Then later I discovered that my cd rom no longer works?

Now whenever I place a music cd it does not play, but it appears as if a music cd is loaded when I look in "my computer", and after the cd rom does nothing my computer freezes up, and none of the icon/programs will load, e.g., Internet Explorer will not open no matter how many times I click the icon. Until I restart my computer then everything else works until I try the cd rom again and then it starts freezing up like before.

One of the things I noticed when I restart my computer is a program ending "mm.jb.exe" with a message which reads that this program is unable to respond or something like, and there is another error message right after it but it closses before I can read what it says?

What is the matter with my computer, and do you have any idea how to help me solve this problem?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like you removed some essential items from the startup list. You can try adding them back, or run a System Restore to return to the state before the changes.

Posted by:

01 Apr 2012

Nothing about defragging the registry and the hive...?

Nothing about using Microsofts Boot profiler?

Posted by:

15 May 2012

Why is it that if I run a particular registry cleaning program it finds a certain amount of problems, and then declares the computer free of any problems. Then I run another scan using a completely different registry cleaning program, and it finds many other faults. Which am I to beleive, and just which, and how many different programs do I need to use?

Posted by:

Gerard Connaughton
17 May 2012

"To get the latest Windows fixes, open Internet Explorer, click on Safety, then Windows Update..." Shouldn't this read: click on Tools, then Windows Update...? Thanks for the sensible article.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe on older IE versions. On IE8 or IE9, you click Safety first.

Posted by:

akshay singh chauhan
06 Jun 2012

this is very effective and simple tricks thank youuuuuuuuuu sooooooooo much guys

Posted by:

Sylvia Seidenglanz
29 Jun 2012

I have paid numerous programs all saying they will "fix everything" and inevetability at I goes wrong and I am fed up with calling them! Now I am stuck in Safe Mode on Windows Vista and can't get out nomatter what I try; what can I do?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Have you tried System Restore?

Posted by:

Sylvia Seidenglanz
29 Jun 2012

I have paid numerous programs all saying they will "fix everything" and inevetability at I goes wrong and I am fed up with calling them! Now I am stuck in Safe Mode on Windows Vista and can't get out nomatter what I try; what can I do?

Posted by:

29 Mar 2013

This is one of the best articles on how to clean up XP that I've seen! I've been working hard to make a great resource for people which covers some XP tips (although more focused on Windows 7). It goes in to detail on OS universal topics like getting rid of malware and junk files on computer. I'd really appreciate your feedback on how I could make it better. Cheers!

Posted by:

Ryan James
05 Sep 2015

Bob, you forgot the most MOST important step! BACK UP THAT DANG C: DRIVE!
Now proceed as Bob so lucidly explained.
When you are finished giving the comp a thorough clean up, see how it runs for a day or two. If all is spiffy, you can make a new back up and delete that old one. If things are not well, revert to the back up and try again.
After all, there are all sorts of unforeseen things that can go wrong with a major clean up.

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