7 Tips to Keep Windows XP Fast and Responsive

Windows XP is a landmark in Microsoft’s history. After a couple of unstable releases, Windows XP ironed out all the creases. Even today, Windows XP is more stable and considered a better OS than Vista by many.

No matter how stable, any (Windows) operating system requires proper care, optimization and tuning to keep it quick and responsive over long periods. Temporary files, crumbs of partially (un)installed programs, cached files and similar add to the bloat and make Windows XP slower over extended usage.

However, following a few simple tips, we can keep XP squeaky-clean and fast – just what you want. Follow these easy tips:

1. Install only necessary apps.
Installing every application you come across, trying them out for a few days and then uninstalling them is a bad idea. Install only the important applications, and then stay with it – do not uninstall. The reason is that more often than not, applications leave various files (temporary, shared etc.) even after uninstalling them. Over time, multiple install/uninstalls can lead to an unhealthy system with unnecessary bloat (and hence slowdown).

2. Install a good anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall.
Though the chances of being infected with malware is limited if you access only legitimate sites and downloads, it is still better to be on the safe side. Installing an anti-spyware is important, because spyware can simultaneously slow down your system and use internet bandwidth. Refer to my 8 Freeware for Windows post for good software.

3. Defragment your harddrive.
Defragmenting hard drive is commonplace, and is advisable. However, the default defragmentation app on Windows defragmentation is very slow, so using a third-party tool is a good idea. PowerDefragmenter accomplishes this task effectively. See a how-to by Shankar.

4. Use multiple partitions cleverly.
Using multiple partitions can improve data seek times significantly. Create partitions for operating system, program files (and use this partition as the location for all app installs), documents and media. Try to keep the partitions small in size, except for the media partition.

If you have more than one hard drive, use one of them for OS, and the other for other files (media, programs, My Documents etc.). This improves performance, and also increases the longevity of the hard drive on which the OS is located, since the data access is made for OS only. You can check the eHow page about hard disk partitions.

5. Optimize page-file usage.
Windows controls the page-file usage by default, but performance can be improved by setting the limits manually. Go to Control Panel > System > Advanced, and click the settings button under Performance. In the Performance dialog box, click the Advanced tab. Click on the Change button under Virtual Memory. In the dialog box that comes up, click ‘Custom’ and set the value at 1.5 times that of your system RAM. For example, if your computer has 1GB RAM, enter 1536 (remember, 1 GB=1024 MB).

6. Control startup applications:
Startup items can plague your computer with slower startup times. The best way to improve boot times is to disable unnecessary startup programs. Unlike other tweaks mentioned in this post, this tweak will be different for everyone. Common apps to disable include Skype, Yahoo Messenger, iTunes etc. However, ensure that you do not disable antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall applications.

Not sure how to do this? Check this TweakXP article.

7. Ditch Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer renders pages poorly and gets a lot of flaming for it. However, an even more important aspect is security. Windows and Internet Explorer are tightly integrated. This means that any vulnerability in the browser can make the OS also vulnerable. Spyware attacks, phishing etc. are commonplace on IE. IE 7 is better in terms of security, but still has creases to iron out. A better idea would be to get a third-party browser – Firefox or Opera.

37 Responses to “7 Tips to Keep Windows XP Fast and Responsive”

  1. M on March 4th, 2008 11:31 am

    The best way to keep XP fast:
    Don’t use XP

  2. Daniel on March 4th, 2008 11:45 am

    M, I am a Linux user and don’t think I will ever go back to Windows. That being said, the few occasions when I need to work on a Windows machine, I’d rather have XP there than anything else.

    I think it is a pretty good operating system.

  3. Sumesh on March 4th, 2008 11:48 am

    XP is a good operating system – stable, cheap, and is a proven performer. Of course, Linux is better for many things, and Mac OSX is quite good, but XP will still be around thanks to the above mentioned factors. Add to it that Vista is crap as hell, and I think XP has a reason to stay.

  4. Geoserv on March 4th, 2008 1:03 pm

    XP is pretty sluggish with so much running in the background.


  5. Akhil on March 4th, 2008 7:12 pm

    An even better tip would be to switch to Linux. :)

  6. P on March 12th, 2008 7:50 pm

    The way Windows handles startup applications is terrible: they’re all started around the same time and end up thrashing brutally with each other. I started using an application called Startup Delayer to space things out and, although not perfect, my system starts up *much* faster.

    Also, if you’re just talking speed, IE 7 blows away FF 2. I certainly hope that FF 3 addresses speed issues…


  7. Joe Morrison on March 27th, 2008 7:52 am

    This is great! I have debating on Linux, but I did not want to get totally rid of my windows until I knewLinux better.
    It would be such a pain to get my computer back to windows with all the confirmations and what not that Microsoft makes you do.

  8. Design Engineer on June 26th, 2008 2:33 am

    Everybody said Linux is the best or better than windows, but actually can we use linux for CAD…?

    NO..NO..&NO… and always NO….so what’s better in linux ???

    LINUX=Just for text only

  9. Kartik on September 14th, 2008 7:12 am

    Thanks for the Informative post. I didn’t know how to set the page file size until I read this article. I’ve got a pretty decent solution for viruses. I use Firefox, so that pretty much eliminates all the malware from the Net. I’ve got a dual OS. Windows (50GB Partition) Ubuntu (10GB Partition). I plug in my pen drives when I’m on Ubuntu and delete all the viruses stacked up there (the *.inf and *.exe files) and then plug transfer the stuff onto the Windows partition. Hope this helps someone.

  10. Larry Miller on November 21st, 2008 10:22 pm

    Re 5. Optimize page-file usage

    Contrary to many assertions, XP’s default handling of the pagefile is usually very good. It is sometimes desireable to change default settings but you must do this intelligently. The author has provided no real guidence about how this should be done. Doing as suggested will rarely improve things, and may seriously impair performance.

    If Windows does not give virtual memory warnings during normal operation – you are done, you will not improve performance by changing pagefile settings.

    If you do receive warnings, then it is adviseable to increase the initial size of the pagefile, such as to twice the size of physical memory. Once the initial size is adequate to avoid warnings, set the maximum size to at least twice this value. Do not exceed 4095MB for the initial or maximum sizes on 32 bit Windows.

    Your pagefile settings are now optimum for your use. Microsoft designers know more about Windows than you do. Do not change settings unless there is a real need.

    Larry Miller
    Microsoft MCSA
    CompTIA Network+, A+

  11. Cocco Bill on December 25th, 2008 3:52 am

    Well, XP is I belive the BEST OS now a days.I’ve got nothing against Linux, some distributions are very good, but Xp is the bos today.The time will come when the better OS is going to take place, so XP will be forgoten, and I belive we have to wait for loooong till that happen.
    XP just has’nt got any troubled issuess.

  12. Edwin Sweep on June 21st, 2009 6:22 pm

    I still think Windows XP is the best version MS ever released untill today. Yeah Linux is better for alot of things, especially security, and server applications, but windows xp is just the better choise for the average computer user, that just checks its email and surfs the web every now and then.
    plus windows supports direct3d and with it all graphical applications that linux will not run.

    i still run winXP with SP2 on a old p3 700 mhz, with 384 mb memory.
    and it works like a charm, even though some heavy applications need time to load, the operating system itself is running perfect.

  13. hknn on August 18th, 2009 6:50 pm

    linux is not more security & stable
    if u use linux root acc. u’ll see..
    most (maybe all) ppl can not use root acc. in linux but in windows all ppl use admin acc.. ? so ? in linux guest acc u can not do anything without normal usage but in win. u do anything to windows.. include delete sytem files, but in linux u cant delete cause uar limited guest acc.. .

    last 2 days i m spend at least 20 hours ubuntu
    so this is not use for desktop OS..
    away from this..
    and not fast as my xp in 4gb 3ghz c2d etc. system.. same hdd first partition have 2years xp its more and more fast .. 9.04 ubuntu.

    im not fan anything try it you ll see..
    if you not fan..

  14. Aminul Islam Sajib on September 15th, 2009 1:19 pm

    I’m pretty confused if security is only thing that sends people to linux leaving windows behind. :-/

  15. emfederin on October 6th, 2009 4:43 am

    Kartik on September 14th, 2008 7:12 am sez “…I plug in my pen drives when I’m on Ubuntu and delete all the viruses stacked up there (the *.inf and *.exe files) and then plug transfer the stuff onto the Windows partition. Hope this helps someone”

    Ummm…do you have ANY idea what you’re doing?

  16. Kartik on October 7th, 2009 10:37 am

    Wow…. took me a while to remember what this article was about…
    read it a long time back….

    This goes way back to when I had a dual boot and primarily used Windows.

    I’ve totally gotten rid of windows now.

    Anyway, in my post I was merely pointing out that you can delete most
    types of malware that’s accumulated on a removable drive quite easily,
    using Linux. The malware will most often show up in the file manager
    itself (nautilus or dolphin for example). If it doesn’t it’ll show up
    when you access the device from a shell. Well everybody knows that
    anyway, so if you’re pointing out that it’s a pointless post, then
    you’re probably right.

  17. Jim on October 24th, 2009 10:45 pm

    Good advice! I would recommend a registry cleaner if needed.
    XP was the best Windows OS until Windows 7 came out. It is the real deal.

  18. Rafael on November 8th, 2009 9:40 pm

    OPERA Web Browser is in that article.
    You’ve earned a biscuit, congrats! *-*

  19. Jon on November 18th, 2009 2:58 pm

    Well, i have this great program called symantec ghost and i just make a partition, install everything necessary and then make a ghost inage on the other partition.

    Now after installing plenty of rubbish out there and trying them, some even the 30day trial and liking them…. once the trial runs out i or the system gets too clogged up i just restore from the ghost image and it’s like the day i installed windows – clean and crisp!

    I will be checking out 7 when i get the chance, for now xpprosp3 all the way, does everything i want or need. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

    one thing i’d like to know is why the hell does windows show down when you’ve been online using something like emule for a few days and what can be done about it?

    Tried linux, went straight back to xppro. Come on, it’s a freebie. You can’t complain about a freebie, probably why it sucks and i have to be some programmer to use the damn thing! Nope it’s still just for the odd guy out there and not for the masses… i see some people struggling to use the mouse and clicking on things on windows so how’d anyone force linux down these folks throat i have no idea.

    Macos is meant to be all that, but i ain’t willing to pay for no overpriced hardware that is manufactured by the same chinese guys that produce everything these days. Similar to i’m not prepared to pay the premium for a nike shoes that is made by the same poor guy in india with just a brand slapped on to it otherwise same s**t.

    Bye. Jon.

  20. Al on December 6th, 2009 5:34 pm

    Mac & Apple stuff destined for the european market is produced in Ireland not by “the same chinese guys that produce everything these days”


  21. foggy on December 25th, 2009 3:29 am

    its really not xp that is slow. didnt you think of maybe upgrading your hardware? if you are still using a ram below 500mb then your so clasic. the 500mb of ram is too much though .. however ,,defragging harddrives? i dont like your software. have you heard or tried yourself Perfect disc 10 by raxco? on your antivirus please dont use freeware. cause they suck, and please be specific.. look into
    http://www.av-comparatives.org/ for good reviews about top performing antivirus. kaspersky and eset nod32 is my best option since they have consistent over the past years. tweaking your start up? just run msconfig hit enter go to start up tab. tweaking your IE? but dont you realize that at start up it boots automatically with your OS? well its your choice. this is my way. and i think its a lot far more better than yours . lolz

  22. Larry Miller on January 6th, 2010 2:22 pm

    There are a couple of problems with this article.
    #4. Using multiple partitions can indeed improve performance. However, if this is not done correctly you will impair performance, not improve it. That means you must understand the implications of seek time and other factors. This is a complex topic. Neither this article or eHow gives any guidance on this. As such this is bad advice.

    #5. NONSENSE
    This was true for Windows 98 and ME but NOT for any modern system. By default XP uses a semi-fixed pagefile. This gives all of the advantages of a fixed pagefile plus the ability to expand the pagefile if necessary. For the large majority of users the default settings will be optimum or as close as to make no difference. The information provided here is totally inadequate as a guide in making intelligent changes.

    Larry Miller
    Microsoft MCSA

  23. Andy Merrett on January 7th, 2010 10:37 am

    Ahh this is priceless. Someone (allegedly) from Microsoft giving direction on “bad advice”, inadequate information, intelligent changes… I could go on. Thanks for the laugh, Larry.

  24. windows 7 slow on January 9th, 2010 5:54 am

    Slow startup is a common even of Windows xp user.

    Windows built-in a lot of services and startup item start with system. So if you want a faster windows xp, you need to disable some of them first.

    I saw a article before in ezine(A famous article site). It descripe how to make you windows faster. ——————–> Windows Boot Slow

    If you still don’t know how to disable services safety, you can click here to make Windows XP Faster Too.

    Any problems, Welcome to discuss with me! Enjoy it !

    Keron Chew
    ——- A Computer Technication.
    Funny Virtual Piano Software

  25. pankaj on April 13th, 2010 9:46 am

    win xp is user friendly os every one can use it
    and that is the key for making it everyone’s favorite

    everything is just on one click

  26. pablo on May 10th, 2010 4:21 pm

    jja son unos k-pos

  27. Snehasis on May 31st, 2010 3:35 pm

    What people say is that linux is great or vista is the best. But to me win xp is the best in os. win vista is just hell. it slows down system so much and i am fed up with vista. i have nothing to say about linux. but xp is the leading os seller today

  28. PedroCst on June 5th, 2010 9:38 pm

    The best way to keep XP fast:
    Don’t use XP

    Mate, Vista or 7 uses more CPU, RAM and so than XP, so, you’re such a stupid person… You just know nothing about computers! I have my XP since 7 years and it was slow, but I made a clean and with Google Desktop (index deactivated) is fast as new!!!

  29. Blessson on August 20th, 2010 3:00 pm

    @ 25.
    “everything is just on one click”
    lol i read
    “everything is just on one dick”

  30. Sourav on September 5th, 2010 10:36 pm

    Microsoft Windows is the only platform people using the most, almost 94% on the Earth, and Windows XP is the king amongst all. From last 10 years XP is serving the world, because it’s best. Linux is good but not the best, and not for all purposes. Mac is also good but it’s dedicated for graphics and animation. Connectivity and compatibility is far better on Windows XP, it’s proven. Anyways, I’m a Windows user and will be using it rest of my life.

  31. jack on September 10th, 2010 7:02 am

    There is a partition on my hard drive, to create multi-partitions, I have to shrink the existing partition through a freeware Partition Assistant. I share a right instruction about partition hard drive, read: http://www.extend-partition.com/resource/how-to-partition-a-hard-drive.html

  32. James on April 13th, 2011 10:36 am

    Windows XP <———— THE BEST!

  33. Stephen Fox on July 24th, 2011 9:48 pm

    Windows XP <———— THE BEST!

  34. franco on October 29th, 2011 1:23 pm

    XP is ok, & seems faster but organized different. I could only run Windows or FreeBSD at work because the Linux wankers talked big and couldn’t deliver. I like Linux but it’s not that great a desktop; there are too many annoying variations in installation and use.

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