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Ed note: Given that, in July 2011, 29.31% of Windows Guides readers accessed the site using Windows XP, I felt I should update the old “10 Ways to Improve Performance in Windows XP” guide.

If you’re hanging on to Windows XP because you don’t want to buy a new computer, you’re used to the interface, or you just don’t see a need to upgrade, then this guide will help you extend the life of your Windows XP machine by making it more stable and by helping it run more efficiently. This guide will show you how to speed up Windows XP in 11 easy steps.

I highly recommend you create a system restore point before starting.

(Here’s a similar list for Windows Vista and for Windows 7.)

Note: Before making any changes, I strongly recommend you create a restore point, which will let you roll back any changes you make during this guide: create a restore point in XP. I also recommend you perform a full malware scan with a good anti-malware program like Microsoft Security Essentials:

1. Keep Windows up to Date

Windows updates are provided to increase performance, security, and stability. Before you move on to steps 2 and beyond, update your copy of Windows.

To update Windows:

1. Click Start > All Programs and click Microsoft Update:

2. When Internet Explorer finishes loading, click Express:

3. Follow the instructions to apply updates specific to your computer

2. Defragment Your Hard Drive

There are many opinions floating around about whether drive fragmentation slows down a computer. Here’s my view: if you’re trying to open a document and the file is split into fragments spread across your hard disk, it’s going to take longer to open it while it grabs all the pieces. An uninterrupted, sequential file will load quicker if it’s in one place on the drive. The only case where this is not necessarily true is on Solid State Drives (SSD.) If you have an SSD, skip this step.

To defragment your drive:

1. Open My Computer (Winkey + E), right click your C drive, and click Properties:

2. Click the Tools tab and click Defragment Now…

3. Select your C: Drive and click Defragment:

Take a break while your drive defragments. This step takes the longest but will set you up for quicker maintenance as you move on to step 3 and beyond.

3. Check Your Hard Disk for Errors

Over time, segments of your hard disk may become corrupted and you’ll need to reorganize your disk to fix them. Bad sectors slow down your computer and can even lead to data loss.

To check your hard disk for errors:

1. Open My Computer (Winkey + E), right click your C drive, and click Properties:

2. Click the Tools tab and click Check Now…

3. Check both Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors and click Start:

Note: You may need to restart your PC to check the disk:

4. Remove Unused Windows Components

Windows components are core programs and tools that are bundled with Windows. Many of these components can be safely disabled if you find you’re not using them. A good example of this is disabling Games, Windows Media Center, and Windows Media Player.

To disable Windows components:

1. Press Winkey + R (or click Start > Run), type appwiz.cpl, and press Enter

2. When the Add or Remove Programs dialog loads, click Add/Remove Windows Components:

3. Check the components you want to disable and click Next:

Hint: Not sure which components you can remove? Ask us in the forums.

The components will now be disabled:

5. Uninstall Unused Programs

As well as taking up disk space, programs put “hooks” into your system that require resources. For example: programs may run services on your computer that will slow down start up and general computer use. If you’re not using a program and don’t plan to use it in the future, you should uninstall it.

To uninstall a program:

1. Press Winkey + R (or click Start > Run), type appwiz.cpl, and press Enter

2. Click the program you want to remove and click Remove

3. Follow the uninstall dialog for the program you wish to remove.

6a. Stop Network Folder/Printer Scanning

If you don’t use network folders or printers, you should disable them. This will remove the delay each time you open My Computer, which is caused by a scan for folders and printers on your network.

If you do use network drives, skip to step 6b.

To disable network folder/printer scanning:

1. Open My Computer (Winkey+E)

2. Click Tools > Folder Options…

3. Click the View tab, uncheck Automatically search for network folders and printers and click OK:

6b. Disconnect Unused Network Drives

If you use network drives but have a huge list of drives you connect to, you’ll find it takes a while to open My Computer. To decrease load time, consider disconnecting unused network drives (be sure to make note of connection information i.e. Server and share names before disconnecting.)

To disconnect network drives:

1. Open My Computer (Winkey + E)

2. Right click and unused network drive, and click Disconnect:

7. Update Your Drivers

Drivers are used to provide communication between your hardware (i.e. Printers); operating system (XP); and, often, other hardware (i.e card Readers.)

Outdated drivers can be a security threat, may be buggy, and are often incompatible with newer hardware and programs. To update your drivers:

1. Download Device Doctor (free)

2. Install in and, when it’s opened, click Begin Scan:

Wait while Device Doctor scans your current hardware and drivers:

3. Download updates for each piece of hardware listed:

4. When you click Download update, a website will load. Click Download Driver Installer:

5. Install the driver and, if necessary, restart your computer.

8. Adjust Display Settings for Performance

By today’s standards, XP looks dated but it still has some bells and whistles that can affect performance on older hardware. To optimize your display for better performance:

1. Click Start, right click My Computer, and click Properties:

2. Click the Advanced tab and click Settings:

3. On the Visual Effects tab, select Adjust for best performance, and click OK:

9. Remove Programs from Startup

In step 5, you removed programs you don’t need. While this was a good start, you may have programs on your PC that you use but don’t need to start every time.

To remove programs from startup:

1. Press Winkey + R (or click Start > Run), type msconfig, and press Enter

2. Click the Startup tab, uncheck programs that you don’t want to start with Windows, and click OK:

Hint: Not sure which programs you can remove from startup? Ask us in the forums.

10. Perform a Disk Cleanup

Temporary files, left over installation files, and files associated with unused programs, installations etc. can take up space on your drive. Cleaning them up will only really help if you’re low on disk space. Given these files are unused (or may not have a use for you), you can clean them up and get back disk space.

To clean up your disk:

1. Open My Computer (Winkey + E), right click your C drive, and click Properties

2. Click Disk Cleanup

3. Check the items you’d like to cleanup and click OK:

Hint: Not sure which items you can clean up? Ask us in the forums.

11. Defragment one More Time

Now you’ve removed programs, temporary files, and other data from your hard disk, you should defragment one more time to get everything in line. See step 1 for instructions.

Bonus: Keep Your Computer Cool

The hotter your computer gets, the harder your fans have to work to keep it cool and the slower your hardware performs. If using your laptop, ensure there is proper ventilation by putting your laptop on a hard surface (not buried in a pillow!) Also check your desktop has proper ventilation by doing the following:

  • Removing bunches of wires from the back of the PC.
  • If your desktop has holes in its case for ventilation, ensure these holes are unrestricted.
  • If your desktop is in a cabinet, leave the door open or install an intake and outtake fan to keep the cabinet cool.
  • Consider adding more fans to your desktop.
  • Keep your hardware clean.
What else do you do to keep XP running like it’s on a new PC?

About Rich

Rich is the owner and creator of Windows Guides; he spends his time breaking things on his PC so he can write how-to guides to fix them.

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15 thoughts on “Speed up Windows XP in 11 Easy Steps [How To]”

  1. Tony says:

    This guide is one of the better ones I have seen


    1. karthik karthik says:

      this is best guide

      1. Udaya Sagar says:

        ya this is really awesome

  2. karthik karthik says:

    nice tips will help us more

  3. karthik karthik says:

    yes it really helped me

  4. Tony says:

    Great guide, well done. Also good to run this when doing a re-install.

  5. Sanamau says:

    I keep my laptop on a fan stand which is on an inverted
    perforated plastic basket for max ventilation, It’s almost
    always cool. After long hours, it doesn’t even get warm
    in any season. And I live in a tropical country with no
    air con.

    Since I have a lot of programs and tools, I get rid of minor
    trash like readmes, language files, and old .reg backups
    that are not usually addressed by cleaners,

    Before deciding to download a cleaning tool, I spend a
    little time reading comparative reviews so the best
    decision is made in selection. It saves time in the long

    There are a lot of good XP tweaks on the web, but if the
    consequences are beyond my knowledge, I won’t do them.

    These thing help to keep my XP running really fine.

  6. naveed says:


  7. Gabrielp217 says:

    This is awesome…thank you for your help!!!

  8. Rameshd Hyd says:

    Except for the device doctor advice, rest of the points are very good. Updating proper device drivers concept is good, but device doctor is a wrong choice. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Rich says:

      Thanks Rameshd. Are you aware of better, free device driver (searching, downloading, updating) software? We are always looking to try new programs.

  9. Srikanths says:

    ya .it is really helped me too

  10. Deepakfakatkar says:

    thanks……hope it will help me.

  11. Mujeeb Ansari says:

    Thanks, Very Good, it is helpful

  12. manish malviya says:

    thanks……hope it will help me.

Comments are closed.

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