What you are experiencing is quite common. "Gosh, when this thing was new it was quick.
Now it runs like molasses in January. What's wrong?"
Actually nothing is "wrong." XP is working just like it was designed to. The problem is in the basic design. XP's default settings allow "automatic" installation of background processes and startup programs. It also "saves" tons of logs and 'caches' data against possible future need. On home computers that must store everything on the local hard drive (C:\), this means that things get 'clogged up' and multiple background processes are using processor time and memory, preventing your programs from operating at full speed. What to do?
You could buy a program that just 'fixes' it, but many of them create issues that are difficult to resolve. Besides, you can do it yourself with free utilities, and likely do a better job.
After a year, this will take a little of your time, but not too much, and in the process you will learn how to keep your computer working efficiently as you go.
The first step is to "throw out the trash." Getting rid of all the unnecessary data stored on the hard drive will make everything else quicker. After all, if I want to 'straighten up the house,' it just makes sense to take out the garbage first.
Download ATF Cleaner: http://www.atribune....tent/view/19/2/
This is a "stand-alone" application. No install required.
Just Save the file to your Desktop and double click to run.
Before you run ATF click the name of your browser at the top to decide what you want ATF to clean from it. Unless you have important links stored in History or something, this first time it will be best to clear everything. Later go back and reconfigure for regular use.
This first time use the Select All button. (For future use do not check Prefetch. That will only slow things down more. If you remove all cookies all the time, you will need to log in each visit to a site that needs a password. (Yahoo, GeekstoGo, etc.) I do not do that on a regular basis either. I have other ways to manage my cookies. You won't believe how much stuff ATF cleans out!
Next, it is time to 'straighten up the house.' For a computer, this means running a thorough Defrag. Download JkDefrag: http://www.kessels.com/JkDefrag/
Save the .zip file, right click it and "Extract all.." All you need is jkdefrag.exe. This is also a "stand-alone" Just double click to run. Ugly as sin and twice as powerful. Jk will defrag even "over-full" partitions.
Since it has been some time since the computer was defragged, it will take a while for JkDefrag to finish. Please be patient. It will do a great job in much less time than XP's own defrag utility.
In the future, dedicate a little time each week (or month at most) to a defrag. Either use Windows own utility or Jk (or some other product) but don't "mix and match." Defrag utilities differ in the way they go about the job. If I have a gal come in and organize my house and I like it, I keep using her. A different person would do things differently. I might like that too, but it would be hard to keep track of where things are. Ditto for the computer.
OK. The trash is thrown out and the house is 'organized.' Now it is time to take an inventory of the house itself (check for needed repairs- "Does the back door close properly? Are there cracks in any of the steps?" --etc.)
For XP, this means running a Checkdisk.
Not hard to do, just takes a little time.
Open "My Computer," and right click Local Disk C:\
Choose Properties, and open the Tools tab.
The top section is called "Error checking."
Please push the button for "Check Now."
Mark both boxes in the next little window, and press Start.
Windows will politely tell you that it cannot do it right now, and ask if it would be OK to do it the next boot.
Yes, thank-you, that would be fine.
Now please reboot your computer.
As XP boots it will stop at a blue screen with white writing that details the agonizingly slow progress of Checkdisk. The good news is that the process is automatic, and Windows will boot normally when it is finished, so you don't have to stay and watch if you need better entertainment.
This is also something that should be done a few times a year, and something that often corrects vague "goofyness" in the system.
Next, it is time to make sure that the XP 'house' is fully equipped with all the right appliances.
(Dishwasher, fridge, can opener, stapler, everything.)
In the computer, this means running a Scannow procedure. For this one, you will need an XP CD.
Open the Start menu, and select Run.
In the Run box paste this: sfc /scannow
The space between the 'sfc' and the '/' is essential.
As scannow runs it may find that there are missing system files.
When it does, it will ask you to insert your XP CD. Any XP Pro CD will suffice for this. You are not installing and will not need a license key. All that Windows will be doing is copying certain essential files from the CD to the proper Windows folders. (Of course, If you have SP2 it is necessary to use a SP2 CD)
XP does not seem overly enthusiastic about this procedure. When it successfully copies a missing file from the CD it seems to ask "Are we done now?
You want a full scan, so press the "Retry" button as often as it shows up until the whole job is done. When it is done, reboot the computer to allow XP to fully acquire the 'new' stuff.
At this point, you should already begin to notice an improvement, but the biggest gains will be realized when you send the neighbood kids home and stop feeding them out of your refrigerator and pantry. (It is also so much more peaceful around the place...)
The "neighboorhood kids" on your computer are the unrequired processes running in the background.
After a full year, I bet you've got a bunch of them.
First you have to know what processes are running. Sure, Taskmanager lists them, but that's about it. For real help with this we need Sysinternals free Process Explorer. Read all about it here: http://www.5starsupp...?showtopic=8275
The other free tool that is very helpful with this is WinPatrol: http://www.winpatrol.com/
Download and install. After the little Scottly dog appears down by the clock (Notification Area) Right click him and select "Display startup info."
This is a list of everything that is set to start automatically with Windows and run continuously in the background. To prevent that, simply left click an entry once to highlight it, and then push the "Disable" button at the lower right. The process/program will no longer auto-start, but will be available from it's own shortcut in All Programs (or the desktop icon) when you need it.
It is also not removed from the list! That makes it easy to "Change your mind." Just go back to the list, left click it once to highlight, and now you'll find an "Enable" button to put it back to auto-start.
What to keep? Hard to say without knowing exactly how you use your computer. I update everything manually, so I turned off all the 'auto-updaters.' You may not want to do that for all of them, especially your 'security' programs, but it is entirely up to you. Scotty will not offer to stop anything that is vital to Windows itself. WinPatrol will even let you stop WinPatrol! Cool!
Here are some good places to check out processes by name:http://www.ppedia.com/http://www.fileresearchcenter.com/http://www.answersth...es/tasklist.htmhttp://www.kephyr.com/filedb/index.phphttp://www.what-process.com/lists.aspxhttp://exelib.com/http://www.processlibrary.com/
And Google works quite well.
You will have to decide for yourself exactly which to keep and which to stop.
If you configure Process Explorer with the CPU Time column, work down the list from top to bottom.
That way you're getting rid of the 'kids' that eat the most.
I know that this all seems like a lot of work, and well, it is. But in the process you will gain control over your system and make it work for you.
It also does not have to be done in one day. Proceed at your own pace, and take it a step at a time. It can actually be fun.
The above information, and much more is included in my Vox post: http://doc1101.vox.com/
Have a read there as well. The 'links' there are not live. Copy and paste the URLs to your browser address bar to view the referenced pages.
Good luck with your 'housecleaning.' I will be very interested in your progress. Do post back to let us know how it's going.