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We've all seen that ads strewn across the web that tout the ability to increase the speed of our computer by 200%+. Obviously, these don't work. But what is the real way to speed up and optimize your computer? What program(s) actually work?

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If you're willing to part with a little money, more RAM -always- helps. – Phoshi Oct 10 '09 at 16:30
What helps more is AdBlockPlus. – wfaulk Oct 10 '09 at 16:48
XP limits ram :-) – Xavierjazz Oct 10 '09 at 18:09
@Xavierjazz - All 32 bit OSes limit RAM to around 3GB. 64 bit XP has a limit of 128GB which I think is way more than any XP machine will require. Most motherboards limit RAM to less than that. – pipTheGeek Oct 10 '09 at 18:12
To be fair, when we're talking about RAM 'limits' on an X64 system with a middlish-to-good mobo, we may as well stop. Not even relevant for non-server builds. – Phoshi Oct 10 '09 at 19:07
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Putting Linux-evangelism aside, reinstalling Windows helps but it's not for the faint of heart. Windows is known to become bogged down by many small installations and incomplete uninstallations.

CCleaner as mentioned helps, but sometimes you've got to use tougher means. For mom's pc, CCleaner is certainly fine. For my own pc, reinstalling is better.

I have made a disk image of my newly installed Windows + favorite apps, so it's a matter of 30 minutes to get back up and running (after making proper data backups).

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+1 disk image of a fresh install.. good tip. do you get it up to the latest patchlevel before or after imaging? – quack quixote Oct 10 '09 at 16:41
First a clean install, then updating, then made the image. Next time I use the image, I will restore the image to disk, re-update it, make a new image, and then start using the installation. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 10 '09 at 17:57

The real answer is: "it depends on what's slowing you down". If the bottleneck is, for instance, RAM, then more RAM (or running fewer programs) is the answer. If the problem is slow web browsing because your system is infested with 27 different spyware programs, a good malware remover might help, and reinstalling might be required. Can you say what exactly seems slow to you?

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CCleaner works as advertized.

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You may have many startup processes and services which are not required using up RAM.

To disable startup processes:

  • Go to Run > msconfig and then choose the Startup tab.
  • Examine the list and disable any items you do not want started when your computer boots e.g. iTunesHelper, java jusched etc.

To disable services:

  • Go to Run > services.msc
  • Disable services you think are not required. I'd recommend reading what they are about before disabling them! e.g. Error Reporting Service, Indexing Service.
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Depends on where you are starting from really, but doubling the recommended amount of RAM for a Windows install is always a good place to begin.

However, that's not software as you specified. The Register is currently on part two of a 3-part look at tune-up apps, looking at Win XP, Vista and Win 7 (still to come).

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Registry and temporary files cleanup is next to useless, unless the registry is really in a bad shape (quite unlikely).

The only real improvement you can do, which is also quite marginal, is to defragment your hard disk. See this article for a discussion of the merits of several free defragmenters:
Best Free Disk De-fragmenter

Please be warned that defragmenting the hard disk can, although rare, result in destroying the disk. So think first of backups and having a recovery boot cd. Most times, the very small gain in performance is not worth the risk of losing so much of your personal time restoring a destroyed disk.

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Along with CCleaner I use Defraggler once a week, also while i was using Windows Xp increasing the virtual memory and turning down the graphical effects showed a significant increase in speed.

Also don't forget to include the temp folder to CCleaner as that is not included in the default options and its needs to be added from options -> include and then simply write the folder path

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The best way to optimize your computer:

  1. Run CCleaner at regular intervals
  2. Delete temporary files regularly
  3. Get updates of installed software on regular basis
  4. Remove unused applications
  5. Try to run as few as possible applications at one time
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