I have a Windows XP system which has only 256 MB of ram, and unfortunately upgrading the RAM is not an option (it needs DDR, a DDR2 chip didn't fit and I'm not in town long enough to order one online). As you would expect, the system runs at the speed of molasses. It belongs to my 8-year-old nephew who'd love to be able to run basic programs, play flash games, etc. Is there anything I can do, short of adding more memory, to make it at least feel more responsive?

While Windows XP lists 128MB as the minimum recommended amount, I'm waiting 3-4 seconds for the start menu, and that is somewhat ridiculous.

  • Out of curiosity, what processor it it running?
    – Chris_K
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:18
  • i have no idea. it's underneath a giant green plastic thing that attaches to the vent, and don't feel like burrowing under the hood any more than necessary
    – Mala
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:27
  • right-click "My Computer", choose "Properties". Let windows tell you...
    – Chris_K
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:29
  • You could also download Speccy... (but that just uses more RAM. heh)
    – Wesley
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:34
  • well it's in several pieces right now so i won't check just yet, but it was from back in the day when one stick of 256 DDR was considered acceptable, and pentium 3's didn't have that giant green thing so i'm going to guess a pentium 4
    – Mala
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:37

With nothing else running, XP runs quite well with 256MB. Thus, I'd wonder what else is running. Grab something like Autoruns from SysInternals and see how many apps/utils/bloatware you have running at startup and prune that back.

You might also make sure you have current video drivers to ensure that start menu "lag" isn't video driver related.

Final note: Turn off that default crayola theme and run it in "Classic" mode. That'll make a huge difference.

  • 1
    is Autoruns any different from just going the msconfig route?
    – Mala
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:28
  • Autoruns gives more details and looks in more places.
    – Chris_K
    Mar 4 '10 at 18:29
  • Also, make sure that you run a lightweight anti-virus software. I'm using Avast free version on an older system, and it seems to work well. Mar 5 '10 at 2:31

there are hacks/registry tweaks for speeding up the speed of menus in Windows XP. My old machine used to run Windows XP on just 256 MB of RAM, and the hack worked pretty well. Mostly, you just have to be patient with it...I would recommend running msconfig and clearing out ALL non-essential startup stuff; also look at the list of services running, and disable ones that you don't need. Google anything in msconfig and services that you are not sure about.

Also try tweaking various graphical effects etc Microsoft has an article: http://www.xpmaximized.com/archives/speed-up-xp-menu-display.html

Here is an article about speeding up the menu display in XP: http://www.xpmaximized.com/archives/speed-up-xp-menu-display.html


While Windows XP lists 256MB as the minimum system requirements

Totally wrong, Windows XP requires at least 64MB of RAM.

There were reports about tweaked Windows XP versions being able to run on 18MB RAM only.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.