Help me improve poor Windows XP performance?

Apologies if this has been addressed in the sticky, but I couldn’t find it.

I’ve had a number of computer problems over the past week, and I pretty much spent my entire weekend trying to solve them. It all started with a bad sound card, which has been replaced. The upshot is that I had to reinstall Windows (XP Home), and the performance is piss poor. Even after a fresh boot, things are really slow. Movies play with delays, audio CDs sputter and drag enough to slow the tempo of songs, Windows Explorer hangs up sometimes for minutes, even my mouse sometimes sticks for a few seconds. It displays all the symptoms of a serious memory leak. The only background app that I have running (knowingly) is McAfee.


Pentium III (?) (Yes, it’s an ancient machine.)
288 MB RAM
Windows XP Home
400+ meg swap file

If I Ctrl-Alt-Del, I can see a lot of processes running, but they seem to take little processing time, and they mostly seem to be native to Windows.

Ideas? (I’m at work right now, so I can’t try anything out until tonight.)

Well first thing i would do is set the machine to “best performance” Do this by right clicking on my computer and go to properties. Then click on the advanced tab, then settings under performance. And click the box that says best performance. After that click on the advanced tab and then change under virtual memory. Increase the vitual memory. That bassicly sets a bigger portion of your hard drive to act as ram. Another thing you can do is go to start>run and type in msconfig. and go to startup. google everythign you see and remove everything you dont need or want.

A few things to try:

Right-click “My Computer” and select Properties. Go to the Advanced tab and click Performance Settings button. Select “Adjust for Best Performance” and hit OK.

Get rid of McAfee and install AVG if you need antivirus software. AVG doesn’t hog system resources like other antivirus programs seem to.

Defrag your hard drive. It’s a good idea to do that after your initial install.

Buy more ram.

You can tweak some services to give you a boost, but you’ll have to do some google-fu to find out which one’s you can disable safely.
ETA: I see Chris beat me to the Best Performance thing. Curse you.

Tried that already. It didn’t help.

I’ll do a defrag tonight, and see if that helps.

I’ll also try disabling McAfee while I’m offline and see if that makes a difference.

Oh, and as far as the RAM goes, things were working just fine before I did the reinstall, so I think I’m OK there. It’s not like I run any really memory intensive apps anyway.

I would also do a registery clean and defrag. You can download a trial of tune up utilities 2007 and use that to defrag and compact your windows registry

Is it running Windows Update? If so, that will explain the sluggishness. Your performance will come back when Windows is done updating.

It’s been doing a few, but not all the time.

Well, other than what’s been suggested, I can’t think of anything else that would cause a fresh install to be slow besides maybe a hardware failure of some sort. Let us know how it goes.

I did notice in the sticky that someone mentioned checking to see if the RAM chips have come loose. I’ve opened up the box about 20 times over the past few days, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to double check that.

I don’t know if it’s a memory leak or not. Slow performance may be a piece of hardware with a bad driver.

Try these things:

Right click My Computer, pick Properties, Hardware, Device Manager. Are there any devices with a trouble icon next to them? If so fix the driver (easier said than done I know.)

While your computer is running slowly does your hard drive run a lot? You should have a hard drive LED on your computer that blinks, and you should be able to hear a clicky sound. If your hard drive is running a lot, I’d try defragmenting it. Also, I’d recommend you upgrade your memory to at least 512MB, Windows likes plenty of memory and hard drive access really slows down the computer.

Last but not least, Control-Shift-Esc should bring up your Task Manager. Under the Processes tab click CPU twice, that should sort the list of your running processes by CPU usage. If all is well there, System Idle Process should be taking 95% or more of your CPU. You can do the same for Mem Usage to see what apps are using a large amount of memory.

As you have done a fresh install of Windows have you also re-installed all the Motherboard, Video and Sound drivers accordingly?
The standard Windows video driver does not allow for Hardware Accelleration which is what usually leads to jerky playback in Media Player.
Also is this an SP1 or SP2 version of Home that you re-installed?.
IDE Hard Disk also utilise drivers if they are capable of 133 instead of standard ATAPI(80) considering your small RAM size you may well have been using alot of Virtual Memory previously and relied on the faster disk access protocol to keep things looking smooth.

Since it worked faster before the re-install:
Did you do a clean reinstall from an XP CD, or was it a Restore install (often from a XP copy on a hidden partition)?

Many machines now come without any actual XP CD, just a restore one. And that restores it to the factory original state, including all the pre-installed ‘trial’ versions of junky software. And that crapware can really slow down your machine.

It was installed over the previous version from a CD. Same directory.

If you didn’t empty the directory first, you have nothing resembling a clean reinstall. You’ll probably have to do it again, deleting the Windows directory first.

Quick format, reinstall, windows update for drivers and junk (or driver CD’s if you have them lying around). Isn’t this fun?

No. This is how I spent my weekend. In fact, I was going to write a Pit thread about the lousy tech support people I spent the weekend with. I ended up hanging up on one guy, as he was a complete moron who needed to consult with his mentor every time I imparted new information.

Him: “Sir, you need to get an IP address from the computer manufacturer.”

Me: “That doesn’t sound right. Besides, they’re out of business.”

Him: “You need to call them.”

Me: “You’re a moron. Shouldn’t we actually install the driver?”

Him: “Yes. Shut down Windows and look to see if there’s an IP address on your hard drive.*”

Me: “How is that going to install the driver?”

Him: “You need to call the computer manufacturer and ask them for an IP address.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure they’re still out of business. Hey, here’s an idea, let’s try installing the driver. Ya think that might help?”

Him: “Sure, let’s do that. Unplug the wires from your hard drive and try to see if there’s an IP address on your TV thingy. If not, you need to call the computer manufacturer so they can mail one to you.”

Me: “I’m going to hunt you down and hurt you.”

*Yes, everyone I spoke to at Comcast referred to the tower as a hard drive.

Was that Comcast tech support? If you want to go straight to the source, I might be able to use some connections.

This conversation makes me feel stabby. Sorry for your frustration. I have a hammer somewhere around here I can lend you if nothing else works.

This sounds suspiciously like the call I first had with Sprint Customer Service upon receiving my phone.

Him: “I can’t activate your phone. That phone id has been activated and is already in service.”

Me: “I just unwrapped it, new, from the package.”

Him: “You need to call the store you bought it from to have them activate it.”

Me: “I tried that, but you picked up the phone. I bought it on

Him: “You need to take it back to the store you bought it from.”

Me: :rolleyes:

You could try tidying up dead entries in the device manager - as detailed in post #3 of this thread: