Ask Dave Taylor: Tech and Business


How to speed up Microsoft Windows XP

Dave, this is driving me crazy: when I first got my computer it was snappy and applications launched in just a second or two. Now, a year later, it's like someone poured molasses over the hard disk without me noticing, because everything just seems to take forever. Why is my computer slowing down and how can I speed it up again?

One of the stranger aspects of computers is that they do indeed suffer from old age, as you are noticing. Oddly enough, the longer you use a computer - particularly a Windows PC in my experience - the slower it ends up running. It could be a plot forcing you to always buy newer and faster systems, but more likely it's just that as you use the system, you put increasing levels of demand on the hardware with different helper apps, more running in the background, animated desktops, flashing icons, custom cursors, RSS readers and stock tickers, and even programs helpfully checking for updates at random intervals. It all adds up.

One strategy for improving things is rather draconian: back up your computer files, reformat your hard disk, then reinstall the OS from scratch and the key applications you use. Total time lost? Probably a couple of days by the time you get everything restored, but it's really a pretty good annual task for PC users, in my experience.

There are also a variety of specific steps you can take to try and isolate the resource hogs on your system and give them...