Introduction: The Windows XP Optimization Guide

Picture of The Windows XP Optimization Guide

The Complete Guide to Optimizing Windows XP. This guide will keep your computer responsive and snappy.

Step 1: Procedure

There are several options with which to begin optimization. Before beginning, it is suggested that you back up all your files.

If your computer has 2+ user accounts, and it has not been reformatted for an extended period of time, you are probably better off reformatting the computer and starting fresh. Most computers have a built-in destructive recovery. If you choose to start by reformatting, backup all your files and reformat the computer, preferably with the built in recovery tool.

Alternatively, you can create another user account with administrative abilities. Then login with your new account and delete the old account. This essentially gives you a fresh computer because most slowdowns are caused by a bogged down registry from extended periods of use. The new account has a fresh registry and is like new.

Step 2: Decrapifying (Deleting and Uninstalling)

Picture of Decrapifying (Deleting and Uninstalling)

You can decrapify manually (the way I do it) by going to start > Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs and manually remove programs.

Or you can run PC Decrapifier. This nifty little application requires no installation. Just run it from a USB. It will automatically recognize bloatware and other junk so you don't have to search.

Now if you own an HP or Compaq PC, they will have a folder called SWSETUP under your C:\ drive, which contains all the installer files for the software that came with your PC. You can delete this entire folder if you want, but if something goes wrong with the drivers, you will have to do a complete restore with the recovery partition. Only delete this folder after you have uninstalled everything that uses installers from the folder; otherwise it will leave shortcuts in the Add/Remove Programs menu that cannot be removed. I would manually go through and remove the bloatware installers, and leave driver installers and such.

Now go to start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup > More Options > (Under Windows Components) Clean Up. I removed the Mouse Pointers, Internet Games, MSN Explorer, Windows Messenger, Outlook Express, (and if you are running Windows XP MCE) Windows Dancer.

Go to start > Search and type in the names of programs you removed. Usually some dead links and folders will come up.

When you are done with all of this, restart your computer. Then go to start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter and defragment your hard drive.

Step 3: Basic System Properties Edit

Picture of Basic System Properties Edit

start > (Right Click) My Computer > Properties > Advanced > (Under Performance) Settings. Set them to what is shown. These settings strike a good balance between aesthetics and functionality, since most of the "animations" are horrendously ugly.

Now right click on the desktop and go to Properties > Appearance > Effects and set them what is shown.

Step 4: Useful Tweaks and Mods

Picture of Useful Tweaks and Mods

- Delete the Useless "My" Prefix
Open the start menu, right click on the items and edit them.

- Customize the Windows Explorer Toolbar
Right click and customize! Remove text labels, rearrange, and add buttons to your liking. The "Go" button can be removed by right clicking.

- Use the Quick Launch Toolbar
Right click the taskbar and set up your Quick Launch toolbar. This will save you some clicks when accessing your commonly used applications. Vastly superior to the annoying memory-hogging "docks" that seem to be all the rage.

- Kill the Annoying "Throbber"
The waving Windows flag in the upper right corner is the throbber. Run "ShellThrobOff.reg" file. If you ever want to undo it, just run the ShellThrobOn.reg.

- Move the Recycle Bin to the start Menu
This just makes more sense, and it helps keep your desktop tidy. Just right click and install.

- Change Windows Explorer to Show the Top Level Drives by Default
Change the target of Windows Explorer to %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /n, /e, /select, C:\

- Open folders in Windows Explorer Mode by Default (With Folder Pane Enabled - Vista Style)
Go to Folder Options > File Types. From the list, locate the entry FOLDER with extension of (NONE). Go to Advanced > Explore > Default. This will kill the special icons for the "My Pictures" and "My Music" folders.

- Delete the Menu Bar

- Add "Open With Notepad" to your context menu.

- Skip the Annoying "Use the Web Service to Find the Appropriate Program" Dialog

- Resize unresizeable windows

- Rearrange system tray icons and taskbar buttons

- Questionable (although they might work) speed tweaks

Step 5: Services

Services can be adjusted by going to start > Run > (type) services.msc. Services are components of the operating system that provide different features. Right Click the item, go to Properties > Startup Type: to modify the setting.

There are three different settings for each service - Disabled, Manual, and Automatic. Disabled means the service cannot run. Manual will run the service when needed, and Automatic will start the service whenever Windows starts. Do not disable unless you are certain the service is unnecessary and will not be run.

These settings are to be changed assuming that all your services are at default and you have SP2. If not, get SP2 first! These settings will apply the next time Windows starts up.

Modify the following to the indicated settings:
Distributed Link Tracking Client - M
Fast User Switching Compatibility - D
IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service - M
Indexing Service - D
Net Logon - D
NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing - D
Remote Registry - D
Secondary Logon - D

From TweakHound
Another good resource

Optimization Myths Is a good read, however, deleting certain services does indeed speed bootup time.

Step 6: Recommended Applications

Internet Explorer 8 It looks and works better, has tabs and is more secure.

Windows Media Player 11 It looks good and works great. (However, I suggest killing its memory-hogging "wmpnetwk" sharing service which consumes up to 8000K. To do this, go to start> Run > services.msc' and look down the list for WMPNetworkSvc. Right click for properties to open and stop the service from running and then in the Startup Type dropdown list choose Disabled and then Apply.)

Avast A solid and free security suite.

Process Explorer An upgraded version of the basic process explorer.

Mozilla Firefox Faster, more secure and more stable than Internet Explorer.

Paint.NET Free, open source image editor.

Foxit PDF Reader A lightweight alternative to the bloated Adobe Reader.

VLC Media Player A lightweight media player that supports many formats.

NetStumbler A superior alternative to the Windows wireless network detector.

WinRAR Free Zip file extractor.

MediaCoder The ultimate video and audio format converter.

For Java, go to 'start > Control Panel > Java' and disable automatic updates.

Step 7: Maintenance

Run Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter regularly. If you're too lazy to do that, just add it to scheduled tasks. It's also a good idea to install programs sparingly and to remove programs you don't need. Use a spyware and virus scanner, and look into buying a disk maintenance program if necessary.


JesusG33k (author)2015-05-13

Better advice for you:

Get Windows 8. XD

Thanks for sharing!

RichieG2 (author)JesusG33k2015-11-08

You do realize that there are computers that aren't good enough for Windows 8, right?

naka (author)2008-07-18

Don't get Norton, don't get norton, don't get norton, don't get norton, don't get norton! If this is an optimization guide, I'm baffled by your advice to get Norton :(

morgan.fairbanks.1 (author)naka2015-03-05

IK Nortron terriblle optimization, get avira for free, anything but nortron

crestind (author)naka2008-07-19

Norton is the best security software out there, and the extra security is worth a slightly slower computer to me. I'm assuming that the computers being optimized have 512 MB or RAM or so, so Norton won't slow things down too much.

crestind (author)crestind2012-11-11

Disregard my ignorant comment above lol "best security software out there".

naka (author)crestind2012-11-11

It's been a while, welcome back to 2008.

naka (author)crestind2008-07-23

For all the times I have fixed computers, I can't count how many times uninstalling Norton solved a problem you can spend hours trying to fix. I actually had a laptop myself where the wireless was suddenly not working for no reason at all, I had tried everything and Norton had been disabled since I bought it, I actually had to go in and uninstall under add and remove programs and my wireless started working again. Besides the random problems it seems to cause for a lot of people, it has it's fingers in EVERYTHING and uses system resources it just doesn't need to be using, I want to know how you formed the opinion that Norton is good because I have never seen any sort of anti-virus site showing off good stats for Norton anyways. Do a search for Top Antivirus, I didn't find anything in the 5 top results saying anything about Norton. I did a search for Top Antivirus + Norton and the only thing that showed besides download sites and Nortons website was this "Reviews agree that Kaspersky is better than the bestseller Norton AntiVirus 2008 in all aspects."

Muscelz (author)naka2008-11-05

If this waz my windowz optimization guide i wud write in big fat letters "REFORMAT"
and install linux, xp isnt worth your trouble

TheShawMaestro (author)Muscelz2009-02-16

Linux loser...

Muscelz (author)TheShawMaestro2009-02-18

don't get involved with stuff you don't know about, obviously you know nothing, otherwise you wouldn't be mocking linux. linux is a very powerful tool, alot more open than windows, alot more editable, rules don't apply for linux. linux can cause alot more damage, but ofcource it has its program compatibility issues but that doesn't matter, its what it can do. look matey windows is good, but linux is better. I run Win Xp 64 Pro KDE 4.25 and then Win Xp 64 Pro Sandboxed Under KDE

TheShawMaestro (author)Muscelz2009-02-18

I know it is a lot more open than Windows. Windows is by far the worst operating system I have ever come across. I run Mac OS X. And have have used more than my fair share of Linux distributions. I might have been a little too judgmental.

The term 'linux loser' applies to someone who ran Windows, then switched to Linux, thinking they were great, but knowing little about the operating system. They also see themselves as 'non-conformists' or 'hax0rs'. From your style of writing, and the whole 'big fat letters' thing, you seemed to fall under the catergory of 'Linux loser'. Sorry for upsetting you.

Muscelz (author)TheShawMaestro2009-02-21

I didn't switch to linux, i used both OS's (mainly Windows)
actually my friend introduced me to it and i thought oooo this can come in handy, anyway he is a magor linux geek, he mainly uses it because he has his computer going 24/7 and needs a stable platform to run his server. hosting world of warcraft servers, his webpage "" a simple webpage used to upload files etc, and other things.

linux can pretty much do everything windows can't, (that dusnt mean bypass other OS's) its simply more manipulative, thers commands off commands, sub commands off sub commands and etc, pretty much anything is possible in linux except the obvious which i don't need to get into

some of the most powerfullest computer in the world "Super Computers" as they call them run a linux based OS because of its versatility and how open source it is and etc

it takes time to learn linux, once learnt it is a VERY powerful tool, and see how i use the world tool, i would so much class it as a program platform just yet intill they can intertwine it with windows a little more and get directx operational and integrated to there is a seamless difference between the both, which is quite complicated because directx was built around windows, so linux's directx would have to be build around linux, what a task

crestind (author)Muscelz2010-02-16

I can see Linux being useful for a home server, but what's the point of having it on your main PC?

Muscelz (author)TheShawMaestro2009-02-21

its weird ino this stuff lol, it wud be funny if u met me in person im not the sorta type of guy who would look like he's knew this stuff lol freaks most people out

crestind (author)Muscelz2008-11-05

If this was your optimization guide, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to understand your English either.

Muscelz (author)crestind2009-02-02

1 last thing, why would you get at sum1 for their writing? like this is about computers, dnt change the subject. people can read my writing, YOU CAN. anyone with half a brain can

crestind (author)Muscelz2009-02-02

I wasn't getting back at you. If you feel that way, then you obviously realize that your writing quality isn't great. This is about computers. This is about optimizing Windows XP, as the title clearly states. This is not about converting to Linux, which is why that was not included.

Muscelz (author)crestind2008-11-30

LoL what evarrrr

latemtech (author)crestind2010-01-24

 I use spyware doctor with antivirus protection program. It is far better than norton, avg, or any other antivirus program.  I have used it for 3 years and I CANNOT complain about it. you can find it at

z-man6233 (author)crestind2009-07-09

norton really isn't that great almost everything that gets through the firewall will disable norton

rocketman221 (author)crestind2008-09-27

norton misses so much crap. there are many better programs out there.

one that I have had a lot of luck with is avast home edition. its free and works great the database of viruses gets updated and almost everyday and catches a lot more than macafee and norton in my opinion.

I have been using avg free for a while now and haven't had any problems yet.

all of my friends use avg and swear by it but the one that has caught the most stuff for me is avast. it is all just experience and preference.

ultrauber (author)crestind2008-12-22

I prefer McAfee, just cause it's less annoying, easy to update, and cause McAfee SafeSearch exists.

Tom1795xx (author)2011-07-01

Norton was so bad it should take itself as a virus! XD I have Malwarebytes+AVG=Platinum Shield! =D

rocksalt2342 (author)2010-08-16

lol, not to be confused with Windows Optimizer.

jordx607 (author)2010-06-16

do you use xp? if so how did you get it to look like that

Grumpy old man (author)2010-02-15

 Naka, I'm with you. I'm old and far from computer savvy, so when 'experts' tell me I listen. That's how I got Norton, what a bloody disaster. I find the average 'how to' here far better.

King825 (author)2010-01-01

Kapersky is better than norton, hands down.

shoyru_master_11 (author)2009-10-14

Cosmo key play secretly at school

gamerguy13 (author)2009-07-25

I agree. Norton is highly rated by Consumer Reports, and myself. Little gets by it. I have used it for years and have had minimal problems. It is a fine piece of programming.

slowblinker (author)2008-12-26

Half of these suggestions don't even come with a tutorial. Why?

Hycro (author)slowblinker2009-01-15

I've noticed that too...but I know that things like the disc cleanup and defragmenter usually tell you how to use them

rocketman221 (author)2008-09-27

for your browser I would recommend opera. for your image editor i would recommend imp. and don't get vlc unless you want those annoying orange traffic cones on the icons for all of your media files. get the k-lite codec pack instead it will let windows media player play every thing vlc does.

naka (author)rocketman2212008-12-01

Get VLC, you won't look stupid then.

oops i ment gimp

laznz1 (author)2008-11-18

for the record Norton Antivirus IS NOT a top of the line Virus protection

brandegor (author)2008-10-11

3B Software Windows Registry Repair Pro rules. Now somebody tell me how to get Firefox to open faster and life will be, well, easier.

to make it start quicker remove old add-ons

Gokuvegita (author)2008-04-07

This is awesome, can't wait to try this thanks.

MeanJoe (author)2008-03-05

Good "instructable"....I tried printing it out and, of course, none of the "active" bits were "active". Had to go back to the email several times in order to understand what you were saying.... My only question. Why even suggest IE7 in the same breath as Firefox? I know NetFlix "Instant" movies won't play on Firefox, but that's the only problem I ever experienced with it...And, of course, T-bird for email....I hate Windows. Migrating to Obuntu, and all of the "Optimization" is really irrelevant, but I've been able to use it to help friends trapped in Windows...Thank you.

MeanJoe (author)MeanJoe2008-03-05

Ms. Faust, Go take a dive at a rolling donut....

crestind (author)MeanJoe2008-03-05

That's an apples to oranges comparison. You are comparing Firefox to Internet Explorer 7. I suggest IE7 as a superior alternative to IE6. What "active" bits are you referring to, and what email? Yes, yes, optimization is irrelevant because you have a "superior" operating system and whatnot. I've heard it a billion times. I like XP and Vista, and will stick with them. Most Linux distros have a long way to go before I will even consider them.

ratman2.0 (author)2008-01-28

lol i'd also recommend a reg cleaner and a defragment of the registry, havent had time to read through everythin but otherwise, its pretty good, there's also a reg tweak to make it automatically kill all processes at shutdown altho i dont remember what it is.

locofocos (author)2007-11-23

One thing you need to add. Open up task manager (control alt delete) and click on the processes tab. Click on user name to organize them by user name, and find the ones that are the name of your computer account. You can delete all of there from your ram, but don't close explorer.exe . Close them all out except explorer. Because if you have on-access virus protection, one of these may be for that, so if it closes out all of a sudden, don't close that process out. Now that you know which ones not to close out, we can tell windows to not open them in the first place. Go to run, then type in "msconfig" and open it. Switch to the startup tab. You will see all of these processes under your user name except for explorer. Uncheck them all, then recheck any that you need, such as the process for your virus protection or maybe something like Gmail Notifier that you want to start up when your computer starts up. Basically this will free up a lot of your ram and processing power and your computer will run WAY faster.

GunnerRecall (author)2007-11-06

well, my computer got a nasty virus and I had to reset my notebook to I will be looking forward to using this Instructable :)

Tenka (author)2007-10-30

This is beautifully useful, thank you greatly for displaying what we should all be learning!

Zionpsyfer (author)2007-09-30

A program I've found useful in lieu of Windows' Disk Cleanup Wizard is Cleanup! . It's far more thorough (try it immediately after DCW) and free.

One tip if you use it, go in the options and turn off sounds. Else it plays a relatively loud toilet flushing sound when you start cleaning.

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