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I would suggest using XFCE instead of Windows XP. XFCE uses far fewer system resources and is completely free.
Also use a solder sucker. It's extremely useful and allows you to recover solder and melt it down in a solder pot. Protip: with some DIP ICs, you can desolder pins 2 at a time if you have a large solder sucker. Protip: Collect enough solder in your solder pot and you get bragging rights! Tell your friends you have more free solder in your solder pot then they do!
Desolder all throughhole ICs. It is one of my best sources of ICs. I would have never discovered the MC34063a if I hadn't desoldered it from a car phone charger that I found in a parking lot. I wear gloves. Not for protection against lead, but the iron itself. One time it slipped and did a barrel roll on my hand and I would have gotten seriously burned if not for my gloves. Gloves can protect your hand for an extremely short amount of time, but its better than having no protection at all.