1.   Have your PC health assessed for free at PC PitStop.  PCPitstop  Pc PitStop will give you a wealth of information about whether you have enough disk space, how fragmented your drives, whether you have enough memory and many other things discussed below.  This is an unbelievable free service and can be done anonymously.  2.  Make sure you have enough memory.   Choose Start Button -> Start Menu ->  Settings -> Control Panel -> System -> General Tab  Before You Buy Computer Memory Upgrades  Memory Manufacturers  You can find out how much you have by clicking on the System Icon in the Control Panel.  The amount is on the first tab that comes up, the General Tab.  With Windows 2000 or XP, you really should have at least 256 MB of memory and 512 MB is a more comfortable amount.   3.  Make sure you have a fast enough processor.  MyCPU  Only Windows XP will show you how fast your processor is, again see the image on the right.  For other versions of Windows, try the free MyCPU from:  http://www.seelhofer.ch/mad/.  It will give the CPU speed. 500 MHz Processor is really the minimum these days.  If you have less than this, spare yourself some frustration and buy a cheap new computer for $350-$400 from Dell, HP, Compaq, E-machines, or Gateway.  You'll be much happier.   4.  In the BIOS (or "Setup") stop floppy seek, stop memory check (Fast Boot), and put the disk on best performance setting instead of silent if you have it.  For a faster boot up enter your Bios, by clicking the Delete, F2, or F12 key or whatever flashes on the screen when you turn on the computer.  Next choose boot order, and remove all entries except the first one which you should set to your hard drive. This will stop the most of the time useless seeking of a floppy disk at boot time.  If you need to reinstall Windows or some other operation, you can always go back and change this entry to floppy or CD.  Also there should be a setting in your BIOS to make the boot, quick.  All this means is that your PC will not do the most of the time useless checking of your memory at boot time.  5.  Patch your computer!  Microsoft Windows Update -  http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ That is go to Windows update and download all the patches for your operating system.  Better yet, go into the Control Panel, choose Automatic Updates, Choose Automatic (your screen might look different with a different version of Windows).  Make it Every Day at a time when you are not using your computer (say 2 AM).  Generally if you have cable or DSL, despite the risk of infection, computers should be kept on and attached to the Internet.  This is to allow antivirus and security patches downloading at off-peak hours.  6. Bring your antivirus program up to date and do a full virus scan of your computer.  Alwil's Free avast! 4 Home Edition Grissoft's AVG H+BEDV's Antivr Bring your antivirus program up to date and regularly do a full virus scan of your computer.  Check your antivirus program as it will tell you when the last full scan was done.  You may be surprised to see it is not what you thought, but was last done months ago.  If you don't have an up to date antivirus program, and don't want to pay for a new one, there are several high quality free ones available to the private consumer.  They are: Grissoft's AVG, H+BEDV's Antivr, Alwil's Free avast! 4 Home Edition.  WinHki Anti-Virus Also try WinHki Anti-Virus, which acts as a supplement to normal Anti-virus program like above.  WinHki calculates the checksums ( a mathematical calculation extremely difficult to fool) of your files on initialization.  After that, whenever a virus changes a file it will be flagged by WinHki because the checksum will change.   7. Make sure you have no spyware.  Spybot  LavaSoft's Ad-Aware Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spy 5.5.5  Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner  Make sure you have no spyware, by running at least a couple different spyware programs.  The free ones are Spybot,  LavaSoft's Ad-Aware, Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spy 5.5.5, and Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner The last program tests for trojan horses and key loggers that the others don't, but is weak in terms of the number of spywares detected. Also it's a good idea to use the free spyware prevention tool, Spyware Blaster The commercial programs SpySweeper and especially PestPatrol are good too, the latter testing for key loggers, in memory spyware etc and may be the most comprehensive spyware checker of all and only $39.95.  8.  Stop unneeded startup programs.  Startup Inspector for Windows  Codestuff Starter  Merijn Bellekom's Hijack This (Expert Level  Stop unneeded startup programs.  New installation of software often adds unneeded startup entries in any of several different hidden locations.  These programs will start when Windows starts and take up resources.  The best free program to deal with this problem, is in my opinion, Startup Inspector for Windows.  If you use this program, be sure to select the "Consult" Button in the upper left of GUI.  This will make the program search through its database of startup programs and tell you whether the software is necessary or can be safely removed from the bootup sequence.  Another good choice is Codestuff Starter.  This free program has the additional advantage of having a sort of Power Task Manager which will tell you all the programs that are currently running and all their dll dependencies.   You can also sometimes get info about the manufacturer of the running program. Unfortunately you will manually have to look up your entries in other resources to see whether the software is necessary for normal functioning.  The best databases for checking whether programs are necessary at start up are here (one page), here (searchable), and here (Info used by Startup Inspector). For real expert list of Start- Up programs including browser helper objects try Hijack this.  "This is an expertsí tool! ó an awesome weapon in the fight against adware, spyware, and other parasites, Like other powerful weapons, wield it carefully! HJT displays legitimate and illegitimate programs without judgment, so donít just remove everything it finds; but the comprehensive list it generates finds things no other detection tool will catch. (HJT is also useful in seeing what else your computer is running without your knowledge.) Save the log and post it to a new thread here. To learn more about what HJT shows you, read this excellent tutorial. By Merijn Bellekom"  source of last item -  http://aumha.org/freeware/freeware.php  9.  Defragment your hard drive regularly.  startdefrag  (turn off popup blocker to download)  MorphaSystem's autodefrag  Microsoft Article  Systernal's PageDefrag   Defragment your hard drive by choosing Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter.  This should be done every week if possible and can take several hour, so again do it at night or while your at work.  There are some free disk defragmenter scheduler solutions, so you can "set it and forget it."  They are  startdefrag (excellent little program), autodefrag (you need to use Windows Scheduler to start), Lexun Freeware Drivecare (Windows Scheduler needed again).  There is a  Microsoft article that tells you how to use Scheduler (Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Scheduled Tasks) to schedule defragmentation.  Also defragment your page file.  This step is not done by the native Windows defragmenter nor any commercial defragmenter (I think - probably wrong though).  the  SysInternals one does it for free.  10.  Clean your registry with a free registry cleaner (and optimize it with NTREGOPT).   TweakNow's RegCleaner   HoverDesk's RegSeeker  ToniArt's EasyCleaner   Lars Hederer's NTREOPT Clean your registry with a free registry cleaner.  Over time the registry gets filled with unneeded entries which slow the computer.  Run the programs to find the entries, select them all and hit the delete key.  These programs are in wide us and are safe.  Good free ones are: TweakNow's RegCleanerHoverDesk's RegSeeker (it has other functions too), and  ToniArt's EasyCleaner. Here are the notes on NTREOPT: "Similar to Windows 9x/Me, the registry files in an NT-based system can become fragmented over time, occupying more space on your hard disk than necessary and decreasing overall performance. You should use the NTREGOPT utility regularly, but especially after installing or uninstalling a program, to minimize the size of the registry files and optimize registry access.  The program works by recreating each registry hive "from scratch", thus removing any slack space that may be left from previously  modified or deleted keys.  Note that the program does NOT change the contents of the registry in any way, nor does it physically defrag the registry files on the drive  (as the PageDefrag program from SysInternals does). The optimization done by NTREGOPT is simply compacting the registry hives to the  minimum size possible."  11.  Stop unneeded Windows services.  PC World and Tweakhound's Batch File for Turning off Unneeded Services Another Guide to Unneeded Services at BlackViper.com  Another Nice Guide to Turning off Unneeded Services at ClanKiller.com  Stop unneeded Windows services.  Services are again programs that Windows starts up automatically at startup.  Many of these are not needed and stopping them can help speed up you considerably.  To get to services, in WIndows 2000 and XP, right click on My Computer and choose Manage.  Then choose services down at the bottom.  Now, consult any one of these lists to see which services are needed:  here, here (reference by many) or  here (detailed explanations with references to Microsoft articles.  Tweakhound (first link) also has a batch file which is posted on PC Worlds Site, which will stop a lot of unneeded services.  It is  here.  Beware though it will turn off all fancy display elements of Windows XP and make it look like Windows 98.  12.  Turn off fancy desktop backgrounds, screensavers and turn off Hibernation.   Turn off fancy desktop backgrounds, and screensavers.  Elaborate background pictures and fancy screensavers can take up an enormous amount memory.  These operations can be done by right clicking on a blank part of your Desktop and choosing "Properties."  Go to the Desktop Tab and set the Background to "None."  On the screensaver Tab, set the Screensaver to "None."  To turn off the Hibernation feature: Right Click on your Desktop -> choose Properties -> Click on the Screen Saver Tab -> Click on the Power Button in the lower right corner -> Click on the Hibernate Tab -> Uncheck "Enable hibernation". 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