Top 25 XP Super Tweaks

June 16, 2008 by in The Pit Blog


It’s summer and it’s been a tedious time since the XP SP3 debacle. There is no doubt, the old OS could use some mending. Mine sure did. Let’s schedule a little spa time. Put her on the rack and get out the gunk. You’ll be amazed at the way she handles after some TLC.

I suggest starting with “1” and working straight through. Some of the items are tweaks to increase speed and performance. They may limit or change functionality, so do only the ones you’re comfortable with. I just finished doing every one on my machine. You can view my OverDrive results below. Be sure to wear your safety glasses.



1. Remove Unused Programs. Start/ Control Panel/ Add Remove Programs/ Remove/ Yes. If you are not using a program then get rid of it. If you don’t know what it is, enter it in Google and find out.

2. Clean your Desktop. After removing programs you no longer use, get rid of trash files, folders, and lost icons on your desktop. Put them where they belong. I bet many can go in the trash. Some might be left over from programs you just removed. If that is the case, just right click/Delete

3. Clear Browser Cookies And Files. Internet Explorer, Open Internet Explorer/ Tools/ Options/ General/ Delete Cookies, files, Clear History. Firefox, Open Firefox/ Tools/ Privacy/ Check, Accept cookies/ Keep Until I close Foxfire/ Check, Always clear my private data when I close Firefox.

To make short work of all cookies, browsing history, and downloads, use a program like “Erase” to assure there will be no traceable information left behind.

4. Remove Temporary Files. Start/ All Programs/ Accessories/ System Tools/ Disk Cleanup/Check all items/ OK/ Yes. If you have more than one drive connected, be sure to run the Disk Cleanup for it also.


5. Use a registry cleaner. Although the PC Pitstop Optimize program will clean some files from your registry it is also a strong Optimization program and not strictly a registry cleaner. Right now what’s needed is a thorough cleaning. There are many registry cleaners and none of them get all of the broken registry files. That can be a good thing because if you use a program that removes needed files you will be in trouble. One program that I’ve used for a long time with no problems is RegScrubXP. Another good thing about this program is that it’s free. Give it a whirl.

6. Remove Unused Windows Components. Start/ Control Panel/ Add Remove Programs/ Add Remove Windows Components/ uncheck the box of what you want removed/Next/ OK. Just like old programs, there are XP components that most people never use. For me I never use Indexing or MSN Explorer.

7. Defrag your hard drives. Even if all you use is the default Windows defrag program, defrag your hard drive. Start/ All Programs/ Accessories/ System Tools/ Disk Defragmenter/ Defrag/ OK. Whether Windows thinks you need to defrag has nothing to do with it. It’s always a good idea to defrag after installing and uninstalling programs, applications, and games. If you want to not only defrag your drives but set them to operate at maximum efficiency, then use the Disk MD program. Disk MD will defrag your hard drives and configure the files for easy access.

8. Update all your drivers from the manufacturers site. Sometimes this can be an easy task, but mostly it requires some searching to find the correct driver. Because all hardware is different, I can’t direct you from here. What I can do is direct you to Driver Alert. Download the free scan to see a list of drivers that need updating. If you decide to buy the program it will direct you to the correct download location.

9. Clean out your Start-up programs using msconfig..Start/run/type “msconfig” without the quotes/startup/uncheck any program that does not need to start with Windows/Apply/OK/Reboot. This will remove the resource wasters that open each time you boot Windows. Do not use msconfig to turn off system processes and services.

10. Modify System Restore. Start/Help and Support/Undo Changes/System Restore Settings/Turn off System Restore/OK. If you are going for the fastest system you can achieve, just turn System Restore off. I do. If you are wanting to keep it as a backup safety feature then at least reduce the amount of space that is being set aside for this feature. PC Pitstop has suggested reducing this waste of expensive hard drive space for some time now. I suggest something in the 1300MB to 1500MB range. The % this represents will vary with the size of your hard drive. Start/Help and Support/Undo Changes/System Restore Settings/Disk Space Usage/Move the slider to correct position/OK. Keep in mind that while I don’t use System Restore, I do use Acronis True Image Home for creating backups. It’s as easy as clicking “Clone”. I create new clones at least every week.

11. Delete your old Emails. Start/Outlook Express (or email client)/Inbox/Inbox/Delete all unwanted emails/Deleted items/Right click each deleted item/Delete them permanently. Emails can waste space at an alarming rate. If you don’t need them, get rid of them.


12. Increase your Internet bandwidth. This manual adjustment changes the TCP Receive Window size and is recommended only for cable modem or DSL users running XP or Windows 2000.
Warning! Incorrectly editing the registry can cause your system to become unbootable. Back up any valuable data before changing the registry. If this suggestion scares you then I suggest using Optimize to safely make the changes for you.

To change your TCP Receive Window size:

  • Launch window registry editor by clicking on Start | Run
  • Click in the Open dropdown box and type in regedit.exe then click OK.
  • Back up your registry by selecting File | Export type in a meaningful file name, in the export range section select All and save to your hard drive. To restore your old registry you simply import this file.
  • Next create a new registry key. On the left side, go to the directory HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesTcpipParameters.
  • Select Edit | New | DWORD Value.
  • Rename the new registry key to TcpWindowSize.
  • Modify the registry setting for TcpWindowSize by double clicking on the key.
  • Change the Base Setting to Decimal.
  • Enter the value 64240 and click OK, then exit RegEdit.
  • For these settings to take effect you need to close all
    your open applications and reboot your system.

13.QoS (Quality of Service) This tweak is to reduce wasted bandwidth in XP Pro, that is held back by default. Start/run/ gpedit.msc/ Local Computer Policy/ Computer Configuration/ Administrative Timplates/ Network/ QoS Packet Scheduller/ From right hand side choose QoS packet scheduler again/ Limit reservable bandwidth/ change from “Not Configured” which reserves 20% of your bandwidth, to Enable/ set Bandwidth to 0%/ OK/ For those who use XP Home, you will need to add the Group Policy Editor. You can find those files here. For instructions on general use of the group policy editor you may go here. Thanks to storym13 for providing this information in our Tips ‘n’ Tricks Forum

14. Remove Remote Desktop. Start/ Control Panel/ Performance and Maintenance/ System/Remote Tab/Uncheck “Remote Assistance and Desktop Sharing”/ OK. This is a security risk so I remove it for safety. This feature is not available in XP Home but is available in XP Pro. If I do decide to share my desktop with someone, it’s no trouble to go back and check the boxes.

15. Stop unwanted Services. Start/Run/type “services.msc” without the quotes/double click the service/Stop/from the startup drop down choose “Manual” or Disable/OK. The drill is always the same but what you choose is up to you. I’ll give you my suggestions, which are relatively conservative. Do not stop or disable a service unless you know what it does.

Windows XP Services
# Service Status/Type
1 Automatic Updates Stop/Disable
2 Error Reporting Stop/Disable
3 Event Log Stop/Disable
4 Fast User Switching Stop Disable
5 Help and support Stop/Disable
6 Indexing Service Stop/Disable
7 Remote Desktop H.S. M Stop/Disable
8 System Restore Stop/Disable
9 Task Scheduler Stop/Disable
10 Themes Stop/Disable

16. Adjust for Best Performance or Remove Themes. Start/ Control Panel/ Performance and Maintenance/ System/ Advanced Tab/ Under Performance select Settings/ Visual Effects Tab/ Adjust for best performance/ OK.

17. Adjust your font characteristics. This is a must for LCD users and especially important if you’ve just completed tweak #16. Right click the desktop/ Properties/ Appearance/ Effects/Click “use the following method to smooth edges..”/ Click the drop down/ Choose “Clear Type”/ OK/ OK.

18. Adjust the Paging File. Start/ Control Panel/ System/ Advanced/ Performance Settings/ Advanced/ Virtual Memory/ Change/ Custom Size/ 2048 initial size/ 2048 Maximum size/ Set/ OK/ OK. For those with a minimum of 512MB of system memory this should be a safe setting.

Because I have 2GB of memory, I set my system to No Page File. There are programs that require more than that amount of physical memory, but I don’t use them. Most gurus, not all, consider 1 GB of memory enough to operate without a pagefile. It’s your decision and easily corrected if it doesn’t work for you. Simply return to the Advanced Performance section and put a dot in the “System managed size”.


19. Reset your Internet Explorer Security and Privacy settings. I actually do this about once a month. Because of testing and work, I might change my security settings several times in a month. To keep myself on track I like to start from the beginning every once in a while. Open Internet Explorer/Tools/Internet Options/Security and Privacy/check to see that the Default Level is chosen. Check the Block pop-ups box while you are there.

20. Absolutely use a backup program.. Plug in your external drive/open your Acronis program/click clone/reboot/unplug drive. Whether you use your computer for work or for communicating with friends and family, no one wants to lose their files and information. In order to feel absolutely safe I use a backup program. Acronis TrueImage Home does the job for me especially because it has a “Clone Disk” feature. Windows System Restore is no help if your computer won’t boot.

21. Use a spyware detection program. Exterminate, AdAware, and Spybot, are all good programs for detecting and removing spyware, get one, use it. Click the exterminate link above. The scan is free. If it finds spyware, you can purchase the product and remove the intruder. It’s as simple as that. Spyware has replaced virus infection as the most prevalent danger today. Don’t let it jeopardize your information and crash your system.

22. Cultivate safe computing habits. You cannot go to Bearshare or Limewire and expect to stay malware free. Learn what sites to avoid and avoid them like the plague. There is no use acting surprised at contracting a virus when you are downloading illegal music or visiting questionable sites. Never click a popup that says “Your Infected…Click here to remove this threat” That will guarantee that you are infected.

23. Use a virus scanner. I agonize over this area every time I write about it. I’m always torn between what I do personally and what I consider responsible as a suggestion to others. I do not use an antivirus. Never have and most likely never will. There are many people that absolutely must have an antivirus installed due to their computing habits. For them I suggest Avast Antivirus. Any AV program is only as good as its updated definitions (Virus Lists) and Avast is right on top of it.

I did use Avast to remove the only virus I ever had. This virus was installed intentionally for a project. It wasn’t hard to get, I just downloaded it and then installed it. E-mail and downloading/installing infected programs is the usual cause of all malware problems. I’ve mentioned many times that UAC, AntiVirus, and Spyware programs, are really only protecting you from yourself. So my suggestion is this, Use an online virus scanner. TrendMicro has an excellent online scan As an alternative to the online scan you may download “Avast 4 Home”, their Freeware program. Avast can be set to give you verbal warnings and it’s a dream to use.

24. Do check your process files.. Any company concerned with protecting your computer will have a process library that checks files for safety. You can check any file you come across using our free Process Library. A check of all the processes on your system is performed each and every time you run our PC Pitstop Overdrive scan. OverDrive is also FREE. Run it.

25. Use “chkdsk” to scan and repair your hard drive. Start/ Run/ type “chkdsk” without the quotes/ OK. This process will find any errors on your disk and repair them automatically.

Hope you find the suggestions helpful. I was going to suggest the #1 tweak should be “Don’t install XP SP3″ but decided against that. If I could only suggest one tweak, it would be, Use the PC Pitstop OverDrive Scan: Absolutely the best free performances scan available today. The information, tips and suggestions will help all areas of your systems performance, whether it’s cleaning, tweaking, or safety. I use OverDrive on every system that comes into my place. How can you go wrong when it’s free?

73 Responses to Top 25 XP Super Tweaks

  1. David H says:

    An alternative to a program designed for pagefile defrag is to remove the pagefile, reboot, defrag and then create a new pagefile.
    I have installed XP SP3 on my old laptop and desktop, no problems at all, but I do regular maintenance…
    Upgrade to Vista, however, was frustrating…

  2. Paul Thompson says:

    For those of you who change the size of you pagefile, note that after doing so and defragging you notice you are still fragmented, you must then defrag your pagefile. You can find page defragger here

  3. FK says:

    i am reinstalling windows xp and my screen is stuck at “set aol as your default internet program” DO you know what to do? My contract is up with Gateway…Thanks.

  4. ntopics says:

    These are great tips.
    Its always easier to work from
    good tips.

    thanks from tony

  5. Larry Miller says:

    Warning – contains some bad advice.

    5. Use a registry cleaner:
    Regular cleaning of the registry will do virtually nothing for performance. In the hands of an inxperienced user a registry cleaner can be dangerous. There is no way a program can reliably determine if a registry entry is safe to delete.

    13. QOS:
    Windows does not reserve any portion of bandwidth as described. This is a rather well known myth.

    15 Stop unwanted services:
    Do not stop the following services:
    Automatc Updates
    Event Log
    System Restore
    Task Scheduler
    The descriptions of these services provided by Microsoft is NOT complete, they do more than stated. Stopping any of the above services can have serious consequences. The saving in resources are very small.

    18. Adjust the paging file:
    Most experts would agree that you CAN disable the pagefile with 1GB of RAM. But that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. The pagefile is not merely a means of avoiding out of memory errors. The pagefile was designed to improve performance.

    Before trying any performance tweaks consult a reliable and responsible quide such as:
    The site is not mine but I highly recommend it.

    Larry Miller
    Microsoft MCSA

  6. Jim says:

    Service Pack 3 ? It sure would be nice if Microsoft could come out with an operating system that doesn’t have a bunch of holes that constantly need patching. By the time they get finished it will be as large and as much of a ram hog as Vista. They did the same thing to Windows 2000 Pro. I guess they figure if they irritate XP users enough with screw-ups like SP3, that we will be more than happy to pay some extra money and upgrade to another bunch of problems known as Vista. When is Vista SP2 due out?

  7. Jay says:

    I used the chkdsk command in the run box and I believe that it kept me from running defrag. It would tell me somethink like the drive was busy. I think that GOD fixed this, as things are back to normal. chkdsk magically ran one day when I booted up. I booted up many times before as I was told to do by instructions in DOS. It did not happen. It would appear that the correct command to use in the run box is chkdsk /f.

    I have XP ho(me). Dell. 80G. 512RAM.

    Thanx for your list.


  8. Scot says:

    I am a competent computer user. Completed coursework for the MCSE, but never took the exams.

    SP3 was and is a problem. Not for everyone, but for enough people to indicate that the release was poorly written and not satisfactorily tested.

    Whether you are an advanced computer whiz or a complete novice, a recommended patch from a major software operating system manufacturer should work. Period. End of discussion.

    The fact that so many people are having trouble with it over such a wide variety of platforms is an indication that Microsoft #$%lk))! the whole thing up.

    The IT guys at the office, all rather gifted, are avoiding it like the plague. They are also firmly in the “We’ve tried Vista and we’re not touching it with a mile-long pole,” camp.

    Perhaps they are biased. They did give me (marketing director) and my marketing specialists a pair of IMacs, which we may be giving up because they certainly have some marked shortcomings as well.

    I tried SP3 and got stuck with and endless restart cycle. My fault? Pretty sure it’s not. So to suggest that the numerous issues with SP3 are somehow all conclusively user-based errors is simply silly.

  9. paige says:

    Ok folks, here’s another one I need help with.

    I disabled the Task Scheduler and realized that my Webroot Spyware scan (daily)was negatively effected.

    First I tried to “Activate” from the Webroot program and it didn’t work. Next,I went back in (servicesmsc)and enabled Task Scheduler – nothing. Task Scheduler is enabled but my Webroot Spyware is not acknowledging this.

    Any suggestions??


  10. S Curtis says:

    Thanx. I’m slowly learning all this stuff. Fun, but frustrating. The last real problem I had was a malware problem. I used MS malware removal tool to get rid of it.
    Anyway, it seems I can’t visit your site without learning.

  11. R Chasin says:

    Re:William Chapman comments.

    I am fully aware of the “multiplicity of problems caused by SP3.” The AMD problem was caused by HP installing an image of the OS made from an Intel based system. My guess is most of the other problems have been caused by people not taking proper care of their computers, or screwing around with them in some way, not the service pack. I have been building and repairing computers for nearly 10 years now and almost all of the problems I have had to repair involved user error. If my car dies because I didn’t maintain it I have no one to blame but myself. There is nothing wrong with the service pack. In fact, as others here have noted, the computers I have installed it on are performing even better than they were before the upgrade.

  12. gaerisch says:

    I installed XPsp3 on my PC with no problems even in beta form. Until about a week ago when my PC wouldn’t boot up. It would get as far as the XP splash screen then reboot again. Not sure if it was XPsp3 problem but 45 minutes with Microsoft tier lvel 2 tech got it fixed. This is my first PC that I built so I thought it was something else at first. It was something in the registry that became corrupt somehow. But the PC is running fine now. I use pcpitstop optimize and overdrive regularly. Thanks for the great products and services.

  13. mehboob sadicote says:

    All of us, newbies and pro’s alike, know that audio files take up a lot of memory and if they are associated with start-up and shutdown, they are ipso-facto bound to slow those processes up. One of the best tweaks i have come across is to go to control panel–sounds and audio devices–sounds, and from the drop down sound schemes menu, to select the ‘no sounds’ scheme, you can shave about 30 seconds from your boot time this way.

  14. paige says:

    First of all I just want to tell you that I really appreciate all the free info on this site and recommend it to everyone I know!!!

    Now here’s my problem…

    I have a dinosaur of a computer HP Pavilion (2000). I just finished with #7 “Defrag your hard drive” and after running Disk MD, learned that I have only 22% available space on my hard drive. Turns out my restore system is responsible for my computer’s painfully slow speed.

    I don’t have the money to pay for Disk MD to clean up my hard drive so I hoped that doing the other tweaks would make a difference – it did but only freed up an additional 3% of space.

    Is there a way that I can manually get rid of the 10,000,000,000+ files of restored memory myself??


  15. shogan says:

    Thank you Eitleoir.

    I have rewritten tip#6

  16. Eitleoir says:

    I followed the directions for tip #6. Instead of removing MSN Explorer which I left checked, it removed everything that was left unchecked. I admit to being a bit leery before I hit Next and OK but I did it anyway. What happened next was that all the other programs went away. No more Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, etc. I was sick thinking that I might have lost everything in those programs. I was relieved when I reinstalled the Windows components via the Windows XP CD and everything came back. These are great ideas but be careful as the steps may not be correct.

  17. Arthur21743 says:

    Mine is a Wolfdale 8400 CPU 3000gigs OC’d to 4000gigs and memory from 800megs to 1068 amd FDB from 1333 to 1780. After installing a new EVGA video card I started getting occasional BSODs, so thought it was the card.

    Long story short, I got a notice about MS’ Live OneCare and decided to give it a try. First thing it did was want to get rid of Norton and I let it do so. It installed with a BS, but for all I know it was Norton doing one last convulsion.

    Anyway, once OneCare was up and running it never got above “Fair” in decribing my system status and told me I needed to update to IE7 and install SP3. I resisted for some time due to all the horror stories I had heard and even emailed MS’ tech support for OneCare about my fear of SP3. They told me if I didn’t want to do the upgrades the program would never go green, but if I went ahead they would provide any support I needed if I had any trouble with the SP3 install.

    Anyway, there was no problem with either install — though I did go ahead and run System File Checker first just in case, and now with Norton gone I no longer have any BSODs. First time to install something from MS that worked! LOL :-))

    This is not my first occasion to have problems with an install with Norton on my machine. I needed to update some drivers (I forget if MB or video) and tech support told me to do so in Safe Mode — no doubt to take Norton out of the mix.

    Then too, there is no way to know just how damaging to proper Windows operation the proprietary versions of Windows are that are installed by these computer manufacturers. A tech I once had occasion to chat with via email made the remark that all his relatives’ systems have had stand-alone copies of Windows installed instead of the ones supplied by the computer manufacturers and what a difference it made in their operation!

    My first experience with MS was when I had my first ‘puter (IBM) and bought a retail copy of Win98 upgrade. I went through eight hours on the phone with MS and got to level three on the tech food chain and the only way the last tech could make it install was to completely wipe out anything IBM had put on there and start with a clean slate. He got C/S to issue me a new license key that changed my upgrade disk to a stand-alone Win98 install. I was a newbie then and don’t know what all we did, but he may have even gotten me to wipe out the old BIOS and install a new copy, because we had to do something just to get the system to recognize the CD drive.

    Say what you will about Microsoft, and believe me I have done my share of cussing in their direction, but I can’t remember even one person I have had to deal with there who was anything but nice and as helpful as someone could possibly be.

  18. JP says:

    PC Pitstop has been great for years now helping everyone find ways to maintain their computers. I have been speeding up computers for years and all of my 8 pc’s are always running great. I haven’t even gone through their list of 25 yet but I am sure I have been doing many of them already. I can say I do agree with if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But after reading all of the past replies I am still not ready to install SP3. I wont even install IE7 which is much slower than 6. Thanks PC Pitstop for the years of great advice. I’m happy to send absolutely everyone to your site!

  19. BH says:

    For those with problems updating after XP SP3: I found I needed to force a Windows Update Agent re-install and this fixed the issue. I have been running SP3 since it was released to the public on 5 machines and this was the only issue I have encountered so far. The file needed to do this was WindowsUpdateAgent30-x86.exe. I downloaded this from Microsoft, put it in my C: drive. Once you have it click Start-Run, type cmd in the run field and when you get the command prompt type c:WindowsUpdateAgent30-x86.exe /wuforce this will force a re-install of the Windows Update Agent. If all goes well your updates should return to “normal”. This has worked fine for me but do this at your own risk.

  20. JL says:

    regscrubxp scans for free, but then wants me to buy a registration key, might add that info next time

    having no trouble w/ sp3 either, built my own (and I’m a total novice) amd 64×2, dfi board, xp pro … fingers crossed!

    otherwise thanks for showing me some new tricks

  21. PawpawJ says:

    I have 2 laptops, 1 gateway & 1 HP, both intel processors. I have downloaded & installed sp3 with no trouble at all. Has not effected either of them. Also downloaded it on my desktop/Built by me with an amd x2 6400 with win xp home on all 3, I have had zilch problems with either one & do appreciate all that pcpitstop has offered here on xp tips & tweaks. Most have helped . Still working on the rest of them. Thanks again. No brag, just consider myself as an intermediate pc guy.

  22. SpacemanStu says:

    on several older PCs there is a jumper near the BIOS chip that you need to set to clear the BIOS. You can find a blueprint of almost any MoBo online to see if yours has one.

    If that doesn’t clear your BIOS, disconnect the battery for at least a couple of hours. Some of the older boards also have a low voltage capacitor that can sustain the BIOS for quite a while after the battery is gone.

  23. JOHN EASDALE says:

    Hello fantastic tips made my wee system run a treat thank you

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