OT: Degunking my Windows XP

overyonder wrote on 7/27/2008, 9:48 AM
My system is getting real slow in general - applications taking forever to open and close, minor weird behaviours, etc. Vegas8 also slower than usual...

Anyone have ideas on how to spruce things up without a total fresh reinstall of everything? I don't have the time or desire to go thorough all that.

I scan for Virus & spyware regularly, Defrag, occasional registry cleaner...

System is P4 3.0g, 1g memory

Thanks for any tips,



JohnnyRoy wrote on 7/27/2008, 12:26 PM
> I scan for Virus & spyware regularly, Defrag, occasional registry cleaner...

If you are already doing all of that then it sounds like you are doing everything you can to keep your system running smooth. It's a shame that Windows is a junk magnet that just gets slower and slower with age.

One thing to check is how many programs are loading resident into memory when you startup that you don't need. Run MSCONFIG and check the Startup tab and disable anything you don't think you need. The great thing is that you can re-enable them with just a check in case you disable something you need so it's non-destructive.

It seems that every software manufacturer today feels compelled to suck up your resources with a resident program that checks for updates like that's all you bought your PC to do. I like Sony's idea of only checked when you run the program and giving you the ability to turn that off. Unfortunately, Adobe, Apple, Nero, Install Shield, and others deem it necessary to run several resident programs regardless all the time. Check for Quicktime (qttask), iTunesHelper, CyberLink/WinDVD (or your favorite DVD player), Adobe Reader (reader_sl), Nero servers and indexers (NMBgMonitor, NMIndexStoreSvr, NBKeyScan, NeroCheck), Hewlett Packard print utilities (HPWuSchd2, hpcmpmgr), Install Shield (ISUSPM), etc. Those are just some of the junk you don't need at startup.

In the past I've used System Mechanic 7 to keep things clean. Sometimes it gets a bit too aggressive and will disable a program you need but in general it finds the junk and disables it. I also use Raxco PerfectDisk 2008. It has a mode that will keep your system defragged during idle times. Good Luck (I hate house cleaning) ;-)

Bob Greaves wrote on 7/27/2008, 1:32 PM
run Defrag to speed up hard drive access
from a command window run the following command

sfc /scannow

It can take a while to compete but it verifies that all system files are in deed the correct version and have not been replaced by anything except genuine microsoft updates.

Discover ewido (use google) and do an online scan

learn how to carefully use hijack this to route out malware.

Most importantly, you can dual boot windows and keep your media work in one boot and all other work in the other boot.

I keep my audio and video software on a boot drive partition that never sees any software except legitimate video and audio software. On another partition I have also installed Windows XP and from that boot I run Office, games and other general computer stuff. My studio media boot never sees the Internet except for authorizing software or accessing updates for the media software. I never ever ever browse the Internet in the media boot.
Chienworks wrote on 7/27/2008, 1:51 PM
Don't bother defragging. It's a complete waste of time, extra wear and tear on the hard drives, accomplishes nothing, and jeopardizes your data.

I agree with JohnnyRoy; getting rid of resident programs will probably make the biggest improvement. And keep checking occasionally even if you haven't installed anything new. Quite a few of these beasties seem capable of re-enabling themselves now and then. There are also a few viruses/trojans that really suck up the CPU power so a good virus cleaning is a must too.
Former user wrote on 7/27/2008, 2:01 PM
Defragging your system drive helps (I know Chienworks disagrees). I have done it for years, never lost any data or harddrive because of it. I use XXClone which is free and does a good job of organizing data. If I defrag a computer that has not been defragged for a while, it boots faster and runs a bit smoother. (not leaps and bounds, but a noticed amount). I don't see any use in defragging your capture drives.

I also found that upgrading to service pack 3 sped my computer up. I think it replaced some of the junk updates.

Dave T2
video777 wrote on 7/27/2008, 2:14 PM
Don't bother defragging. It's a complete waste of time, extra wear and tear on the hard drives, accomplishes nothing, and jeopardizes your data.

Totally inaccurate statement. I am not going to bother giving my credentials just know that I have been working in the computer world for many years.

I run defrag on my servers and every machine I've owned. The improvements are not enormous but they are definitely measurable. If you are concerned about your hard drive wearing out then stop buying Maxtor. Instead buy a reliable drive made by Western Digital and even Seagate in recent days.

For tips on improving the performance of your computer check my site: http://video777.com/tips.html#wintips.

Added: I would also add to make sure that your video drivers are updated as well as running Windows Updates. You should be on SP3 with all critical and recommended updates. For the most part avoid Microsoft recommended drivers. If you continue to have problems after this let us know as I have some other recommendations.
blink3times wrote on 7/27/2008, 2:44 PM
"My system is getting real slow in general - applications taking forever to open and close, minor weird behaviours, etc. Vegas8 also slower than usual..."

Contrary to popular belief.... dog is NOT man's best friend... a DISK IMAGE PROGRAM is.

Re-install a clean copy of XP with all your programs then do a disk image. When things get slow or messed up, just reload your disk image. Ant time I add a new program I will reload thew original image, install the new program, then image again (I keep the previous image just in case the new install does something i don't like and I want to get rid of it)

It's a BIG time saver and I haven't had to do a complete reinstall in eons.
overyonder wrote on 7/27/2008, 6:20 PM
Thanks for all for the good ideas.
Bob Greaves suggested a dual boot which sounds like cool idea for later in life - Bob, did you have to have two different copies of XP to avoid "activation" troubles or the like?

Jeff9329 wrote on 7/27/2008, 7:24 PM

How is your disk space holding up?

As available disk space decreases, the access time gets slower and slower. As the drives get older they also get slower , the main reason being unmovable system files.

If your P4 machine has SATA drives, update and upgrade them. You can use them in your next machine. You can never have too much space or be too careful with your data.
blink3times wrote on 7/27/2008, 7:41 PM
"did you have to have two different copies of XP to avoid "activation" troubles or the like?"

You can run as many copies as you want on the same machine.
kentwolf wrote on 7/27/2008, 8:07 PM
>>Don't bother defragging. It's a complete waste of time...
>>Totally inaccurate statement...

I guess it's that time again (for a defrag debate)!

In fact, we're overdue. :)
kentwolf wrote on 7/27/2008, 8:09 PM
>>...dual boot which sounds like cool idea...

I run a dual boot system too. Works great. Run it for years.

One copy of XP (or any other program) is all that is required since the licensing criteria is usually based on the numbers of actual, phisical PC's. A dual boot system is one (1) PC.
Widetrack wrote on 7/28/2008, 12:03 AM
Blink3x is on the train. I just finally --after a disastrous Trojan infection that took weeks to clean up--followed an old friend's suggestion and set up a separate computer that does nothing but make and store disk images of all my other cmptrs' OS disks.

I put two removable disk caddies in its drive bays, and made all my OS disks removable. I make a disk image of every OS drive every couple of weeks, and if I get even a hint of some program or system function acting odd enough to suggest it's corruptedor infected, I scrape it and restore the latest or second latest image onto it. It's the cleanest, surest and least time-consuming approach to disk safety I've ever tried.

Highly recommended.

johnmeyer wrote on 7/28/2008, 9:11 AM
I second JohnnyRoy's rant about software vendors thinking they can take over PCs.

As for what to do:

1. We always get into a debate on disk defrag. If you haven't done anything else, do the disk defrag, if you want, but before you do, take some measurement of something that is really slow, like how long a program takes to start. Pick something that is really bothering you. Then do the defrag, re-boot (so the files won't be cached in any way) and run the test again. Report back on how much better your computer performs. I don't think it will help at all, but the only way to prove me right or wrong is for you to take accurate measurements and then report the results. You have to re-boot immediately prior to each measurement. Wait about a minute after each re-boot for your system to stabilize.

2. If you have Norton/Symantec anti-virus on your computer, then that is your problem. Period. It will kill your computer. I service friends and relatives computers and have seen this horrible program do exactly what you describe on several dozen, different computers. Uninstall it, and then kill it again using the Norton Removal Tool (use Google to find the download).

3. I second the idea of turning off the indexing service, although that doesn't generally cause the system to slow down over time; it simply makes it slow to begin with.

4. Use MSCONFIG to turn off all background programs AND processes that you think you don't need.
Widetrack wrote on 7/28/2008, 10:59 AM
I look at the Processes list and generally have no idea what's necessary and what's not. I know I can google each one, but is there any one place I can find out what these various things are?
johnmeyer wrote on 7/28/2008, 12:48 PM
there any one place I can find out what these various things are? The BlackViper site has long been the favorite for this sort of thing, although some of his tweaks are pretty aggressive and can have some downsides.

I've done a LOT of this for people over the years, and most of the good ideas have already been mentioned by various people here in this thread: get rid of all the background processes installed by applications (like the iTunes monitor, etc.); uninstall the anti-virus software, especially if it is Norton/Symantec (if you must use anti-virus, something I don't, use Trend Micro or pretty much ANYTHING except Norton/Symantec); and disable indexing.

In my experience those are the biggies. I've done most of the tweaks described at the BlackViper site, and have never noticed much difference, and some of them can cause problems down the road. I have done measurements on defrag and have never been able to see any difference between "before" and "after."

Oh wait, there are two more. Darn, I should have mentioned these before.

First, right-click on each disk drive, in turn, select Properties, then the Tools tab, and finally click on the Check Now button. Select "Automatically fix ..." For your main drives, this will tell you that you have to re-boot. Don't re-boot right away, but instead, first do this for all your connected drives. Then, when you have done it for all of them, go ahead and re-boot. All your drives will be checked, and any errors (cross-linked files, etc.) will be fixed.

The second, and more important thing to do, is to clean up all the temporary files. I have seen several computers which had over 100,000 useless temporary files, usually in cache locations. This can quite definitely slow down a computer because the file system must be search each time a new file is accessed, and the larger the directory, the more time this takes. So, empty the Internet cache; delete all *.tmp files; look for game, chat, and Flash temporary locations and delete all those file. I think there may be a good utility to do this, but I haven't taken the time to look.

So, deleting huge temporary cache locations can make a big difference. An interesting, related note: As many of you know, I have long been skeptical about defrag doing anything useful in a modern computer, yet many people disagree. However, I suspect that any performance improvement which people perceive after doing a defrag may be due to the fact that many times they defrag as part of a "clean my disk" operation which includes cleaning out many of these enormous cache directories.

farss wrote on 7/28/2008, 3:28 PM
This article along with M$'s Process Explorer might be of some help:


overyonder wrote on 7/28/2008, 6:40 PM
Thanks everybody,

I updated the video driver, and though I'm good at keeping out the resident programs, I turned off a few more processes as per Video777's post, will consider loading SP3, though the Windows update site is acting weird on my machine...I run AVG antivirus, poeple seem to like it, though maybe I should turn it of and see what happens. Oh, I almost forgot, I turned off Zone Alarm Pro firewall. But I've had him off before and no big deal.

Maybe I'll do the defrag test at some point, but I've never notice that much of a difference after I do it... I defrag once every few months.

Temp files - I'll look for those...

Disc check for errors, sounds easy, I'll try it.

You say drives get old and slow - I have SATA drives that are maybe 2 or three years old, what is old? And you really think aging HD's would be noticable? Looks like I still have a ton 'o room on them.

Disc Image programs - I have one, I might as well use it when I reinstall everything.

Thanks again - I'll try to keep you posted.


[r]Evolution wrote on 7/28/2008, 7:20 PM
Contrary to popular belief.... dog is NOT man's best friend... a DISK IMAGE PROGRAM is.

Acronis True Image is what I use to do this exact thing.
OS, Software, Plugins, etc. all are reinstated to their Backup/Image point w/ No Problems. Usually takes me about 30 minutes and I've got my system(s) back up and going smooth.

1. Fresh Install w/ updates, activations, & Service Packs... Set Startup items, etc... Image
2. Install ALL my Apps & Plugins... Activate Apps & Plugins... Setup Apps to my liking... Check Startup items... Image

This has saved me a few times from a nasty Virus or just when my Box feels slow.
It simply speeds my computer(s) up if/when need be.

You can store your image(s) on DVD's or an External HD for quick access.

TweakXP.com may help if you're just looking to try some things concerning the setup of your XP Box.
johnmeyer wrote on 7/28/2008, 11:44 PM
I don't know AVG anti-virus, but as long as it isn't Norton/Symantec, you are probably OK. However, if you don't mind, and if this software allows turning off real-time checking, try doing that.

However, given the things you have tried so far, I would download something like Ace Utilities, a program I use from Ace Logix, and use it to report on how many files you have on each drive. If it reports a number larger than 40,000 files on a drive, and especially if it reports a number in excess of 100,000, then I think you might get a significant improvement by tracking down and deleting any of those files which are simply cache files. Both Internet Explorer and Firefox (and probably Opera) provide simple commands to delete all the temporary browser cache files. However, the biggest culprits are often Flash, Java, and also some online games and chat software. The numbers of small files on a hard drive -- most of them doing absolutely nothing useful -- can become absolutely staggering, and the performance hit can be quite real. Deleting these files take virtually no time and is harmless. However, make sure you really delete them; moving them to the recycle bin will not help. Also, don't forget to empty the recycle bin while you are at it.
overyonder wrote on 7/29/2008, 6:50 AM
Don't know how I missed this -
I left Task manager running for awhile with the processes tab open and vsmon.exe kept kicking in at 50% CPU usage while I was doing nothing at all. Woh. Found out it was related to ZoneAlarm Firewall, which, by the way, was already "turned off". Yeah, right. It was related to its email scan function which I turned off... so that has already helped my Vegas editing/playback.

Windows Explorer.exe shoots up to 50% when I begin to shut down the system, says "can't end program", then eventually does. Maybe I should try booting from the XP CD and do a "repair installation"? Maybe the "sfc /scannow" operation that Bob Greaves described is the thing to try next.

But first I'll disable all non-essential personel and see how the shut-down goes.

overyonder wrote on 7/29/2008, 7:35 AM
I tried the command line "sfc /scannow" and it did need to copy some dll files from the XP cd, so maybe some good will come from that. The shut down process is still screwy and I still get weird, mostly minor glitches in windows, which leads me to believe it is a windows or app or driver issue or undiscovered malware of some kind.

Anyone point me to some good tips on installing a dual-boot ? I've always run into problems in the past. I need a good step-by-step.

johnmeyer wrote on 7/29/2008, 8:18 AM
The Microsoft Windows Knowledgebase is full of information and fixes for slow shutdown problems. It is something that has plagued Windows from the beginning. It usually involves deleting or changing an entry in the registry.
Jeff9329 wrote on 7/29/2008, 8:24 AM
1. We always get into a debate on disk defrag. ... Report back on how much better your computer performs. I don't think it will help at all, but the only way to prove me right or wrong is for you to take accurate measurements and then report the results.

This statement represents a (complete) lack of understanding of hard drives physical construction and operation and is not correct. A hard drive is a physical device with the geometry of the drive expressed in terms of the cylinder, head and sector.

The disk management capabilities of NTFS mean that fragmentation is reduced compared to the older FAT system. Unfortunately, this led to a popular myth--that NTFS volumes have no fragmentation, and therefore never need defragmentation. Microsoft unwittingly exacerbated this problem by not providing any utility to defragment NTFS partitions in Windows NT, implying that defragmentation was unnecessary. But this is simply not the case: NTFS partitions definitely are subject to fragmentation. Many users of NTFS have never defragmented their partitions at all, leading to avoidable performance slowdowns over time.

In fact, due to their complexity, NTFS volumes suffer from a variety of different types of fragmentation. Unlike FAT, where a simple cluster allocation system is used, NTFS uses the Master File Table and a combination of resident and non-resident attributes to store files. Due to the flexible way that data is stored, and that additional data storage areas are added as needed, the result can be pieces of data spread out over the volume, particularly when small files grow into large ones. Remember that while NTFS has a much better design than FAT, at its core it does still store data in clusters. The addition and removal of data storage extents causes much of the fragmentation of files and directories. As the MFT grows, it itself can become fragmented, reducing performance further.

The use of any benchmarking tool will show an improvement in throughput after a NTFS defrag.

More information:

apit34356 wrote on 7/29/2008, 10:39 AM
"popular myth--that NTFS volumes have no fragmentation, and therefore never need defragmentation." Yea, too much marketing buzz. The create of a lot of small and large files that are deleted a lot is what really screws up the allot of continuous disk for big files. But if one rarely delete files and never consumes more than 40% of disk space,(just a general number, each drive platter design controls this number), it could be argued that defragmention is not need. Of course, small disk sizes has more issues than 500G + disks for the average user.