Here is a thread to give you a lot of good information on how to keep your WindowsXP computer happy and healthy.

Windows Update
Windows Update will keep your computer up to date with the latest security patches and fixes from Microsoft.

For the classic Start menu:
Click on
->Windows Update

For XP Start menu:
Click on
->All programs
->Windows Update

In the screen that appears, accept to install the Windows Update engine if the window appears. If you don't already have the latest version of Windows Update, you will need to restart your computer to continue. Reboot and then go back to Windows Update.

In the web page that appears, click on "Custom Install". I will explain the reason for this this later. If you haven't installed Service Pack 2, you will get a notification that it is available. For now, do not install Service Pack 2. I will again explain this more later. Instead, click on the button titled "Review Other Updates". Let it scan your computer once more and then install all updates from here. You may need to restart your computer and return here to retrieve additional updates. You're done when it tells you that you have no more additional updates.

Now... my reasoning. I told you to click on "Custom Install" so that Windows Update would not automatically install Service Pack 2. I have read a lot of mixed messages about Service Pack 2 on this forum and others, and I have seen more computers be ruined by it than saved by it (my desktop and laptop included). Microsoft still has a lot of fixing to do with Service Pack 2, and the rest of this post will help you do pretty much what Service Pack 2 would do anyways. Until you come back here, and a new thread says that everyone is pleased with Service Pack 2, stick with Service Pack 1 and the remaining updates.


Viruses are a common problem with Windows-based computers. The best way to not get one is to install a good quality anti-virus (AV) program . Probably the best-known AV program is Norton Anti-Virus (NAV). I say known because there is a lot of debate on what makes a program the best. Many different people have different views on what they want/need for their system.

A few of the AV programs that I've heard about:

EZ Antivirus
Norton Antivirus

Each of the programs have their pros and cons. In any case, if you don't have an anti-virus program now, get one. I can't really stress this enough, since if you have a virus on your system, it has the potential to spread to everyone else that you know online. Please don't let this happen.

Another great tool to help you stay clean from viruses, common sense. If you get an e-mail in your inbox from Joe Schmo with subject "Great Deal" and there's an attachment in the e-mail... do yourself a favour and don't open it... it doesn't matter how curious you are... don't open it. Just delete it (or expunge it if your e-mail allows it).


With the ever expanding internet, this has become an increasing problem over the past few years. Websites become hacked, and programs are being distributed with spyware packaged (Kazaa in particular...).

First step in protecting yourself against Adware/Spyware, ditch IE. Find another browser to use, preferably one with a pop-up blocker built in.

Another reason to go for another browser is that they can provide you with many more services than IE can such as: tabbed browsing, download control, ActiveX blockers, URL alias, and much more. Common IE replacements include:

Avant Browser (
Maxthon (formerly MyIE2)
Opera Browser

Avant and Maxthon use the underlying core of IE, but add on many useful features. This means that anything that you can load in IE, you can load in these. Firefox and Mozilla run on a independent Gecko engine, meaning that certain websites might not load properly. Don't let that stop you from using these two. They are very good browsers and have had a lot of work put into them by the Mozilla team. Opera Browser is my new personal favorite. It has a few more features than the others on the list. The downside: you have to pay to remove an advertisement from the browser. If you use your browser enough, I'd say that it's worth it.

If you've noticed a recent slowdown in your computer's performance (i.e. a very drastic change in performance, or everything is unbearably slow), chances are you're infected with spyware of some sort. Don't panic. There are many programs out there (all of them free!) that will help you solve this problem.

Ad-Aware SE
Spybot S&D
Spyware Blaster
Bazooka Scanner http://

Spyware Blaster and Spybot S&D both have tools to "immunize" your system. They basically help your computer from itself when you try to load a webpage that will throw up a million pop-up pages or try to silently install something on your system. Ad-Aware and Bazooka are both good scanning programs. CWShredder is a program that is specifically designed to remove all instances of the CoolWebSearch trojan. My suggestion: Download all the programs, update the definitions, immunize (if the program provides it), and run a complete system scan with each program. Delete any entries that they find.

General Maintenance

Over time, your computer will probably start to get slower. As with any other machine, computers need maintenance.

Step 1: Clean out the startup list
When you install a program (I'll use Quicktime as an example), the program will probably put itself in the startup list so that it runs when the computer starts up. Chances are that you're not going to use Quicktime every time you turn on your computer. To get rid of it:

Click Start->Run
Type "msconfig" (without quotation marks)
Under the "Startup" tab, uncheck any programs that you don't need. Common examples are NeroCheck, Acrobat assistant, Quicktime, etc etc etc.

Make sure that you do not remove the check mark for your antivirus program that you installed after reading the first section (you did get one, didn't you?). You can check under the "Command" column where the program that is being run is located. Don't uncheck anything that has your antivirus install directory listed.

When prompted, don't reboot. We've still got a long ways to go.

Step 2: Clear out the Temp folder
Go and get CleanIt . CleanIt is a small tool that will run at startup (yes, you want this one to run) and it will delete all the files in your temp directory. Temp files are used by programs, as the name implies, temporarily. Installers are notorious for placing a file in the temp directory and leaving it there.

On the next boot, CleanIt will ask you for the path to your temp folder. Just make sure that the directory leads to your documents folder (that's where the default Temp folder is located). CleanIt will then remove any temp files on every boot, potentially saving you hundreds of megabytes in disk space.

Step 3: Run Disk Cleanup
Click on
->Programs/All Programs
->System Tools
->Disk Cleanup.

Click OK for C Drive. Select all options except for "Compress old files". Click OK.

Step 4: Clear out the Prefetch folder
Open up My Computer and browse your way to

Select everything in this folder and delete it. Over time, Windows keeps track of the programs that you use and will make a list of files needed to start that program. When you start your computer, Windows will "prefetch" part of that program so that when you do load it, it loads up faster. Over time, Windows will keep track of installers, programs you no longer need, or even some of the spyware that you removed previously. By deleting all the files here, you're giving Windows a clean start to build it's file list on. All the files that you truely need will come back after about 2-3 reboots.

Step 5: Defragment the Hard Drive
Click on:
->Programs/All Programs
->System Tools
->Disk Defragmenter

Select the drive in the top window, and click on "Defragment". Depending on how fragmented your hard drive is, this may take a while. Go get a cup of coffee or a snack of some sort and come back in 20 minutes.

If you want a better defragmenting program, check out PerfectDisk They've got a great defragmenting tool that will speed up your computer even more.

Step 6: Remove any unneeded/unwanted services (Optional, but recommended)
My job here is really easy acutally since I just have to point you in the direction of Black Viper's Site Black Viper has compiled a list of all the services that Windows uses and which are useful and which are not. Simply follow the instructions on his Service Configuration page.

That's pretty much it for the basics of keeping your system healthy. The one last thing that I would recommend is a clean install of Windows every year or so. Despite all the cleaning and maintenance you perform, Windows still manages to slow down over time. There's nothing like a fresh install of Windows for the ease of mind.