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Improving System Performance without Adding Memory for HP Desktop PCs (Windows XP, Me, and 9x)

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This document applies to HP and Compaq Desktop computers with Windows XP, Me, 98, and 95.
Use this document to fix issues with low system resources. System resources degrade over time and slow the computer. The following information provides ways to improve system performance.

Remove Spyware

If the computer performs noticeably slower after connecting to the Internet, there might be adware or spyware programs installed.
Spyware and adware software programs use the Internet to download and upload information in the background. Some of this information might be sensitive or unwanted advertising.
Spyware and adware can be difficult to remove. See the following HP support document for more information about spyware and how to remove it from your computer: About Spyware, Adware, and Browser Hijacking Software (in English).

Close all open programs not in use

Use only the programs that are necessary. Minimizing a program window might not stop that program from using the computer processor and memory. Being connected to the Internet, listening to music, and running virus scans are all ways to use system resources. Run virus scans and other system tools while no one is using the computer or when you are away from the desk. Work offline when convenient. Closing programs that are not necessary helps Windows perform more efficiently.

Prevent background programs from loading

As software programs load, the small icons on the notification area increase (usually these icons are in the lower-right corner, next to the time). Each of these small pictures represents a program running in the background, and each one uses valuable system resources. Move the mouse pointer over each small picture to find what software it is. Common programs that load and run in the background are virus scanners, display settings, and multimedia programs. Increase system resources by stopping these tasks from loading, or by changing their settings. You can do this in a variety of ways because these programs often start from various places. If the methods below do not apply to a specific icon, consult the applications documentation or Web site.
Figure 1: Icons in the notification area
Icons in the notification area

Use System Configuration to prevent programs from opening (98, ME, and Windows XP)

Perform the following steps to selectively prevent items from starting when Windows opens.
Show me how
CAUTION: Disable only items that are known and unwanted. Disabling system critical items might cause problems.
  1. Click Start , and then click Run .
  2. In the Open field, type the following: msconfig .
    The System Configuration Utility window displays.
  3. Click the General tab, and then click Selective Startup .
  4. Click the Startup tab and remove the checks from any tasks that do not contribute to the system or that you do not want. If unsure about a task, write the name down and research it on the Internet later. Do not remove a checkmark if you do not know what the task is (if possible, do not close Backweb, MotiveMonitor, HPBootOp, and Vshield). For a list of files you should not remove, review the HP support document: Using Microsoft System Configuration (Msconfig) .
    Figure 2: Startup tab of the System Configuration Utility
     Startup tab of the System Configuration Utility
  5. Click OK to accept the changes. Restart the computer.
    After Windows starts, a System Configuration window displays. Place a checkmark in the Do not show this message again check box and click OK (Windows Me and Windows XP only).
  6. If Windows or other software stops working after removing a checkmark from a task you are unsure about, restart the computer and reverse these procedures to replace the checkmark. Press F8 after the first blue HP startup screen (after the computer has been turned on) to get into Safe mode.
By completing these steps, Windows runs using Selective Startup. This means that Windows prevents the selected programs from starting. If Selective Startup is disabled in the future, all selected programs open again.

Windows 95: Remove icons from the Startup folder

Use the following steps to prevent unwanted items from loading:
  1. Right-click anywhere in an open area on the Windows desktop, and select New and Folder . Name the folder Notstartup . This folder will be used later.
  2. Right-click Start , and select Open . Windows opens the Start Menu folder.
  3. Double-click Programs .
  4. Find and open the Startup folder.
  5. Any icons present in Startup are programs loaded when the computer starts. Right-click any of these icons and select Properties to reveal more information about the icon.
  6. Press and hold the Ctrl key. While holding this key down, click the icons that you do not want.
  7. Click Edit , and then click Cut .
  8. Close all open windows to return to the Windows desktop.
  9. Open the Notstartup folder on the desktop that you created earlier.
  10. Select Edit and Paste from the Notstartup folder on the desktop. The icons cut from the Startup folder are now placed in the Notstartup folder.
  11. Restart the computer.
    Any items removed from Startup no longer load, but can be started by double-clicking the item in the Notstartup folder.

Empty the Recycle Bin

Show me how
  1. From the Windows desktop, double-click Recycle Bin .
  2. To restore any mistakenly deleted items, highlight each file, click File, and then click Restore .
  3. Select File and Empty Recycle Bin . Windows removes the contents of the Recycle Bin from the hard disk (C: is most common). Select Yes to confirm.
  4. Close the Recycle Bin .

Delete temporary files and directories

This step increases hard disk space and reduces the time Windows takes to access the hard drive. It also resolves problems with spooling print jobs. Windows uses a TEMP directory to temporarily store files intended only for temporary use. Over time, these files can build up and cause problems. To delete these files, use the following set of steps depending on the Windows version:

Windows 98, Me, 2000, and Windows XP

Show me how
  1. Close all open software.
  2. Select Start , Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and then Disk Cleanup .
  3. Place a check next to the types of files you want the Disk Cleanup tool to delete. Temporary files are safe to delete.
  4. Select OK .
    Figure 3: Disk cleanup
    Disk cleanup

Windows 95

These steps delete temporary files (*.tmp) and subdirectories under C:\WINDOWS\TEMP.
  1. Click Start , Shut Down , and restart the computer in MS-DOS®) mode.
  2. When the DOS prompt displays, it reads C:\WINDOWS.
  3. Type DELTREE TEMP and press the Enter key. Select Y , and press the Enter key to confirm. This deletes the TEMP directory, including all temporary files and subdirectories under C:\WINDOWS\TEMP.
  4. After the TEMP directory has been removed, create a new TEMP directory. At the C:\WINDOWS prompt, type the following: MD TEMP .
  5. Type EXIT to restart Windows.
  6. When Windows has completed loading, click Start , click Find , and then click Files or Folders .
  7. In the Named box, type *.TMP and click Find Now . A list of matching files displays.
  8. Click Select All from the Edit menu.
  9. Press Delete and select Yes to confirm. Some items might not be deleted because they are in use.
  10. Exit the Find window and restart the computer.

Use ScanDisk and Defragment to check the hard drive

The Scandisk program checks the hard drive for errors. The Disk Defragmenter program takes all the scattered bits of program data and groups them together in more efficient areas of the drive.
Run ScanDisk before running the Defragmenter as follows:

ScanDisk in Windows 2000 and Windows XP

Show me how
  1. Click Start , and then open My Computer .
  2. Right-click the icon for the hard drive (usually C:\).
  3. Click Properties , and then click the Tools tab.
  4. Click Check Now .
  5. Place checkmarks in all check boxes.
  6. Click OK , and then click Yes to schedule a full disk scan when the computer is restarted.
  7. Restart the computer. The disk scan might take a long time to complete.

ScanDisk in Windows 95, 98, and Me

NOTE: To scan a hard drive in Windows XP, right-click the hard drive's icon inside My Computer . Click Properties , Tools , and Check Now . Select all check boxes and restart the computer.
  1. Close all programs that are running. This includes background programs such as virus scanners.
  2. Select Start , Programs , Accessories , System Tools , and ScanDisk .
  3. Select the drive (usually C:\) and check Automatically Fix Errors .
  4. If low on time, select Standard . Otherwise, check Thorough . A thorough scan might take more than an hour to complete and is best done when away from the desk.
  5. Click Start and follow the on-screen instructions. If scandisk repeatedly starts, a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.
  6. After testing, the results display. Fix or repair any files, if asked. Click Close to exit the program when finished.

Defragment, all versions of Windows

Show me how
  1. Close all programs that are running. This includes background programs such as scanners.
  2. Click Start , Programs or All Programs , Accessories , and then click System Tools .
  3. Click Disk Defragmenter and follow the on-screen instructions.
    If Disk Defragmenter starts repeatedly, a hidden background program is still accessing the hard drive. Restart the computer in Safe mode and try again.

Prevent memory leaks

A memory leak is unused memory that Windows recognizes as still valid. Over time, unused memory can build up, causing Windows to slow down and use the hard drive more. Memory leaks are probably occurring if the computer runs well when first turned on, but performs noticeably slower after several programs are opened and closed.
Memory leaks can occur if software is closed before it completely opens. Always allow programs to load completely. As a rule, wait 10 to 20 seconds after a program starts before closing it, even if the program was opened unintentionally.
To immediately fix memory leaks, restart the computer. For a permanent fix, isolate the program causing the leaks by using the following steps:
  1. Start with a fresh session of Windows by shutting down, and then turning the computer back on.
  2. In Windows XP, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete .
    In Windows 98 and Me, right-click the My Computer icon on the desktop and select Properties .
  3. In Windows XP, this is the amount of available physical memory.
    Figure 4: Viewing available physical memory in Windows XP
    Viewing available physical memory in Windows XP
    In Windows 98, and Me, select the Performance tab. Note the percentage next to System Resources .
  4. Open a program suspected of causing the computer to run more slowly.
  5. View the System Resources percentage or the amount of physical memory again and write it down.
  6. Close and reopen a suspected program repeatedly, comparing this number to the one recorded. Each time, wait about 10 seconds before opening again.
  7. If the system resources percentage or available physical memory continues to decrease, a memory leak is occurring. Contact the program's vendor for available patches or fixes.
  8. If the System Resource percentage or available physical memory comes back with the same numbers each time, the suspected program is probably not creating a memory leak.

Free up space on the hard drive

Windows uses this space for different types of operations such as caching and virtual memory. The computer might not run reliably if the free disk space drops below five percent of the total disk space.
To see how much space remains on the hard drive, double-click My Computer , located on the desktop. Right-click the hard drive (C: is most common), and select Properties .
Use the following steps to remove unwanted programs and increase hard drive space:
Show me how
  1. Click Start , Settings , and Control Panel .
  2. Open Add or Remove Programs .
  3. Click the Install or Uninstall tab. Select programs that are no longer being used.
  4. Highlight the program name, and then click the Add/Remove or Change/Remove button and click OK .
    Figure 5: Removing programs
    Removing programs
  5. When done, a prompt might display to restart Windows. Wait until completely removing the unwanted programs; then restart Windows.

Adjust system restore settings in Windows XP

System Restore is a feature of Windows that can revert system software and settings back to a particular date. System Restore does this by saving the changes made to system files in a restore point. These restore points use hard drive space. System Restore can fill 12% of the hard drive with restore points if left unadjusted, regardless of the entire size of the hard drive. To save hard drive space, use the following steps to reduce the amount of restore points that system restore creates:
Show me how
  1. Click Start , and right-click My Computer .
  2. Select Properties .
  3. Click the System Restore tab.
  4. Select the (C:) drive and click the Settings button.
  5. Adjust the Disk space to use slider to a lower setting. A lower setting saves disk space, but reduces how many restore points you can select from when restoring in the future. On a 120 GB hard drive, a setting of 1% saves over 11 GB of future disk space and still provides enough room for several restore points.
  6. Click OK to save the settings.
    Figure 6: Disk space usage
    Disk space usage

Update software

Software conflicts can cause the system to slow. HP, Microsoft, and other software manufacturers release updates to address these problems. Make sure that you go to HP's software download site and use the Windows Update tool regularly. For more information, see the HP support document Obtaining Software and Drivers .
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