Windows XP: How to Troubleshoot a Slow Computer

If the performance of your Windows XP machine starts to slow down quickly or over time, the first step is to troubleshoot the problem. Anything from neglecting regular system maintenance to failing hardware can cause performance degradation. Use the tools included with Windows XP to troubleshoot and fix many possible performance issues. Base your troubleshooting steps around recent system changes if problems occur suddenly. For gradual performance problems, try regular maintenance type troubleshooting or hardware checks.


    • 1

      Uninstall any recently installed programs. If the performance problem began after installing a new application, the program is likely to blame.

      Go to "Start," select "Control Panel" and choose "Add or Remove Programs." Choose the desired program, and select "Change/Remove."

    • 2

      Run a full anti-virus scan on your Windows XP system. You can use any anti-virus software of your choice. Allow the software to quarantine or remove any suspected viruses, malware or spyware.

    • 3

      Run the Disk Cleanup tool in Windows XP to remove excess files, such as temporary Internet files, that may be slowing performance. Go to "Start," select "All Programs," click "Accessories," open the "System Tools" folder and select "Disk Cleanup."

    • 4

      Analyze your hard drive to check for fragmented files. The more fragmented files you have, the longer it takes for the hard drive to open files and programs. Go to "Start," press "All Programs," select "Accessories," choose "System Tools" and press "Disk Defragmenter."

    • 5

      Stop unnecessary programs during startup. If the performance problem is only when you start your Windows XP computer, excessive startup programs may be the cause.

      Go to "Start" and select "Run." Type "msconfig." Press "Enter." Select the "Startup" tab. Uncheck the boxes next to any programs you don't need during the startup process. Press "Apply," and restart your computer.

    • 6

      Check the status of installed hardware. Go to "Start," right click "My Computer" and choose "Manage." Choose "Device Manager." Look for hardware with a red X or yellow exclamation point for possible problems.

      The problem may be the hardware itself or the driver. Right-click any suspected hardware, and choose "Update Driver Software."

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not end any startup programs or processes unless you know what they are. Stopping the wrong application can cause boot issues or hardware issues.

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