Although it is preferable to move on to the latest technology as quickly as possible, but upgrading costs (both software and hardware) and lots of other factors generally prohibit this! So even if Windows 7 and Windows Vista are released some people still stick with Windows XP.
So, if you've got Windows XP and if you plan to keep XP around for a while, you're going to have to spend some time maintaining it. Here are a few tips, tweaks and tricks so that you'll be able to keep XP running smoothly, at top performance, for smooth operation and longer times!
This guide does not provide step by step installation instructions; instead I have provided links or names of my recommended XP applications for you to download and utilize. You will find detailed installation instructions at the web site for each application in this post.
I do not take any responsibility for your actions; Use common sense, make a backup, etc.
This guide is for XP based systems only (Home Edition, Professional, Server 2003, Media Center, 64-bit, etc). This guide is not for Windows Vista or Windows 7 or Linux.
For the most part, this guide is not meant for 100% beginners.
#1 Get your ORIGINAL WINDOWS XP Disk and other softwares disks backed up!
The most important task to start up with is backing up your base, Windows XP installation CD!
Use a good quality CD-R to backup your Windows XP CD and write down the Product key with a felt-tip marker. If you’ve lost your original Windows product key, download and run Keyfinder to get your XP product key.
In particular, if your PC didn’t come with a Windows XP master disc, it should have a program on it that can create a set of system restore discs. If so, make sure you do this.
It’s also important to keep every original installation CD for all your software and hardware in a safe place. You can also put their ISO images in a backup media like external HDD or CD,DVDs, etc.
Also find and keep the updated versions of the softwares in the backup and ensure to keep it current with the available versions.
Meanwhile in your existing XP installation, to keep your software up to date, you can use the automatic updater that comes with the software, which regularly checks for its new versions. It's especially important to keep any Internet-related software like Gtalk, Firefox, IE, Adobe Reader, etc. up to date, since these are often the "attack surface" used by security exploits. Ensure all such programs have automatic update features that are enabled by default.
#2 Get your DRIVERs handy.
While Windows XP supports a lot of hardwares, there are still a lot of new hardwares that need an independent driver install. Its a good idea to collect and keep all those extra drivers needed, in a separate place such as a CD, DVD, Thumb drive, External HDD, etc.
I suggest you make two set of Drivers backups: one set will contain all the default drivers that came with your hardwares and the other set will contain the latest, updated drivers for your hardwares.
The default drivers that came with your hardwares when you purchased them, should be backed up onto a read-only media like CD-ROMs, etc. but also be sure that those default drivers were working with your hardware! Count this backup as "Driver backup Set 1".
Then, you should also check the hardware manufacturer's website for latest, updated versions of the drivers for your hardware. Collect and keep them in a rewritable media like External HDDs, CD-RWs, etc. Again ensure that you keep only updated drivers that were working without any problems (i.e. Compatible) with your hardwares in the rewritable media. Count this as "Driver backup Set 2" and keep it current and updated.
If you don't have drivers for some hardwares then you can look for them at DriverPacks or Microsoft Update Catalog or do a search in a search engine of your choice for your hardware drivers. You can also ask your friends and local vendors for the drivers.
1) Never keep your drivers or updated softwares on your internal hard disks!!
2) You can get your drivers and few types of softwares to get installed automatically during Windows XP installation. I will write an article about it later.
#3 Update your Installation!
Now you need to download all the latest updates, patches and service packs for Windows XP and keep them in a backup media and install them in your existing Windows XP installations.
You should keep your Automatic Updates ON. Go to Control Panel --> Automatic Updates to check the settings.
Microsoft does not make all updates available through the automatic update, however. You'll see noncritical security updates and new drivers only by going to the Microsoft Update site. Internet Explorer is the only browser supported there, so start IE and go to http://update.microsoft.com to have your system scanned and see what updates you're missing.
You can also use the Autopatcher XP available at http://www.autopatcher.com/autopatcherxp/ to update your system.
If you are a gamer ensure you update your DirectX and the graphic card firmware.
Updates for windows XP is estimated to be available till April 2014.So keep increasing your updates collection!!
Be Warned, sometimes updates can ruin your windows XP! Such problems affects a small percentage of users, but you can find solutions for fixing them by searching Microsoft’s KB articles or forums, blogs, etc.
So be cautious!
#4 Get SECURED!
Your system is always vulnerable, when online on internet and also when offline. So better get yourself a Internet Security Suites that many vendors like Kaspersky, Norton, McAfee, etc. provide or you can also get antivirus, firewall, anti-spywares and anti-spam softwares separately and put them together in your system.
Many freeware are available:
For anti-virus: AntiVir from Avira,AVG from Grisoft,Avast!Home edition from AVAST,etc.
For anti-spywares: Spybot Search & Destroy, ADAWARE,Microsoft® Windows AntiSpyware,Spyware Blaster,SpySweeper,etc. are choices.
For Firewalls: ZoneAlarm,Comodo Professional Firewall,Sygate Personal Firewall,etc.
For Anti-Spam: Spamihilator,Spam fighter,etc.
You should only ONE from each of them to avoid possible conflicts, although more than one anti-spywares may co-exist without any problems.
Keep all the security related softwares updated always. It would be better if you keep them to be updated automatically, if possible.
For additional protection, check if your browser has some security related add-ons and if you find something useful then install them.
You can use a link scanner available these days at:
to avoid visiting a possibly infected website.
Besides all these measures, you should also ensure proper security practices like avoiding shady websites and softwares, using cracked softwares, etc.
#5 Start taking care!
It would be easier to start taking care of your system after you cleanup all the junks. Don’t worry I am not talking about cleaning your motherboard, dusty fans, etc. although that’s good! I am talking about cleaning up those ChkDsk files, unnecessary programs, unnecessary System Restore points, etc.
So how do we start?
Get rid of all the junk files and programs.
Download the latest version of Ccleaner from here. Install it. Use it to remove all the junks from your system.
Now the next part is to check your disk for errors. To do this open command prompt by typing "cmd" in "Run”. Then type the following:
chkdsk C: /f /r /v
if your partition is NTFS format then type:
chkdsk C: /f /r /v /x
Type the above commands replacing the "C" letter with other partition(drive) letters like d,e,etc. also and every time you press enter it will ask for scheduling at the next restart. Choose "y" every time it asks so and finally restart after all the drives have been scheduled to chkdsk.
Next task is to Defragment your partitions. Download the Defraggler here. Install it.
Open it and then you should be able to choose which drive to defrag. You can right-click on the drives(partitions or volumes) and choose "Quick defrag" or just "Defrag".
Defraggler can also check for disk errors.
Download "Diskkeeper" and install. It will avoid further disk fragmentation in real-time.
Avoid installing Bloat wares.
You’ve probably installed a number games or other programs you no longer use or which are probably hogging useful disk space and runtime-RAM if nothing else. Some bloat wares also attract security issues.
There are a lots of free replacements or alternatives for such bloat wares. If you wish to replace them, here are a few suggestions:
Windows Media Player
Media Player Classic(comes with K-Lite Mega Codec Pack) and VLC Player(some say VideoLAN player).
Gtalk,Yahoo messenger,MSN mesenger or such IM programs.
You may find some more bloatwares in your system, which you may replace as well with a better alternative if you can find.
#6 Backup your data
Keep backing up your data in fixed intervals to avoid any data loss. It would be nice if you use some compression program like WinRAR or 7-zip to compress least important data. You can also use many backup programs like NTI Backup Now 5,NovaStor NovaBackup 8 Standard,etc.
You can use many available programs, if you want like Norton Save & Restore, Acronis True Image Home 11,etc. to make backups of your entire partitions or hard disks also!
It is good if you use good quality optical disks or an external backup device like external HDD, BackupTape, etc.
#7 New XP!
Start decorating and making your XP installation look prettier with several free and paid softwares to avoid regretting later about not upgrading to Vista or Windows 7 and getting hold of their pretty looks!
You can use Style XP,WindowBlinds,etc. for themes. You can add widgets from Yahoo widgets, Google desktop gadgets,etc. Since its more of a personal choice, search the internet for a suitable eye-candy solution for yourself and enjoy!
#8 Upgrade your Hardware configuration!
You will be able to use your Windows XP longer on your existing PC, if your hardware configuration is good. While upgrading all the components in a PC or buying a new PC will be costly, it will be worthy as more and more newer programs demand more powerful system configs.
Still upgrading RAM capacity will be the minimum thing you will need to do.
For RAM the more the better. Any 32bit CPU (Intel Pentium 3, 4, Celeron. AMD Athlon XP, Barton, Sempron) can take 4GB of RAM. A 64bit CPU (AMD Athlon 64, Opteron. Intel Pentium 4 with EMT64, Xeon with EMT 64, Itanium) can handle hundreds of GB of RAM, but the amount a certain system can take is limited by the motherboard and chipset.So,for XP 32-bit with SP3 the maximum it can recognize will be 4GB and 64-bit will support 128GB.
So, just check what speed of RAM your Motherboard(in MHz) and CPU can take and get the max. RAM. If your motherboard supports dual channeling and if you are planning upgrade to a 4GB RAM, then it would be better if you buy a pair of 2GB RAM and install them in your PC rather buying a single 4GB RAM stick.
Whatever amount of RAM you add to your PC, a little lesser amount of RAM will be usable in XP, because some part of it will be used up for your onboard video card and sometimes even graphic cards! So don't get surprised.
If you want you may upgrade your HDD capacity also by replacing your existing HDD or add another HDD as a slave. Faster RPM HDDs will provide better performance compared to regular 7200 RPM or 5400 RPM HDDs but they are costlier also!
If you plan to upgrade your Processor or motherboard I suggest you get a new PC.