Staying with XP? Keep it in tiptop shape


I’ve decided to forgo the move to Vista and stick with XP. My plan is to wait patiently until Microsoft comes out with the next operating system update. Do you have any advice for keeping my aging XP in tiptop shape?

You’re not alone in deciding to stay with XP. Because we don’t know how long it will take before Windows 7 (Microsoft’s code name for the anticipated next version) will appear, you’re wise in seeking ways to keep your XP from developing geriatric aches and pains. Here are several things you can do to keep it in prime condition:

Unlike much in technology, the latest iteration of a software product is not always the best, and when it comes to operating systems (OS), there is a further complication: Older systems were designed to work with older applications that use older device drivers. So if you start loading new apps and drivers to your XP, there’s a risk that it is going to start developing indigestion and, worse, crashing. My advice is to avoid updating those apps. In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

   What if you must update a printer or even buy a new one that’s designed for Vista (because there is no longer an XP-compatible model available) and problems develop? I suggest you contact the manufacturer and explain that you’re using XP and you need compatible drivers. Vendors are becoming aware of this need and in most cases will help you. You can also do a Google search, identifying the target product; it will either take you directly to the appropriate vendor’s site or many Web sites that stock a wide variety of drivers and allow you to download them for free.

Antivirus and spyware software are the exception to the above rule. Keep them up to date.

When adding new hardware (memory, processor) confirm with the vendor that the product is compatible with XP. Again, vendors are aware that many customers are sticking with XP, and they are making adjustments.

Think lean. Old systems tend to accumulate clutter—especially those programs that want to start up with Windows. Each one grabs some memory, putting a drag on your system. For a graphical spotlight on those auto-start apps, check the icons to the left of your clock. And if you want to see more, click on the left-facing arrow and a bunch will probably pop into view (see screenshot below).

There are many ways to locate and disable apps you don’t really need. Microsoft offers a free tool, AutoRuns for Windows, that does an excellent job. You can download it at http:// It not only identifies each auto-start app, it also gives you the option to disable it—at least until you may need it later.

Don’t be intimidated by the huge number of apps listed by AutoRuns for Windows (see screenshot at the top of the next page), and don’t worry that you can’t identify many of them. Start with the ones you know you don’t need, reboot, and see how well the computer runs. If it’s OK, disable the ones you suspect are unnecessary and repeat the process. If you’ve disabled one that you subsequently discover you need, just go back and enable it by adding a check next to it. It’s not rocket science—but it takes patience.

XP’s Hibernation feature, as good as it is for saving power, has a major downside: It’s a RAM gobbler, and certainly you can live without it. You can disable it by clicking Start, Run, typing powercfg.cpl, clicking the Hibernate tab, unchecking Enable hibernation and clicking OK.

Another source of clutter are Windows junk files. For a thorough sweep, run the Windows Disk Cleanup tool. To access it, click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Cleanup. If you can’t find it there (some older XP operating systems are set up slightly differently), go to C:Windowssystem32cleanmgr. To access it easily in the future (you should run it at least once a week), make a shortcut and drag the icon to your desktop.

   Disk Cleanup also can remove outdated restore points created by System Restore. To do that, click the More Options tab, and under System Restore click Clean up and confirm that you want to delete all but the current restore point (see screenshot below).

And to keep the data on your hard drive stored most efficiently, be sure to defragment at least weekly. To access the Windows defrag tool, go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. You might want to put that tool on your desktop for easy access, too.








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