Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

The most effective way to speed up a system is to clean it up, have it run fewer programs, and give it more resources like RAM.

Please tell me how I can make my PC run faster. I'm using Windows XP Service Pack 2 on Pentium 4 2.40ghz, 40 GB hard Disk, 120 MB of RAM and I have also installed McAfee Virus Scan but still it is getting slower and slower.

There are a number of steps that you can take to attempt to speed up your system. Most require simply tweaking the software you already have, not adding more.

However, if the information you've provided is accurate, the problem with your system is much more fundamental.

I just checked a Window XP with SP2 box, and Microsoft calls out a minimum RAM requirement of 128Meg. Not only are you below that, but I consider Microsoft's requirement totally impractical if you actually want to do anything with your machine. I would recommend a minimum of 256Meg of RAM, and ideally more. In machines that I've recently purchased, I've configured them with 1 or 2 Gigabytes of RAM.

Windows XP loves RAM. If you have 256Meg of RAM or less, that would be the first place I'd turn to in order to increase your system's effective speed.

"Windows XP loves RAM."

The next place I'd look is at all the software that loads and runs automatically when you start your machine. If you've never adjusted it, and you've simply accepted default installations for software you've installed, it's likely there's a lot of software actually running that doesn't need to be. Unfortunately identifying what is, and is not, required can be a difficult process, since it depends on how you specifically use your computer.

My previous article What's all this stuff running after I boot Windows? will help you at least identify what gets launched automatically when you log in. The article What's this program running on my machine? includes some of the steps I go through when I try to understand exactly what a program is, or what it's trying to do. (In short ... Google is your friend.)

Windows Services is another area to examine, but unfortunately things get even more obscure. There are lists of services that you can review and determine for yourself if they are appropriate for your machine.

Other things you could also try to increase your system's performance include:

  • Defragment your hard disk(s).
  • Clear your Internet Explorer cache.
  • Consider using a lower resolution, or a lower color depth for your monitor.
  • Consider using a plain color instead of a picture for your desktop - the picture takes up memory that could be used for other things. (This is also extra important if you connect to your machine via Remote Desktop.)

There are, naturally, many, many other tweaks of various and dubious value out on the internet, but these are the ones that I focus on as getting the most bang for the effort. I expect readers will add some of their favorite tweaks to the comments on this article, so be sure and read any of those that are present.

Article C2502 - December 26, 2005 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Greg Bulmash
December 27, 2005 6:31 AM

While Leo says 256 megs of RAM is the minimum, I'd say that 512 is the BARE minimum to run Windows XP SP2 effectively.

Why is RAM so important?

Short answer... when your computer runs out of available memory-chip RAM, it starts using your hard drive as memory for the overflow. The problem is that your hard drive, even if it's the fastest SCSI speedster in the world, is much, much, much slower than memory-chip RAM. So, if your PC is having to use the hard drive for that overflow, the hard drive creates a memory bottleneck will slow your computer way down.

And something VERY important to note. If you have bought a laptop or a bargain PC, your graphics solution may be using "shared RAM". This is where the video card has no RAM of its own. Instead anywhere from 32-128 megs of your system RAM is dedicated to the video card and can't be used by the CPU.

For example, my VAIO laptop came with 512 megs of RAM, but it dedicated 128 megs to "shared RAM" for the video/display. So, while they could advertise that it had 512 megs of RAM, it was really equal to a PC with 384 megs of RAM, because 128 megs were dedicated to video and could not be used for anything else.

- Greg

Donny Daniels
January 6, 2006 1:21 PM

when adding memory.. be sure to match clock speeds (pc1200 and pc3200 will function at pc1200 or not at all and cause strange voltage fluctations that can result in data corruption etc etc.) so match your memory sticks. Take the original one out and take it to the store so you have something to compare and a place to start. Of course it also depends on what your mother board can handle... call a technician.. tell him you want to upgrade memory and to make sure it's compatible with what you have installed.

January 9, 2006 6:11 PM

No you should buy an 1GB ram that will make your computer run really fast that should help you and to spped things up even beter get a program called optimize xp download it its good.

Ivan Tadej
January 10, 2006 3:32 PM

Hey Byron, I am really curious; do you know what precisely this program you mentioned does/sets, to speed things up ?? Does it need to run all the time, or it just applies the so-called registry tweaks ?? Because you know, in general, such programs only "rely" on the placebo-effect that users are experiencing when using them ...

best regards,
Ivan Tadej, Slovenija, Europe

January 20, 2006 12:01 PM

Can you beleive it, I have Windows XP, SP2 and a Intel Celeron CPU with 2.95GHz! The stupid machine has only... ...wait for... it... ...a mere 192 mb of RAM, well below the minimum of 250mb as someone said and in the sea compared to the 500mb BARE minimum as someone else said!

March 8, 2006 7:14 PM

Give GNU/Linux a try ...

April 15, 2006 1:38 AM

My computer is a pentium 4 with ht technology, has geforce 7800 with 256mb I have dual processors running at 3.20 ghz, and also 2046mb of ram, and also i have a windows xp, im woundering, how can i make my computer run faster, on games mainly, when oblivion hits the stores i feel that my computer wont be able to handle it, so i need help

Yes a GeForce 7800 GTX is able to play this.... Dual cores are a little performance drop when it comes to gaming as a single processor is better for games... im sure theres a hotfix for dual-core processors for that game ... google is your answer

July 17, 2006 2:33 AM

Ok i have a few tips to make your computers run faster.. FOR the GAMERS.... First stop downloading porn... im just kidding!... no really first you have to download ad-aware so it can clean your registry... you can get that at for do a disk cleanup... u should know what that is and then a disc defragment they are both windows programms that should be on your computer under accessories.. Hope that helps somewhat....oh yeah the best way to make your computer faster is to buy RAM.. its also the cheapest way...

September 14, 2006 5:24 PM

To make your computer start up faster you need to press start > run > Msconfig then click on the startup tab and take off the programs that you dont need at startup. you can also find more useful info on the microsoft site.

October 24, 2006 9:02 PM

is it required to update XP frequently?

Leo Notenboom
October 24, 2006 9:46 PM

Required? No. STRONGLY recommended? Yes.

Mark James
December 24, 2006 4:19 PM

I had a similar problem with my computer running poorly, tried some software that done the trick (PCTUNER), this software tunes any windows based machine to its highest potential, so if after running this software its still not fast enough (time for a upgrade). I think the URL is (approx 20)

January 13, 2007 3:34 PM

Alright I just bought this game called Medieval 2 Toltal War. Its a very good game and all but its soooo laggy and im takling bout just on campaign no internet, my computer holds 160gb and i havent even used half of it no where near. I even have a decent graphics card and the store I bought it from said "Owwww yea, its a great computer for gameing". Not true Im just wonderin if anybody has any solutions for this?

January 17, 2007 9:52 PM

Yo drew what you should do is go to the srat button then click on run then type in msconfigure and take off some unneccesary stratup programs. You can also get rid of any wireless devices and try not using your USb plugs as much. ALso get a board with the cooling fan. The motherboard chip runs slower when it is hot and the cooler fan cooles the chip down

May 13, 2007 6:00 PM

Hi all =D .... im gonna help someppl who are facing games performance problems ..

For the ppl who Play Games .. Like WoW .. Its mostly about the VGA card ur using .. nVidia - ATi or whatever it is .. To play ur game with a real cool performance without lagging or freezin .. u need a good RAM and HD with a good free space .. and a good VGA Card ofcourse ..

anyway for Players . Go to Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Performance (settings) -> Then choose adjust to best performance :D This will help u to make it faster ..
and another way .. when u start the game .. ALT + CTRL + DEL .. go to processes -> Right Click on the game process .. Set priority -> high :D
This will help u too ^_^

and ofcourse Defragment :D

^_^ BYE!

Nick Davies
June 28, 2007 7:46 AM

If You Go To Start / Run / Type In: msconfig / Then Uncheck The Programmes Which You Do Not Need to Be Running, This Will Improve The Performance Of Your Computer Because Less Programmes Which You Do Not Need To Run Are Running.

Another Great Way Is To Do What Tuan Suggested And Go To The Control Panel -> Performance And Maintenance -> System -> Advanced -> Performance (settings) -> Then Adjust To Best Performance Or Custom And Customise Windows To Make It Run Faster.

=] Thanks

July 12, 2007 1:51 AM

G'day Leo,
I have a 200gb hard drive & intel pentium 4 3.2ghz & 512mb ram hp desktop.What i want to know is if i buy 4x 1gb ram sticks & max out my ram capacity will it be bad for my pc,also in the long run.If so ,if i was to install 2gb ram will i see a difference in how fast my computer runs & other things pc's do.Thanx.

July 12, 2007 3:19 PM

my pc has a 512MB RAM and the rest i really dont know how to check, but yeah i got a compaq and the hardrive is 114 GB with free space of 106gb, i got a good virus protector and everything that defrags my computer n deletes temporary files and stuff, but even if i do all that video games still kinda lag and videos dont go at full speed like it will stop for a sec and stuff, what can i do to fix this solution?

Leo A. Notenboom
July 12, 2007 6:55 PM

Hash: SHA1

Phil: nothing wrong with putting the maximum amount of RAM into your computer.
How much that is and what RAM cards you need will depend on the specific
machine. has a good wizard that will walk you through
figuring it out.

Yes, I'd expect the move from 512Meg to 2gig to be noticably better, but it
really depends on how you use your computer, and of course I can't know that.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


Leo A. Notenboom
July 12, 2007 6:57 PM

Hash: SHA1

Carlos: that's not enough information to really go on, but when it comes to
video games, I always look at the capabilities of the video card - that can
have a huge impact on game performance.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


October 24, 2007 2:07 PM

I found this software on eBay and it works awesome, The software has organized my drive very efficiently and it actually increased performance by 40%. Its all about the defragmentation with Perfect Disk 8

its only eight bucks on there and other sellers want 15-40 dollars!

Anyways check it out, it really works!


January 5, 2008 5:06 AM

You Need To Update Your ram to at least 512mb 128mb is not enough for xp

brandon fisher
February 5, 2008 12:27 PM

i have just orderd a 2.5ghz intel pentium prossor 400 fbs and socket 478 and i want to rune world of warcraft but it takes the cpu up to 100% and i have tried it on my other computer wich has 2.4ghz with 512 ram and it still manages to run it, is ther anyway i can make it so that i can run my game and make it not stop. ohh and the computer i am trying to play the game has 1gb ram.

Chad Burris
February 8, 2008 7:56 PM

1 gig of ram is good but better to have 2 gigs for serious gaming, also is your video card at least 256mb? 512mb card is best but kind of expensive.upgrading your memory is easy and not to expensive.(easy do it yourself thing)

February 17, 2008 9:41 PM

ways to speed up computer
1.) defragment disks
2.) disk cleanup
3.) stop programs when startup

Also get Opera, not firefox or internet explorer. It's the fastest and the best. Those are the best way to speed up your computer.

Daniel Palmer
March 15, 2008 2:04 PM

I reccomend lots of things. I have got a DELL LATITUDE CPx Laptop with 128MB-500MHZ. This may sound rubbish and it was when i got it second hand. Until i sorted it out. I recomend that you download Auslogics Disk Defragmenter and Auslogics Registry Drfragmenter. They are free. Regitry Defrag sorts out Windows and makes start ups and prosesses faster. Also clear Internet Explorer Cache each time. Also run disk cleanup every time your logging off, it takes 1-2min.

If this makes my laptop dead fast i think it will make your more advanced and more powerfull computers much faster

Thank You.... Daniel Palmer.


April 2, 2008 6:58 AM

To speed up a mid-level config PC,

-Ensure the system is free from spyware and malware. These can seriously cripple performance.

-Add RAM. But note that anything more than 3 GB is useless on a 32-bit OS.

-Defragment the hard drives. The fragmentation disease affects every Windows OS, regardless of FAT or NTFS (FAT is worse!) and reduces performance. Especially for lower and mid-end PCs. Combat fragmentation with a good automatic need to waste time by scheduling regular defrags; yet gain continuous benefit of defragmentation. The hard drive is the performance bottleneck in a PC, so keep it optimized always.

-Update hardware drivers to the latest manufacturer recommended versions. Especially with video cards, these can have a major boost.

-Don't mess with registry. Don't use any of these registry 'tuners' or 'optimizers'. They are usually trouble.

Ulises G
May 7, 2008 7:40 PM

What relly helps your pc work faster is installing the hole operating sistem that may sound rude but I have notice that after 6 month of using my pc It gets slow and I have to format it and there we go againg. It really works, try it.

May 10, 2008 10:52 AM

Hash: SHA1

Ulises: Yes, in fact that's so common there's a term for it:
"software rot". 6 months seems a little extreme, but
ultimately it depends on how you use your machine and how
often you install or uninstall software. If you do it a lot
then sometimes the best thing is to reformat and reinstall.

I find I do it about every year or two on my primary



Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


June 3, 2008 6:00 AM

These are some great tips, I guarantee that if you follow these your computer will be running faster. I saw a site the other day that will show you videos and answers of these things, you should check it out!

January 7, 2009 3:19 PM

My Slow PC would frustrate me, both performance and security wise. With regards to all of the processes that start once XP or Vista boots I also found a really useful Microsoft tool - AutoRuns - details here:

Thanks for the other advice!

January 9, 2009 12:06 AM

Try out pcsurgeon [broken link removed] its was only 9.99 and came with Anti Virus, Spyware and a hard disk defragger. Also came with a tutorial that included tips and tricks to keep your computer fast, healthy and up to date. I was pretty impressed. This is all you really need to clean your computer of any viruses and spyware and keep it protected and running like its brand new.

February 19, 2009 4:37 PM

It is true that the best way to speed up your computer is too adjust what you already have and not compound the problem by adding software that is only going to slow you down even more by taking up more system resources. There is also another trick to increasing the performance of your pc, you can see the tutorial at
Great article thanks for sharing,

April 2, 2009 8:05 PM

By adding RAM it can make your computer SEEM faster, but overall, all your pc does is take up more resources from the added ram to run unnecessary programs. To purely make your computer run faster, without adding RAM is by just follow the basic steps which you can find at:

How To Speed Up Computer

Adding RAM should only be done if you have so few, like in this article which is 128mb which is prehistoric compared to todays computer...

April 27, 2009 4:05 AM

this information is very effective. any way how can i up grade my computer processor. i want know about it. thank you guys

April 30, 2009 9:56 PM

why my laptop become slow when i add RAM? now, my RAM is 3Gig but its really slow... why i cant surf internet smoothly,, then what can i do?

May 15, 2009 3:13 AM

you can download /buortonutilities it will completely remove ur unwanted and stupid dat auotmatically

May 15, 2009 3:17 AM


John Bishop
June 27, 2009 4:50 AM

I have a 1 GB vist Desktop computer, it runs very slow, and crashes on me quite a lot. My computer also makes 2 beeping sounds on start up, I have run a norton check, and it says my ram is low, if i get extra ram will this improve my computer, it is only 10 months old. Regards John....

BIOS beeps mean that your BIOS has detected some kind of hardware fault on start up before Windows has even loaded. I'd absolutely have a technician or someone knowledgeable take a look at the machine.
- Leo

August 18, 2009 8:18 AM

I installed IE8 2 wks ago. It takes about 12 mins. for pc to turn on. Screen stays blank & to check msn mail another 10 mins. When I had IE6 it would take maybe 12-15 mins. for both. When I close the IE & click on Mozilla icon & then hotmail it takes less the 4 mins. How do I make the Mozilla the home page when I power the pc on? I have MS Windows XP 504 MB of RAM 2.80GHZ Gateway.

October 2, 2009 6:46 AM

Everybody keep`s saying buy more RAM, it make`s your computer faster! Well I wish it was that easy all the time, but guess what? It`s NOT! The MB has to be able to handle more RAM. Some MB only go so high as far as how much RAM it can handle without flashing the BIOS anyway. I`m talking regular Joe off the street`s that doesn`t know anything about upgrade`s. Voltage is VERY important, the CPU is VERY important, FSB (front side bus) goes hand in hand with RAM, and the CPU. What I`m saying is sometime`s RAM isn`t the cure all. Make sure all software, and hardware driver`s are up to date. Keep a good anti-virus going all the time. Just know this, you get what you pay for. If you are gonna buy a cheap computer, just make sure it`s upgradeable in the future. Do your home work about new product`s for your computer. Just don`t believe that just adding RAM will cure your computer slowness. There is more to it then that for sure.

windows 7 slow
January 14, 2010 5:10 AM

Slow problem is a common event for Windows user.

"No matter how fast or shiny computers might be when they're new, they all seem to get slower over time." Microsoft claimed that on their technical forum(Windows 7 forum).

In fact, Windows built-in a lot of services and startup item start with system. So if you want a faster computer, you need to disable some of them first.

I saw an article before in ezine(A famous article site). It descripe how to make you windows faster.-------> Fix Windows Boot Slow

If you still don't know how to disable services safety, Click here to fix Windows SLow by professional tools.

Any problems? Welcome to discuss with me! Enjoy it !

Keron Chew
------- A Computer Technication.

Joey Chew
January 17, 2010 11:32 PM

Thank you for Keron Chew'S post. The recommened tools really solve my slow problem! And I want your email address to ask some questions, may I?

By the way, I found another good article ralated to this topic. Click here How to speed up computer Too!

Enjoy it!

February 18, 2010 10:56 AM

I just added a 512 card and have gone from 756 megs to 1000 megs on an XP home puter with a celeron 2.5 processor and 80gig HD

Is there anything else I can do other that the standard things like clear the desktop, remove fonts, etc to speed this puppy up?

Thank you in advance

March 24, 2010 5:07 AM

[email address removed]
Hey guys, I'm 15 y/o and I play World of Warcraft, but it runs very slow at times and i cant go to places where a lot of other players are (Dalaran)
Ive used CCleaner, and Piriform Defraggler but i cant get it to run fast enough. plus when i was downloading it, it said i didnt meet the requirements to play it (Not Enough RAM). All i was wondering was if someone could help me find out if my Computer is compatible by adding more RAM. PLZ REPLY :D

April 28, 2010 12:17 PM

My computer does not work as proper,all softwere take a time to open and sites also. my RAM is 512mb,window is XP-2

May 4, 2010 6:51 AM

There could be so many ways of improving PC performance, but there are also a number of reasons why your system is running slowly after a few months of using it. In order for you to determine how to make your computer faster, you must try to determine the nature of the slowness and what factors are causing it. Please refer to this link on how to make your computer to make your computer faster.

July 6, 2010 5:37 PM

GUDDU VISHAL , your computer is slow because the Ram is just 512, try 1 gb with the hard disk of 80GB, if you are using more than 80 GB example 160 or 360 GB, have RAM for 2 GB, i am sure you will see the difference...

robert kaluba
July 13, 2010 12:02 AM

hi im a tech and im having major problems at one site with speed funny thing is i have 1gb ram 20gb free space on c:\ but it takes ages to open up any thing and it also uses that extender thing were you only have a monitor mouse and key connected to this small box that goes to plug in the network port of a main computer. i have tried ccleaner, smart defrag, malware remover and auto run eater but no diference

Rupaul Mukherjee
July 23, 2010 11:25 AM

I have a pc(windows xp sp2)with 3 gb of ddr2 ram(800 mhz),250gb hard disk and core2duo 2.8ghz processor but still its performance is not upto the mark, what to do? Though I have lots of applications, loaded on it.

Andrew Roberts
August 10, 2010 12:57 AM

Hi All,

As u all discussing about how to speed up ur PC.. for this i m using Advanced System Optimzier its new and improved...that has best
Cleaner & optimization tools like..
Registry Cleaner
Registry Optimizer
Disk Tools
Disk Optimizer
System Cleaner
System Protector
i can say that i haven't face any prob..Now my PC performance increases..!!

Paul Mooney
September 16, 2010 5:26 PM

My computer is
HP Model HPE-180t
Processor Intel(R) core (TM I7 CPU X 980@ 3.33 GHz
Intalled memory (RAM) 12 GB
System type: 64-bit (Windows 7 Home Premium)

It's kept clean of all garbage, registry is fine, no spyware, got norton AV. but my computer is still slow. And when I mean slow, what I'm really saying is that with 12G of ram I don't think I should have to wait a few seconds for Excel or word to open and close. Sometimes is says not responding while it closes. And that's the only program open. Any Ideas?

September 30, 2010 2:43 AM

my computer is slower. i use 500GB hard disc 2GB ram
21'inch acer monitor intel motherboard cor 2 due processor. please answer me.....

November 15, 2010 1:40 AM

Hi, Rupaul Mukherjee ,I add one tool here for you, it named Tuneup360

December 14, 2010 3:25 AM

My IE often get freeze recently, my friends recommend me a software, named tuneup360, he said it is very useful, which can fix all the computer problems~~but I still wonder are there any other ways to solve my problem?

Gavin Grant
January 31, 2011 7:30 PM

forget what i said try this site

jamuna paswan
July 22, 2011 5:27 AM

i have compaq P IV 1.7ghz, 512 ram, 40 gb hard disk system is very slow what should i do

August 18, 2011 11:47 PM

how to make the system faster with its holding configuration of windows xp service pack 2002

laxman sanga
August 29, 2011 11:27 PM

Go to "run" type "prefetch" then enter and remove all.
go to run type "%temp% then enter and remove all

This falls into the category of being in near urban legend status. This has been thoroughly debunked by Microsoft and others as having no practical impact on performance. In fact emptying it can adversely affect performance. More here in Microsoft's own article:

November 8, 2011 3:51 PM


December 31, 2011 10:54 AM

ive installed windowz 7 professional in my laptop.n its dual core processor with 1 gb ram and 120 hdd.My pc runs faster while starting but after 30 mins it'z very slow pls help meh. give me some suggestion

des raj thakur
April 27, 2012 3:05 AM

I have HCL me notebook laptop hare is 2 GB RAm 300 GB hard disk my laptop is too much slow but I do after that my laptop work on highly speed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.