-- "First, do no harm:" ie, don’t start your computer career by trying to delete everything, modifying the heck out of your registry, or racing around to various exotic tweak and tips sites that are all too easily, abundantly, and alluringly hailable, available, and accessible over the internet. You need to learn before you can truly 'tweak.' ;)
1.Disk Defragmenter. - run once a week, and/or after installing a new program, or uninstalling an old one. ( avoid installing too many extraneous programs, especially 3rd party free- and share-ware off the Internet. XP doesn’t really like it, or cooperate with such an approach.)
2. Run chkdsk in run command ... I do it every day: others may settle for once a week, maybe longer.
3. Left click Disk check with bad sectors check (requires reboot, as prescribed...whole process can take 20 minutes or more.) I doubt if this would hurt anyone if you ran it once a month.
4. Delete temporary internet files, from Internet Explorer > Tools > Internet Options > General tab ...oh, once every few days. ( I delete mine every day.)
5. Delete cookies, from same.
6. Delete history, from same.
7. Delete *.tmp, .gid, .cnt, .fts, .dmp files occasionally. Leave .old, .bak, and .log files until you learn more about them. It can be a drag to lose them, only to find your system needed them to load or uninstall a particular program ( oh, those tedious error pop-ups!)
…and XP is nothing, if it isn’t ‘particular!’
8. Uncheck unneeded services in msconfig (run command) on start-up tab. Don't mess with the other tabs in System Configuration for a good long while!
9. run SFC /scannow (type in run command line) with OS disc once a month (takes about 20 minutes.)
10. Reboot often, more or less ( after running a given program, even if it doesn’t tell you to, for example. As a general rule, if your rebooting, say, about once every half-hour, I can hardly think that is excessive, even today, with our 'new and improved.')
11. Resort to power off, occasionally, for that reassuring clean sweep effect.(Start, Power off, Turn off .) Wait a half minute or so, and reboot with tower button.
12. Remove old programs you no longer use, from Add/Remove.
13. Make extra restore points, and resort to System restore, when necessary.
14. Review and learn how to do a repair reinstall, should the necessity ever arise.
15. Do automatic updates, if so inclined (Some download them all, some are more selective, and some daring souls neglect them completely.)
16. Run Anti-virus scan once a week, and keep steady scan on all the time.
17. UseWindows firewall as present. Disable temporarily if necessary for downloads. 3rd party fire walls, even the free ones, are for the slightly more advanced. They can be frustrating. ( Also, disable anti-virus, if necessary, to exectue difficult or slow downloads. You can always save the file to disc, and scan it for viruses, before you open it. Ie, you don't need to run anti-virus during the actual downloading, itself.)
18. Download and run (Lavasoft) Adaware 6, if necessary, if you play with third party software downloads off internet. ( A pleasant way also to remind you of all the 'cookies' and such you left sitting on your system, no doubt draining your resources and slowing the system down!)
19. Avoid deleting surplus refernces to deleted files and removed software in the registry. You need to be really sure you know how to do this before you can
20. Consider full system reinstall.
21. Get one or two more hard drives, and keep OS on separate hard drive.
22. Check for, and download, new drivers for the stuff you know you have (ie, in device manager.) from the various manufacturer's website.
23. Always use Add/Remove programs in Start > Control Panel to remove unneeded software. The uninstall programs provided with downloadable freeware and such are not necessarily good for your machine. XP is not overly fond of uninstalling software, except thru Add/Remove. (Use the right tool for the job!)
24. Consider upgrading to at least 256 RAM. ( that’s the basic message I get, wherever I go.)
25. If you want to, disable Messenger, Indexing, Automatic Updates, Remote Desktop, and the annoying Error Reporting service, if you must … but leave the rest of the System Configurations ( ie, those found by typing in services.msc in the run command, and pressing OK button) alone, for now ( the engaging www.blackviper.com to the contrary.)
26. Disable hibernation (Control Panel > Power Options > hibernate tab ) unless for some reason you anticipate needing it.
27. Disable audio card System Sounds, if you like ( pleasant not to hear them, and pleasanter still to know they take up no extra power when turned off, especially the EXIT sound.) I do this via Media Player 9 > Tools > options card > Devices tab > speakers > properties button > Sounds and Audio Devices card > Sounds tab.
28. Run Disc cleanup - skip compress old files, as I don’t recommend it (others may disagree.) Disc cleanup is also a pleasant way to remind yourself of all those Temp Internet Files, Temp files, and the junk still hiding in your recycle bin.
29. Download and install a second freeware media player like vlc (VideoLAN) that will play the files which Windows Media Player won’t play, like those nice high-kilobyte SVCD files you can glean from Kazaa lite, and play so easily on your vlc. (It’s so heartbreaking and pathetic to watch Media Player struggle to try to download a codec from its meager resources, when vlc, or perhaps WinAmp, will play them so much easier and quicker, without all the fuss!)
30. Searching the Internet? Stick with Google, until you have a bloody good reason to graduate to another search engine. I’ve messed with many for 3 years, and always run back to Google.)
31. Don’t bother downloading screensavers and ‘desktop themes’ (!) off the internet. They are too risky: ask your guru for the lowdown on 3rd party software.
(I have had fun downloading, saving, and selecting/installing sound waves from a couple of different Clint Eastwood screensavers, however! ( I then select and delete the rest of the other screensaver material in the file.) ...however, you have to learn how to do such things.
32. Be considerate. Get a pair of headphones, to spare your housemates and neighbors your Metallica rock sessions.
33. Delete old pics, music, and video files you don’t need. Get a DVD /CD - RW (rewritable) to avoid having all that stuff accumulate.
34. Get a good computer guru. An experienced one. Or a few experienced ones.
35. Consider saving yourself the agony of wondering if someone hacked your private info by keeping your financial and thins like personal address info. off your computer. Less convenient, but you may be happier in the long run.
36. Print hard copies - off your printer - of whatever you are typing into your Word program or whatever, ASAP ( as soon as possible.) This is so even though you may already be 'saving to disc'(ie, floppy disc in your A: drive.)
This saves one the agony of losing the material should your computer act up, power outages or whatever cause disconnect/freeze-ups, or some as-yet-undiscovered subatomic particle disables something. Relying just on the ‘Save’ and/ or ‘Save As’ options, or just leaning on one or more A: drive/’floppy’ disc copies, may not do the job. Printing a page each as you go, is the safest bet for a backup: modify according to your tolerance and creative powers.
37. Shared computer? You’ll still be happier resorting to keeping some hidden files within your own account/profile.
38. Acrobat reader freeware can be useful for reading off the Internet. (PDF files or what-not.) but as a general rule, avoid third-party software, no matter how much fun it is. Removing it can be a nuisance, and is just an extra strain for XP.
Nothing wrong with an ad-free Kazaa LITE or an extra media player like vlc Videolan, or WinAmp.
I have never found a 3rd party audio freeware that truly out did Media Player 9, vlc, or the WinAmp, however. I wouldn’t bother with those others if I were you, no matter how exotic or sophisticated they make themselves sound ( grass is always greener over there, right?) or look ( actually, some of them are so gothically hideous, you'll save yourself some misery by not ever having to look them. Some are so space-age-nerd looking, they make you laff: and both 'goth' and nerd types take too much time, in my opinion, for the effort it takes to navigate their control buttons. Stick with the players mentioned above.
Investigate and consider freeware WinMX, as a download source similar to Kazaa lite.
39. Don’t go relocating your music, pictures, or video files all over the place. It’s so dangerously simple to move files, once you learn how! However, it can make them alot harder to find and/or access, especially when trying to access them via the file hunter in your Media Player, or an unfinished file in Kazaa's Shared Folder feature.
Keep it simple.
40. Try to avoid running two or more programs at once. With more ram, or perhaps an extra hard disc, you may get away with it better than low ram and a 1 gig. hard disc drive.
... and don't let your computer frustrate you. It's only a machine. Don't let it confuse you. It is loaded with a miriad of 'factulae' which will simply take awhile to gracefully arrange themselves on your humanoid system disc (ie., your brain.) Take a break from your computer once in a while ( remember those friends and that fresh air you once had ?)
(P.S. : I apologize, as I am not a gamer, that I have little to offer in that direction. I do know, however, that you usually need to use game software that is specific to your system make and OS : any old disc won't do, so I hear...and it helps to have plenty of ram, and a 3-D card for gaming.)