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12/3/2001
03:38 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Ten Ways To Make Windows XP Run Better

Fred Langa offers tips on how to optimize Windows XP for your own work style so you don't have to live with its default settings.

Microsoft ships each copy of Windows with "default" settings that are designed to be "good enough" for most people. The default settings are a kind of lowest common denominator, ensuring that the operating system will work okay for the mythical "average user."

But, if you're reading this, chances are you're not an average user. You probably know that you can unlock much more of your system's potential by changing Windows' default settings to suit your own particular working style and circumstances.

Today, I'll tell you 10 things I do to make my copies of Windows XP Professional run better. I'll also explain why I make these changes, so you can better decide if using the same tweak (or some variation) will work for you.

Of course, 10 is an arbitrary number. There are actually thousands of possible tweaks; Microsoft's printed "XP Resource Kit Documentation" is 1,699 pages long! Some tweaks listed here are "tip of the iceberg" things, and can lead you to additional sublevels of system adjustments to explore.

Each XP user will approach the operating system in a slightly different way. You might rank-order these 10 tweaks differently or develop an entirely different list. In fact, I hope you do. Please check out my 10 tweaks, and then use the discussion area associated with this article to post your own.

By the time we're done, we should have an awesome collection of real-world, real-life tweaks that can help make XP work just the way we want it to--instead of the way Microsoft wants it to.

Before Digging In
Tweaking isn't for everyone. If you're using XP and you like it as-is, leave things alone. Don't make needless changes to your operating system, especially since some changes are hard to undo. Likewise, weigh each suggestion against the likely benefit you'll gain. Don't tear apart a working operating system or subsystem unless you believe the results are truly worth it.

Of course, before you do significant system work on any operating system, always make a full backup. You need to be able to restore things to the way they were before, if a change doesn't work out the way you intended.

In XP, it's also a good idea to make a "Restore Point" (click Control Panel/Performance and Maintenance/System Restore) and select "Create a restore point" before each and every change. System Restore can roll back many minor system changes without requiring you to restore your full backup.

Also, it makes no sense to try to tune and tweak an operating system that's fundamentally incomplete or broken. So, before you start changing anything, right-click on My Computer and select Properties/Hardware/Device Manager to ensure all your hardware is set up and running properly. In addition, use Windows Update to download and install all current patches and driver updates.

Once you're ready to go, dive in!

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