Should I reinstall XP?
April 22, 2008 12:38 AM   Subscribe

Should I reinstall XP to speed up my laptop?

After a couple of years of use, my laptop is starting to run a little slow. I've heard that uninstalling and reinstalling Windows XP and all other programs can speed things up dramatically. Is it worth the hassle of doing this? How long before it starts to slow down again?
posted by Kiwi to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Run Applications take longer to load? Longer boot times? Slow internet speeds? Reinstalling XP probably will help for a little while (if your issue is software-based), but unless you change whatever usage behavior caused the slowdown in the first place, you'll be back to a slow computer in no time. What have you tried so far to fix it?
posted by bizwank at 12:42 AM on April 22, 2008

how full is your disk? How often do you defragment? How often do you clean up your startup entries in msconfig? Do you check that your RAM is all functional?
Reinstalling might solve your problem, but it might not, it depends on what the problem is.
posted by missmagenta at 1:10 AM on April 22, 2008

It depends really. Two years is a good innings for an XP load so, yeah, it certainly isn't going to hurt to format the drive and slap on a fresh install. Over time, people install and uninstall a lot of applications and other little pieces of software, and the works can get gummed up somewhat (especially since the standard MS Add/Remove Programs very rarely does what it pretends to): lots of useless dlls, odd stuff in your Startup menu and Windows Services, a bloated Registry, etc.

But an XP reinstall can be something of a hassle, especially if you don't have a convenient method of backing up and then restoring all your stuff (like an external USB hard drive or the like). Then there's the matter of downloading the (potentially) hundreds of megabytes worth of Service Packs and Updates and Hotfixes. And then there's the reinstalling all your programs and updating them. And what happened to that ethernet driver, and how come my graphics are all funny? And then there's putting everything back the way you like it, realising you forgot to back up all your bookmarks, etc. etc. The first few times you wipe your drive for a reinstall can quickly turn into a hideous stinky nightmare.

Sometimes it's less painful, and almost as effective, to just go through and give Windows a good hard scrubdown. Some resources you might find helpful:

Black Viper (Loads of tweaks and tips for setting yourself up with a cleaner, slimmer, zippier XP install, but if you're not 100% comfortable with any of the procedures documented, for heaven's sake don't do them. It's all pretty reliable and straightforward but I'd hate for my very first AskMe reply, indeed my very first Metafilter reply, to end up ruining somebody's day/week/month/life.)

CCleaner (Short for "Crap Cleaner". An excellent little freeware utility, basically a beefed-up version of Windows' Disk Cleaner, which scours your hard drive for obsolete junk, as well as giving your Registry a good going-over. It also contains a tool for pruning useless entries from your Startup folder. The online Help & Support and Forums are excellent if you need a little assistance, and don't forget to donate if you find the programme useful!)

Malware, spyware and viruses are also notorious for slowing everything to a crawl and rendering your computing experience wholly unpleasant. AVG Free is a virus scanner that's just as good as anything available commercially, and is constantly (some might say incessantly) updated with the latest definitions. Spybot S&D and AdAware are both essential tools for any Windows install, and between the two of them you can be fairly confident that you're nuking 99% of all spyware and malware.

Once all this is done, whip out the good old Disk Defragmenter and set it to work, and hopefully you will be in for a much smoother ride. It's prudent to run CCleaner, AVG, Spybot, AdAware and Defrag once every couple of weeks at the most. Good luck!
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:19 AM on April 22, 2008 [6 favorites]

You shouldn't have to reinstall.

What I do.

1. Uninstall programs you dont use.
2. Remove anything from your startup you dont need (msconfig)
3. TuneUp utilities - System optimizer, works wonders
4. Defrag

CCleaner is nice to get rid of unused files, but that really doesnt slow your computer down.
posted by mphuie at 1:37 AM on April 22, 2008

I tend to flatten and reinstall every year or two, if possible, on all of my machines (it'd be better to just write an image of the boot partition/drive with a fresh install of XP with my favorite apps, but I'm not that organized). It's a last-resort thing to do, certainly, but XP flies when it's freshly installed on today's hardware.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:46 AM on April 22, 2008

Long-time windows user here. Many good tips upthread, esp. CCleaner and defragmentation.

However, if those don't do the trick, reinstalling Windows XP every two years is about right. I don't know why - cruft getting installed and then not getting removed, registry bitrot, or whatever, but XP does gets flaky after a year or two of installing, uninstalling, and updates. Reinstall XP and it most likely run much faster.

Be sure to do all the security updates for your fresh install ASAP - until then, you're going to be vulnerable to every expoit since your install CD was stamped.
posted by zippy at 3:37 AM on April 22, 2008

YES!! Don't be afraid, format (reformat, re-install - whatever??) is your friend! Everyone always whines on and on about what a hassle it is but I really don't see what the big deal is?

I have an external and I keep all my crap on that.
In amongst it are two folders
- Drivers
- Programs (between you and me - none of those are anti-virus and it hasn't made a difference. I just run faster in general is all...)

I'm fussy so there are a bunch of display settings I have to re-do but after a few clicks and stuff loading and opening and so forth - like lightning (oh hell yeah!!)... it all seems worth it.
There's.. I don't know..maybe 30 things I have to run? They don't one minute each to install but say they did - I only restart every 5-10 things but lets be extra generous and say it takes an hour... The WHOLE procedure is over in an afternoon IF I get sidetracked.

You get faster at it too, so don't get discouraged if three days later you're cursing me for encouraging you to do this. (Joking! The longest it's taken is just one and there were.. circumstances, so it doesn't really count??)

But yes - just fuck it all off and start from scratch (or as close as you can).
More ram or bigger HD aren't to be sneezed at either. (I'm up for all three shortly! Yay me!!)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:40 AM on April 22, 2008

Reinstalling after two years could lead to lots of other problems. Make sure you have a proper backup of your files, and of all of your software.

I would recommend just getting rid of all of the crap on your computer slowing it down, like others above have suggested.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice all.

I think I'll try with a bit of a cleanup/streamline of the system and then maybe a re-install if things are still sluggish.
posted by Kiwi at 11:59 AM on April 23, 2008

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