Really slow (old) PC. How to speed up a bit?

I was looking at a friends computer and it is really, really slow. Slow to the point that its impossible to work with. However when I checked cpu usage the cpu isnt maxed out with any program. I then checked physical memory and saw that out of the 256MB it was dropping down to 45MB.

Im not sure if the low memory could be causing it as it would usually be something hogging the cpu, but the memory does look dangerously low to me.

I cant remember what the hardware was exactly but its about 4 years old to give an idea. I think a celeron processor. 256MB ram. Running windows XP. Has been formatted and reinstalled a couple of times since it was bought.
Basically I want to get the pc a bit quicker for him at the weekend. What would you do to speed it up a bit?

I done msconfig and disabled some stuff there. I also took away some visual effects light shadows and stuff to try a make it a bit quicker. What else should I check/do?
Who is Participating?
This is the best, most complete and informative site I've seen on optimizing (speeding up) XP:

This site has a great deal of information on many steps to optimize XP, in categories such as:  removing viruses, spyware and other malware; keeping MS patches updated through Windows Update; making sure all drivers are updated; various tweaks involving the registry, use of virtual memory, the Recycle Bin and System Restore usage; a number of optimizing utilities; disabling of unnecessary Windows services; and much more...
Brian PiercePhotographerCommented:
If in doubt - more memory always produces the best price/performance.

Disable all visual effects - Right click My Computer->Properties->Advanced->Performance->Settings and select "adjust for best performance"

Defrag the HDD

I would add more memory and then change the swap file size in relation to the new memory size... has a great tool for scanning the system to tell you the recommended and supported memory types and sizes.

How do you know if your security is working?

Protecting your business doesn’t have to mean sifting through endless alerts and notifications. With WatchGuard Total Security Suite, you can feel confident that your business is secure, meaning you can get back to the things that have been sitting on your to-do list.

256 MB is a "minimum" amount needed to run XP; in your case 500MB or (preferably) a GB of memory would be better.    

Depending on how much time you have, you then would want to:

* Scan for viruses, trojans, ad-ware, etc
* Uninstall anything made by NORTON.   (replace with AVG Free, or...?)
* Yes, uninstall ANYTHING made by Norton.   Norton products suck a PC dry.
* Defrag hard drive
* Double-check EVERYTHING started up via msconfig is valid
you could also check the processor resources open the task manager then View add columns add virtual memory usage then look in the process.
creating a new profile may solve it in one go
clean up the pc ccleaner will remove all temp files internet history tracks old junk when temp files becomes full this will slow the system then defrag it.
Or hit analyze to see how much red there is.

Old regestry gets buggy regestry mechanic will clean up the regestry of old stuff.
update drivers
Dont have many running programs whatever is on the taskbar on the right side is running.

I find a complete format will most often do all the above in one go.

nobusbiljart fanCommented:
apart from adding more ram,  try this : - to set the transfer mode from PIO to DMA
Load RegEdit (Start - Run - Regedit)

Go to the following keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\ Class\{4D36E96A-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}\000x

The last four digits will be 0000, 0001, 0002, 0003, and so on.

Under each key, delete all occurences of the following values (not every key will have these values, but delete them whenever they occur):

Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.