Cleanup/Speedup guide for XP/Vista/Win7/Win8
Step Zero: System Backup
All changes to an operating system, particularly if you're inexperienced,
have the potential to cause harm. Having said that I've run the following
procedures on hundreds of machines without error. But there's no guarantee that
you'll be as awesome as me at doing it, so it pays to be careful. So, you need
to back up your system partition, either onto another hard drive or an external
There are many methods to do so, personally I recommend using Hiren's Boot CD (download and
burn image to a CD using a cd burning program which can burn images, such as Infrarecorder).
Download, burn to CD and reboot with the cd in the cd drive. Your computer
should boot up the Hirem Boot CD - if it doesn't, you may need to change
settings in your bios so that your CD/DVD drive is first in the boot chain.
Once booted into Hirem's Boot CD, navigate the menu and look for "DriveImage
XML". Use DriveImageXML to make a backup of your system partition to another
hard drive. Again, if you don't know what your system partition is, you
probably should be using the Simple
Guide, not this one. Or, get someone else to do it for you who knows what
With that precautionary measure out of the way, let's do it-
Step One: delete stuff
- Go through and back up old projects and data onto CD, DVD or external
hard drive. Get rid of personal stuff that doesn't need to be on the hard
drive anymore. If backing up onto DVD, (a) be careful when touching the
underside of DVDrs as they can be made unusable extremely easily, (b)
select a good media - either verbatim or taiyo yuden are pretty good bets,
(c) backup onto two DVDs using two different brands of media - most dvd
drives will have more difficulty reading at least one brand/type of media,
and the chances of losing data on DVD is far, far higher than other
mediums. It is cheap though.
- Download and run PC
decrapifier. Remove any software you know you don't use. Do not remove
anything you're unsure about, but remove any 'toolbar', 'anti-spyware' or
'pc speedup' types of software. If you're running a Norton, Mcafee or AVG
antivirus, remove those as well (these are performance draining and will be
replaced later on). If a program asks to reboot, deny it. Continue
uninstalling all applications until all are finished, then reboot. If you
had a Norton or AVG antivirus, after you've uninstalled them and rebooted
you will need to also download and run the Norton
Removal Tool or AVG
Removal Tool's, respectively.
- Run PC decrapifier again. Some applications may be persistent, and may
not have removed themselves the first time. Remove these by going into the
control panel, then (XP) Add/remove programs ('Programs' under Vista/7/8),
and uninstall the application from there. There may also be some
applications here which did not show up in PC decrapifier. Remove these
- Staying in the Programs section of the control panel, click on 'Turn
off/on Windows features'. Uninstall all the windows features you don't use,
including (Vista/7/8): Indexing Service, Remote Differential Compression,
Tablet PC Optional Components, Windows DFS Replication Service, Windows Fax
& Scan (Do not disable if you use a modem for faxing), Windows Meeting
Space (Do not disable if you use the Live Meeting Service). If internet
explorer is visible, install a better and more secure browser (internet
explorer is a massive target for malware) like Chrome or Firefox, then
uninstall Internet Explorer.
- Download and run Ccleaner Slim. In
particular tick the boxes for "Hotfix uninstallers" (XP) and "Old prefetch
data". Also run the registry cleaner in this program.
- Run window's Disk Cleanup utility (programs->accessories->system
tools) (Vista/7/8: Right-click the program and left-click on "Run as
Administrator" in the drop-down menu that appears). Tick all boxes and then
click 'Ok'. This may take a while.
- (Vista/Win7/Win8): Follow the instructions on the following website to
clean up your WinSxS (windows update) folder: Disk Cleanup Guide.
- Download, unzip and run Wises Registry
Cleaner. Run the registry cleaner and then clean. Also run the 'System
Tuneup' section, reboot, and then finally the 'Registry Defragment' section after rebooting and reloading the program.
Step Two: Prep and check
- Boot into safe mode with networking.
(XP/Vista/7): Press F8 on bootup, before the windows bootup screen and
select 'Safe mode with Networking'.
(Win8/Win10): In the searchbox, search for and run 'msconfig' (no
quote-marks). Change your boot mode to 'Safe mode' with networking, then
- Download and install Malwarebytes
- let it update itself and then run a scan. If it finds something, let it
clean it, then download and copy Combofix to
your c: root directory, then reboot in safe mode with command prompt only,
and run combofix by typing 'c:\combofix' and pressing enter at the command
prompt. This may remove more stubborn malware (safe mode with command
prompt only disables most items from loading on startup, increasing the
chances of successful malware removal). If this doesn't work, you need to
either figure out how to get rid of it by researching the specific malware
itself, or get someone else to do it for you. A system restore will not
help all of the time because often malware affects the restore files too.
Your computer must be malware/virus-free before you proceed, even if that
means a complete reinstall of the operating system. Reboot into regular
windows (Win8: run msconfig again to change boot settings).
- Download and run HDDScan - if you get
any 'yellow exclamation mark' boxes next to any of the SMART values, look
them up in the SMART value table. Depending on the value and the score, it
could be time to replace that hard drive before it dies. In which case,
stop doing this guide, backup your data, and either use the clone you
created in step zero to push your OS onto a new drive, or get a computer
technician to sort the situation out for you.
- Go into the windows control panel
- (Vista/7/8/10) Search for "UAC" in the search box. Disable UAC. Reboot
computer. You will hate yourself if you do not do this.
- (Vista/7/8/10) Open control panel again. In left hand pane, click on
'Classic Control Panel View".
- If you managed to make a clone of your drive in step zero, go to System
-> System Restore. Disable system restore on all drives. This will
delete all past restore points.
- Go to System -> Advanced -> Performance -> Settings ->
Advanced -> Virtual Memory -> Change -> Set minimum size to 1534
and maximum size to 4090MB. If there is more than one hard drive (not
partition, hard drive) in the machine, remove the pagefile on the C:
(system partition) and put it on the second hard drive.
- (Win8/Win10): Run msconfig again, and enable 'normal' booting.
- Reboot the machine, this time into normal windows mode (no F8 necessary,
normal is default for XP/Vista/7).
Step Three: disable stuff
- (Vista/Win7) Disable windows defender - which merely doubles-up the same
labour that your antivirus software does, without doing a good job. Go into
control panel, search for 'defender', go to Tools -> Options ->
Administrator Options, and uncheck the "Use Windows Defender" (Vista) or
"Use this program" (Win7) box. Reboot.
- (Win8/10): 'Windows defender' in Win8/Win10 is completely different to
what it is in Win7/Vista - in Win8/10, it's MSE (Microsoft Security
Essentials - their antivirus agent). There's no need to disable it, and it
will be disabled automatically if you install another antivirus
- Disable useless/performance-hungry windows services. You can do this by
following a services guide like Black
Viper's (use the "Tweaked" settings). If you want to keeps things
simple, the worst offenders (main things you need to disable) are:
(XP) Themes, Java quickstarter, Indexing service, Messenger.
(Vista/Win7) Themes, Java quickstarter, Windows Defender, Superfetch,
(Win8) Themes, Java quickstarter, Superfetch, Readyboost.
If you're not doing mission-critical and latency-sensitive work and you
have at least 3GB ram, you can probably benefit from keeping Superfetch
enabled. Otherwise, disable it.
Access settings for these by going control panel -> administrative tools
-> services. Disabling themes will change the appearance of your
windows, and it may not look as 'pretty', but will use less memory and CPU
and cause fewer problems. (please note windows Aero, which this disables,
does NOT speed up windows or reduce CPU load - that much is a myth and is
refuted by all performance tests).
- Download and run Starter.
Disable programs starting that you know aren't necessary, in particular any
"quickstarter" applications ie. java quickstarter, quicktime starter,
office quickstarter etc etc etc. If you're a bit more technically advanced,
you can use Microsoft's Autoruns
instead, which gives more comprehensive information about starting
processes, programs and drivers.
- Disable windows sounds.
(XP) Go to control panel -> sound and audio devices -> sounds.
(Vista/7/8/10) Type 'sounds' in the search box.
Change the sound scheme to 'No sounds'.
- Disable default screen saver.
(XP) Go to Control Panel->Display->Screen saver tab and change
screensaver to 'none'. Then click on 'monitor power' and make sure your
screen turns off after 20 minutes or so. This saves on power and prevents
long-term damage to the screen.
(Vista/7/8/10) Go to Control Panel and search for 'Personalization'
(without quotes). Click on the resultant icon. Click on 'screen saver' and
change your screen saver to 'none'.
- Control panel -> system -> advanced -> performance ->
settings -> Visual effects and change to "adjust for best performance".
Then tick "Smooth edges of screen fonts" and hit ok.
(XP) By default XP uses the 'Standard' algorithm for font smoothing, which
is designed for use on CRT monitors. Chances are you're using a flatscreen
LCD monitor (XP shows it's age here). To change to the more readable
'Cleartype' algorithm (which all later versions of windows use), go to
control panel->Display->Appearance->Effects, make sure the 'Use
the following method to smooth the edges of screen fonts' box is ticked,
and change the algorithm to 'Cleartype'. Click 'ok' then 'ok' again.
- Disable automatic defragging (we'll replace this with something
(XP) Download and run Tweakui (32-bit version, 64-bit version). Under 'General',
untick everything including "Optimize hard drive when idle".
(Vista/7/8/10): Go to control panel, type 'defrag' in search box, click on
the option presented under Administrative tools, elevate as needed, and
untick "Run on a Schedule". Open task scheduler from Control Panel. In the
left pane Task Scheduler Library -> Microsoft -> Windows ->
Defrag. Disable one or both of the two tasks for Defrag.
Step Four: SSD drive?
If you have an SSD drive installed on your computer, download and run SSDtweaker. Use the 'AUTO-TWEAK'
setting. This runs on XP, Vista and Win 7. Also, DO NOT run the mydefrag
software below in step five on your SSD drive. If you have any other drives
installed which aren't SSD drives, then download and run mydefrag on them, but
DO NOT install the scheduled tasks. Just run a 'Data disk monthly' on them
every six months or so, followed by a 'Data disk weekly' maybe every month. If
you know how to do so, you can set this up in your Automatic scheduled
Step Five: defragmentation time...
- Downloading and install Mydefrag.
Only install the screensaver if you want to after reading step 2 below. Do
install the scheduled tasks. Now, run Mydefrag and run "System Disk
Monthly" on your system partition (usually "C:"). Once finished, close and
run the application again, and if you have any other partitions visible
("E:", F:" etc) that aren't CD/DVD or flash drives, run "Data disk monthly"
on them. Monthly defrags can take some time, so you might want to leave
them to run overnight. Once the monthly defrags are finished, run the
'weekly' defrag equivalents on both sets of drives. The weekly defrag does
some things which the monthly does not.
- If you want to enable the mydefrag screensaver, follow the instructions
in step 3.6 for finding the screen saver settings, then select Mydefrag as
the screen saver, adjust to run after 30 minutes, then go into the screen
saver settings and change the script to 'Automatic Weekly', and the timeout
period to 24 hours. Please note the screensaver will only work in
Win7/Vista/Win8/Win10 if you disable UAC permanently, which is not advised
unless you are very security conscious and really know what you're
- If you are using any of the following applications - Firefox, Chrome,
Epic, Iron, Opera, Palemoon, Skype, Thunderbird, Yandex, Cyberfox -
download and run Speedyfox. This application
defragments the profile databases for each of these applications, resulting
in a much faster startup for each of them, particularly skype (please note
that regular defragmenting will not affect the fragmentation of your
Step Six: re-enable stuff
- (Win8) If you're like the majority of people and find the Windows 8
'Metro' interface a major waste of time and patience, switch back to any of
the older-style start menus by installing Classic Shell. This will force Win8
to boot to the desktop interface like older versions of windows and restore
the start menu. once you click on the new start menu, it will ask you which
one you would like (XP/Vista/Win7-style). You're welcome.
- If you removed a virus scanner earlier, it's time to install one. You can
either buy one (I recommend NOD32) or get
a free one - either Microsoft Security
free (Avira does a better job, but the free version will bug you about
upgrading, whereas MSE won't) or Avast Free (better
for older computers than Avira in my experience). Whatever you install,
install on default settings, and let it update itself and then scan your
system. For Avira, you don't need to register it (untick registration box
at bottom when prompted). For Avast, you need to register it with an email
If you're running Win8, you already have MSE running by default if you
don't have another virus scanner installed. Confusingly, this is called
'Windows Defender' in Win8, but is completely different to what 'Windows
Defender' was in previous versions of windows. Avira and NOD32 are
consistently rated highly by the independent AV-comparitives and are some of
the highest-scoring antivirus packages available, both in terms of
performance (they don't affect computer speed much) and positive virus
- Change your power settings:
(XP) Control panel -> power options -> power schemes and change to
"Home/Office" or "Laptop" (if you have a laptop).
(Vista/7/8/10) Control panel -> Power options - either put on 'Balanced'
or your manufacturer's "recommended" option, then click on 'change plan
settings' - change the setting for 'put the computer to sleep' to "1 hour"
(or shorter for a laptop).
- At this point, if you're comfortable with backing up your system
partition using the Hirem Boot CD as mentioned in the first section, you
can replace the automatic process of window's 'System Restore' with the
manual process of making your own backups of your system partition on a
regular basis. Now, while this saves CPU and disk space, it also takes
time, and you have to be competent at it. If this is what you want to do,
then start by making a backup of your new 'blank slate' optimized system.
Keep this as a primary backup for if things go wrong/get cluttered in
future. Alternatively, you can reenable system restore, which while it
isn't as good as making your own backup (and is no way NEAR as useful in
the event of a crash or malware), is convenient and automatic. If you
re-enable System Restore, make sure you only re-enable it for the system
partition and NO OTHERS.
- (Vista/7/8/10) If you're security-conscious and/or uncertain, you may
want to reenable UAC by going into the control panel and doing the reverse
of what you did in Step 1.4. However in my opinion UAC is just annoying,
and if you've gotten this far, you probably don't want it.
Step Seven: drink some tea
Or coffee, whatever, I don't mind. Just keep yourself hydrated, okay?
Congratulate yourself on how awesome you are, and pat yourself on the back. If
you want further tips on how to optimize your OS, see the fully-detailed additional tips page. Musicians and people
running DAWs may also want to check out the tips
for DAWs page, or the partitioning for
DAWs page. If you're wanting some interesting freeware check out the (useful) freeware list, and if
you're into securing your data against destruction or corruption, take a gander
toward the data safety guide. Feel
better? I know I do.
All advice given without guarantee - use your brain - if anything
dies/fries/stops/explodes, see a doctor (but don't talk to me).
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