7 Tips to Keep Windows XP Running (For Years...)

Thursday Jul 10th 2008 by Ronald Barrett
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If you'd prefer to skip Vista and wait for the next Windows release, you’ll need to use some serous life extension techniques.

If all goes as anticipated (and it never does), Windows 7 will arrive in 2010. Therefore, if you’ve done the math that means Windows XP, originally released in 2001, will be nine years old. A nine-year-old operating system is human equivalent of a centenarian.

As we know this is no easy feat it calls for some serious life extension techniques.

I think this is a fitting analogy actually, since running Windows XP for another 1-2 years is a very real possibility for some. After all, many who despised Vista will likely not only wait for Windows 7 to release. They will most likely wait for the first service pack to arrive before making a change. That would put us possibly into 2011.

So if you want to see Windows XP make it to the ripe old age of ten, you should likewise take steps to keep it in good health.

1) Run Windows Updates

As an IT Director, I cannot recall how many times I had someone bring me a PC with XP installed on it from home and tell me it does not work right. Nine times out of ten, the Windows updates were not done.

In a few cases, they had not even installed SP2. When XP was released, many of the technologies we have available today were in their infancy or non-existent. Keeping Windows updated will help keep you running well.

2) Add Memory and Move Data Online or to an External Drive

It is no secret Windows runs better with more memory, so maximize XP by adding RAM.

Another essential fact: Windows runs better if you have at least 20 percent disk space available. With the advent of downloadable Music and Movies (legally of course), you need to beware. Both RAM and storage are cheap these days so why not invest in some to keep your system in an optimal state. At a mere 38 years old (in human years) I wish I could just simply add some extra memory or possibly off-load some things to external memory. Perhaps they will have that available by 2010 as well…

3) Run System & Driver Updates

Another area that even many IT people are guilty of, is not updating the system itself. BIOS updates and driver updates go a long way to help keep things running smoothly.

It is important to remember, though, with driver updates, never run the “beta driver.” It is also a good idea to backup your system, in case the driver causes something to stop working.

Now it bears saying that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, likewise you may be living with some issues. If you fit this description you need to decide if you’re happy with the issue from the driver. In that case perhaps you can live with it for a while longer.

4) Do Not Keep Up with the Joneses

The latest and greatest is always the smartest and efficient. Many of the software packages created today are built for the Vista platform or beyond. New software is always coded new systems and vice-versa.

So you need to decide if the latest version of Office or the newest Adobe Acrobat release is really necessary. If you can live without it (and be honest with yourself) than run the older version. Both you and XP will be happier.

5) Keep Antivirus Updated

Now I said not to keep up with the Joneses, this however does not apply to antivirus software. It is a necessity to keep free from viruses and malware or whatever may come your way. This is why simply updating virus patterns will not work.

The first antivirus programs did not handle spyware and malware. As things progress from bad to worse you need to have the latest defense tools.

6) Keep it Clean

Another tip to a happy and healthy Windows XP is maintenance. I have seen all too many times: the unkempt system.

If you are going to keep Windows running smoothly you need to run your maintenance. Windows Vista automatically runs disk defragmentation, but for XP you need to either run it manually or schedule a task. It is also important to remove unnecessary temp files and to run a registry cleaner.

There is no shortage of things you can do to clean up XP. A few other good maintenance tips: use add/remove programs to remove software. In addition, never forgot to remove programs from the Windows startup. Much software and even some hardware add utilities and pre-loaders into the Windows startup. This only adds to the boot time and in most cases, they are not needed to run the program or hardware effectively.

It’s a good idea to run the disk cleanup utility provided with XP. This will remove many of the unneeded file XP keeps around. It will also get rid of outdated restore point files, which are no longer needed. This will go a long way in keeping your system healthy.

7) Avoid the Unnecessary

I know my last piece of advice may not be popular. It seems, though, that we tend to put lots of software, toolbars and utilities that are not needed on our systems.

There is no need to have the Google and Yahoo toolbar in Internet Explorer. Likewise, it is not necessary to have Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari Web browsers. I see users all the time who install the latest version of AOL, for instance, and leave the last four versions installed.

Another popular viewpoint is the idea that if one spyware utility is good then two or three are better. All these compete for resources and slow your machine down. A lot of users are wary of Windows Vista because they feel it is a bloated down OS. Do not make the mistake of loading Windows XP down with things that are not necessary.

Following these few guidelines will ensure that your Windows XP system stays running long after Windows 7 is even released. In fact, your hardware will probably give way before XP does.

Who knows what Windows 7 has to offer, perhaps you may want XP to run until the coming of Windows 8. Hopefully not, but these tips will certainly help keep you running smooth until you’re ready for your upgrade.

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