On the subject of Defragmenting Hard Drives, it generally doesn't do much to improve system performance these days like it did back in the 1990s. I suppose if you're using the FAT32 file system it could be useful but if you're using NTFS(and I'm guessing you are since most people with Windows 2000 onwards are these days) then it's of little help. However I use it occasionally anyway just in case. If you really want to Defragment your drive anyway you might as well use a program other than Windows inbuilt one. A free choice I'd recommend is Diskeeper Lite
Possibly the best way to speed things up is to make an image of your computer just after you've installed Windows and downloaded all the needed patches and installed a few programs you know are safe and use a lot. Then after about a year when things get really clunky just restore the image. Of course this is a hassle, you need to have all your files backed up and then place them right back on your computer and then install any other programs you want. For making these images I use a free product called DriveImage XML
. It can do backups to removalable media, through networking or even to another drive you have with enough space on your computer. Since it uses XML the information can also to some degree be read by other programs that can read that language.
A similar yet less effective solution is some obvious thing like stopping unessential programs from running at startup, cleaning out temp files regularly and such, regularly clear your Hard Drive of unneeded programs and files, also clearing junk out of the registry may also help performance but doing it manually is both time consuming and dangerous if you aren't adept at that sort of thing and Registry Cleaning programs sound good but unless you inspect and understand each entry you'll be potentially deleting it could cause system problems so it's not overly advisable. But then I use one so I guess that makes me hypercritical but then I'm not the smartest person around! Changing some Windows settings can also help, like turning off it's glitzy effects and such. For taking care of deleting temp files and other garbage I use CCleaner
(freeware), takes up few resources and disk space and does a good job.
For a bit more of an advanced solution there's things like Tweak UI
(free), part of Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP. It lets you have more control over your OS than it allows but again unless you have enough knowledge of the OS it could be dangerous and these are more for customizing things rather than speeding them up.
Edited by EnigmaChick, 07 June 2007 - 08:48 PM.