Put New Life Into Windows XP

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Disconnect Dead Network Connections

Windows XP has a very useful feature that lets you map a network drive to your local PC. So, for example, if there's a drive on another PC on your network or on a network server that you frequently browse to, you can make it look to XP as if it's a local disk, such as the F: drive. That way, you can quickly get to the network drive instead of having to navigate through a complex maze of paths.

That's the good news. Here's the bad news: If any of those network drives is no longer alive, it can slow down your system. Every time you start XP, it tries to connect to all the network drives you've mapped. If the remote drive doesn't respond, XP waits to start and will try to connect again until it gives up.

In addition, when you use some programs, they'll try to make the connection as well, further slowing your system. The result? When you try to open a file on your local PC, you may have to wait several seconds.

Disconnecting dead network drives is simple. Right-click My Computer and choose Disconnect Network Drive. You'll see a screen like one pictured nearby, which lists all your network drives. Select any drives you want to disconnect, then click OK. Things should now speed up.

Remove Extraneous Start-Up Programs

You've most likely got many programs that load into your system on start-up. These programs do worse things than just slowing down start-up -- they can bog down your PC by constantly taking up RAM and CPU power. Unfortunately, in XP, there's no single place to go to find all those start-up programs and decide which ones to keep and which to kill.

That's where Mike Lin's Startup Control Panel applet comes in. It shows you all the programs and services that load on start-up, then lets you kill any you don't want to keep.

The program is multitabbed, with one tab for every place where a program or service may be launched on start-up. Click each tab and examine the listings. Right-click any program you don't want to run, and select Disable so that it no longer runs.

If you're not sure what a particular program does and whether you need it, do a Google search on the program name or file name for more information. The process is laborious, to be sure, but what you gain in start-up speed is well worth your efforts.

Don't Clear the Paging File on Shutdown

If shutting down XP takes too long, you can tell XP not to clear your paging file when it shuts down. The paging file stores temporary files and data, but when your system shuts down, that information stays in the file.

Some people want the paging file cleared at shutdown because sensitive information such as unencrypted passwords sometimes ends up there. But if extreme security isn't a high priority, you can save yourself some time by not clearing it. (If you're on a corporate machine, check with IT before taking this step.)

To shut down XP without clearing your paging file:

1. Open the Registry Editor by typing regedit at a command prompt or the Run box.

2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ Control\Session Manager\ Memory Management.

3. Look for the value ClearPageFileAtShutdown, and change it to 0.

4. Exit the Registry and reboot.

From now on, your paging file won't be cleared, and shutdowns should be faster.

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