Best way to improve speed to an old computer?

  Echo1 19:30 27 Feb 2011

I was given an old PC this week, it was a bit worst for wear but I've managed to install XP Pro on to it and had added an extra 256mb of RAM - it helps a little. Anyway, I would like to make it faster still. The current specs of this PC are:

AMD Athlon 64 2800+, 512MB DDR-SDRAM (only two slots on the board), 128MB GeForce FX 5200 AGP 8X, onboard sound (have ordered a PCI sound card) and 80GB HDD.

Would added more RAM or a better graphics card speed things up? As it stands, It's okay for the Internet and watching G4TV and youtube for example but is sluggish with iplayer somewhat and can be slowish during desktop operations etc.

Which is the best graphics card (AGP 8X) to add, anyway? Something realistic and not overkill would do. And would 1GB or 2GB be ideal?


  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 19:45 27 Feb 2011

1. Software

a) Clear out all temporary files and folders -- use CCleaner click here

b) Scan for malware spyware and viruses --Free Anti Spyware :-
Malwarebytes click here
Superantispyware click here

Free Antivirus software
MicroSoft Security Essentials click here
Avast click here

c) Clean the registry -- Use the tool in Crap Cleaner its very safe and also allows you to back up the registry first.

d) Pagefile (Virtual Memory) -- Right click MY Computer - select properties - Advanced tab - Performance -
advanced tab - Virtual memory click change, you can put the page file on a different drive (if you have one), click
custom size and set Initial size to one and a half times the amount of memory you have fitted i.e. 512MB memory
= set to 768MB, set maximum to double your memory amount i.e. 512MB memory = 1024MB click ok.
If your hard drive is full and there is not enough room for the pagefile this can slow down, freeze or even cause the
PC to crash (restart).

e) Cut down on the programs that load at start up -- Start - Run type msconfig - start up tab- untick everything
except for firewall, antivirus and antispyware

and the services that run in the background. click here

2. Hardware

a) Hard drives /

i) IDE Channels: (Not required if you have SATA drives)
Check the transfer rate, you need to have the transfer mode set to DMA not PIO.
Right click My Computer - Properties - Hardware - Device Manager - Expand (click the + ) IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers right click Primary Channel - Advanced Settings Tab -
If transfer Mode is PIO then follow the instructions at click here to change.

ii) Check for errors and defrag your hard drives -- My Computer - select drive - properties - tool tab - Error checking / Defragmentation.

ii) If you are using Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 it's a good idea to convert your system drive to the NTFS file system if you have not already. In addition to providing numerous security and data recovery improvements over FAT32 (the file system of choice for Windows 9x/ME and XP Home) it can also speed up your system slightly.

In fact, the only real reason for sticking with the FAT32 file system for any of your data is if you have more than one operating system on your PC and the other OS's can only see FAT32 partitions (as would be the case with Windows 98, for example, which is incapable of reading NTFS data).

To convert your drives to NTFS:
Right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage'
From the computer management window, expand storage and select 'disk management.'
Using the 'file system' column of the upper pane of this window, you can easily check what file system each of your logical drives is using. Make a note of this information.
Now open a command prompt window by going to 'start\run' and typing 'cmd'
To convert a disk to NTFS, type 'convert (drive letter): /fs:ntfs'
So for example, if you were going to convert your C: drive, you would type 'Convert c: /fs:ntfs' at the prompt.

b) Drivers
Obtain the newest drivers for your hardware
This may seem a bit obvious, but keeping your system's drivers up to date can give both your performance and stability a boost. Video card manufacturers release updates especially often, and these can often give "significant boosts" to gaming performance as video card in question is "optimized."

Don't neglect the other components of your system either. Your motherboard manufacturer may have released newer versions of its Input/output drivers for your board, and sound cards and other peripherals can also benefit from newer software.

c) Memory
Add more physical memory, this of course means opening the "box" and fitting a memory module, make sure you buy one that is suitable for your PC. Crucial .com click here will guide you through the process of selecting the correct memory. click here for a guide to fitting memory.

  woodchip 21:29 27 Feb 2011

If it does not take Sata Drives, you need a Big IDE running at 7200rpm they come cheap these days

  johnincrete 06:54 28 Feb 2011

How do you do this?

  Batch 11:09 28 Feb 2011

Not sure what browser you are using (maybe IE7 or IE8?). You might seem quite a speed gain by switching to something else.

I've just tried both Opera and Google Chrome. Both of these showed a truly dramatic performance improvement over IE7 (I don't believe IE8 is much different, in performnce terms, to IE7; although IE9 is supposed to be quite a bit quicker than IE7/IE8 but is not supported on XP).

Opera is good, but fussy (some might say buggy), with pretty good bookmark (aka favorite) handling. Google Chrome is minimalist, but seems to work well other than truly dire bookmark handling (considerably ameliorated by adding in the Neat Bookmarks "extension").


I'd also recommend increasing memory - to 1GB would be good.

  birdface 11:17 28 Feb 2011

I Updated my old XP desktop from 512mb to 2Gb and it hardly made any difference.

  Batch 11:50 28 Feb 2011

I run 3 XP machines. All pretty lean installs with minimal startups etc. and with Avast / ZA installed.

Without any direct user apps (e.g. Office, Browser etc.) running, usage is typically 280MB. Once I start to run apps, this can readily mount up to more than 512MB and so lead to frequent paging. On the other hand it rarely exceeds 1GB. So 1GB seems to be a good amount of memory (at least for me).

Obviously it depends on what one uses the PC for. But memory is cheap, so.....

  Woolwell 12:26 28 Feb 2011

I recently increased the memory on an old XP machine, with very low specs, to 1Gb RAM and it made a noticeable difference for internet browsing. Anti-virus nowadays takes up a fair amount of memory.
Sluggish iPlayer can also be due to poor broadband speed.

  octal 13:28 28 Feb 2011

Use Linux, my machine is not that much higher spec than that one you have there. It is plenty fast enough.

  Echo1 20:58 28 Feb 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll look at what I can do to improve things.

I think I'm going to go with 1GB of RAM and a 512MB graphics card. That should be good enough for what I require.

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