Windows XP Problem Solving for Everyone

The June 30 date for Windows XP “end of life” has come and gone, and Microsoft has officially placed Windows XP on the long road to retirement. Support for the most widely used operating system in the world will still be available for some time, but there are signs that the software giant is forging ahead deeper into an all .Net model, while scrapping the Win32 code altogether—even in legacy mode. Windows 7 might just be that turning point.

With the fundamental shift in the way its desktop operating system functions, Microsoft has placed millions of users in a tough position. The new XP technician must be crafty and resourceful to solve performance problems, security flaws, unstable environments and countless other issues.

But not everyone is tech-savvy enough to solve the arcane errors that pop up from time to time. With that in mind, here’s a simple list of fixes, tools and automated techniques that can satisfy most users needs with little to no technical understanding of XP.

Prepare Yourself
Similar to adjusting a carburetor to produce the right mix, XP requires up-front adjustments to get the OS to perform at optimal conditions. But before looking under the XP “hood,” follow these steps:

1st. Back up all your critical data to an external storage device.

2nd. If working with a laptop, make sure the laptop is plugged in and not running on battery power.

3rd. Make sure you have administrative access and are logged on as the administrator.

Probably the simplest and most reliable way to optimize storage and improve OS performance is to buy Diskeeper 2008 Professional. But for those on tight budgets, free solutions (and free is always my personal favorite) are also available.

Increasing the physical RAM size is probably the easiest way to manage memory, but if that’s too expensive or not an option, I’d recommend resizing the Windows System Cache and its Registry settings. Here’s how:
1. Go to the Control Panel, click on System Properties, Advanced tab, Performance/settings button. In the Performance Options pane click on the advanced tab, users can increase the size of the virtual memory, and set up processor and memory usage priorities.

2. Controlling cached icons in memory is simple to change in XP. To change the system cache, go to Start, Run and type and run Regedit. Press F3 to find this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer. Lower the value of the Max Cached Icons.

3. To optimize memory, we recommend using Process Lasso. The tool is free, reliable and powerful. Process Lasso provides fine control over applications and services by allowing users to change running priorities and restrain memory usage.
Process Lasso:

4. Have only a single primary disk partition for XP. Creating a single hard drive partition for XP has been proven to be the fastest way to set up system storage.

5. Detect and repair disk errors on a regular basis. There’s no special software to complete this function as the feature is built into Windows XP SP2 and above. Go to Start | My Computer | and right click on the hard disk you want to check, then click Properties. In the properties dialog box, click on the Tools tab and click the Check Now button. In the Check Disk dialog box, select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box and click Start. You do not have to select “Automatically fix file system errors” unless you think that your disk contains bad sectors. If bad sectords are found, simply choose to fix them.

Know Your System
Here are more tips on how to avoid corrupting the registry. Take advantage of tools like CCleaner, RegCleaner and RegSupreme.

IMPORTANT! Back up the Registry by simply saving copies every time software is installed. By this I mean to backup your registry BEFORE you install a new software package. That way, if the installation messes up your computer and you can’t successfully uninstall the offending software, you’ll be able to revert to a good registry

And lastly, here’s how to know if you’ve been hacked:
Never depend on antivirus software and personal firewalls to automatically protect an XP computer. If a user knows what to look for, even sophisticated Windows forensic tools can work quite well.

For years now we’ve been been using Process Explorer and we highly recommend it. Process Explorer provides a listing of all processes running within an XP system, including all interdependencies for the processes.
Process Explorer:

TPCView and FPort are simple tools that provide realtime information on all ports. If a hacker is attempting to enter through a port, FPort will show the pathway of the port access and map it to services in the OS.

Becoming an XP mechanic doesn’t require popping the hood and getting your hands dirty. Users just need to be proactive and smart enough to use sophisticated tools without having to learn the inner complexities of XP. Fortunately, the information provided here can help even the most nontechnical user figure out tough problems in minutes.

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