Performance, every Windows user wants performance and as much as possible. It seems as though Microsoft is intent on depriving users of the performance they seek. Each time a new OS comes out it has even more features that needlessly consume system resources. With each new OS it becomes more cumbersome to squeeze performance from your computer. Microsoft does provide more powerful computing options with each new OS but it also provides far too much window dressing.
First on the list is elimination of visual effects. For Windows XP right click the My Computer icon and select properties. The system properties window will open; select the advanced tab. At the top of the advanced window will be a section labeled performance with a setting button; click that button. The performance option window opens with the visual effects tab active. Select the, adjust for best performance button and click the apply button. Your system screen appearance will resemble something like the more primitive versions of Windows but it is worth the performance gain.
Now that you have changed the visual effects select the advanced tab of the performance options window. The section at the top labeled processor scheduling select the, adjust for best performance of programs button and apply. This will give your programs a larger share of CPU resources than the background programs that do not need extra CPU resources. Next in the memory usage section select the, adjust for best performance of programs and apply. The system cache option is only valuable if you are running your computer as a server.
Another quick little adjustment that can help performance is process priority. Process priority in windows starts with low, below normal, normal, above normal, high and real time. Changing a few processes to real time will give that process priority over other processes running below the real time setting. Open the Windows Task Manager window by pressing Crtl+Shift+Esc. When the task manager window opens select the processes tab. In the current window click the Mem Usage tab twice so that the processes are organized by largest memory consumption first. Depending on what you have opened there will be some processes with a large amount of memory usage. I suggest changing only the largest process to real-time priority. Typically the largest process will be a program you have open such as IE8 or Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. To upgrade process priority right click the process and select set process priority and real-time.
These are but a few things you can do to increase your systems performance. When dealing with these types of modifications I recommend that you set a system restore point before you start adjusting things. While the above adjustments should not cause any issues it is always better to be safe than sorry.