Born slow and getting worse

My housemate's Dell PC running XP has always been very slow and is getting worse. Task Manager says 3% CPU use (of which 97% is System Idle Processes) and commitment is about 50% of RAM. Where do I start to debug it?
the larger the system idle the better, this means that the system has 97% standing idle ready to use.

Advice from Shenan Stanley:

Probably will want to clean up that machine...

Check for malware:
Download, install, run, update and perform full system scans with the following two applications:

Malwarebytes (MBAM):
SUPERAntiSpyware: (SAS):

Removing everything they find. Rebooting when needed. (You can uninstall one or both when done.)
Then perform an online scan with the eSet Online Scanner.

The less you have running all the time, the better the things you want to run will perform:

Use Autoruns to figure out what all is starting up when your computer does/when you log on. Look up anything you do not know about usingGoogle (and/or ask here.) You can hopefully figure out if there are things starting when you computer does (or you logon) that you do not need and then configure them (via their own built-in mechanisms is the preferred method) so they do not start up - using your resources without reason.
You can download and utilize Process Explorer to see exactly what is taking up your processor/CPU time and memory. This can help you recognize applications you might want to look into alternatives for and/or get rid of all together.

Do some house cleaning and dust off that hard drive:

You may wish to free up some disk space (will also aid in getting rid of things you do not utilize) by going through these steps:

Windows XP should take between 4.5 and 9GB *with* an Office suite, Photo Editing software, alternative Internet browser(s), various Internet plugins and a host of other things installed.

If you are comfortable with the stability of your system, you can delete the uninstall files for the patches that Windows XP has installed...

( Particularly of interest here - #4 )

( Alternative: )

You can run Disk Cleanup - built into Windows XP - to erase all but your latest restore point and cleanup even more "loose files"..

How to use Disk Cleanup

You can turn off hibernation if it is on and you don't use it..

When you hibernate your computer, Windows saves the contents of the system's memory to the hiberfil.sys file. As a result, the size of the hiberfil.sys file will always equal the amount of physical memory in your system. If you don't use the hibernate feature and want to recapture the space that Windows uses for the hiberfil.sys file, perform the following steps:

- Start the Control Panel Power Options applet (go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, and click Power Options).
- Select the Hibernate tab, clear the "Enable hibernation" check box, then click OK; although you might think otherwise, selecting Never under the "System hibernates" option on the Power Schemes tab doesn't delete the hiberfil.sys file.
- Windows will remove the "System hibernates" option from the Power Schemes tab and delete the hiberfil.sys file.

You can control how much space your System Restore can use...

1. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.

2. Click the System Restore tab.

3. Highlight one of your drives (or C: if you only have one) and click on the "Settings" button.

4. Change the percentage of disk space you wish to allow.. I suggest moving the slider until you have just about 1GB (1024MB or close to that...)

5. Click OK.. Then Click OK again.

You can control how much space your Temporary Internet Files can utilize...

Empty your Temporary Internet Files and shrink the size it stores to a size between 64MB and 128MB..

- Open ONE copy of Internet Explorer.
- Select TOOLS - Internet Options.
- Under the General tab in the "Temporary Internet Files" section, do the following:
- Click on "Delete Cookies" (click OK)
- Click on "Settings" and change the "Amount of disk space to use:" to something between 64MB and 128MB. (It may be MUCH larger right now.)
- Click OK.
- Click on "Delete Files" and select to "Delete all offline contents" (the checkbox) and click OK. (If you had a LOT, this could take 2-10 minutes or more.)
- Once it is done, click OK, close Internet Explorer, re-open Internet Explorer.
You can use an application that scans your system for log files and temporary files and use that to get rid of those:

Ccleaner (Free!)

( just the disk cleanup - don't play with the registry part for now )
Other ways to free up space..



Those can help you visually discover where all the space is being used. Then you can determine what to do.
After that - you will want to check for any physical errors and arrange everything for efficient access"


How to scan your disks for errors
* will take time and a reboot.
How to Defragment your hard drives
* will take time
I've done most of this stuff, with no obvious change.

But while I was, I got several messages that it was out of virtual memory. Checking, I saw that this PC (a Dell Vostro 200 minitower) has only 500 MB of RAM. I'm going to up that to 2GB and see if this helps. FWIW, the CPU is an Intel 2140 @ 1.60GHz.

I also now have a list of her startup programs, attached.


  • BK startup progs.txt
    7.3 KB · Views: 511
The only thing you want starting up is your antivirus, I did not even see an antivirus.

2gb will be great, :)

CCLeaner, disable monitoring,

glary utilities, uninstall
aol desktop, uninstall

remove ctfmon.exe :

all dell stuff does not need to run on startup.

I do not use messenger so cannot say if it is necessary for startup, you might do some reading on that.

get rid of all google toolbars.


This is an undesirable program.

see here

you will have to check online to see if the apple stuff needs to run at startup or not.


run the startup lite program, it will let you know what is unnecessary:


If this were me, after getting more ram, I would save my data and then reinstall the os to get rid of any lurking infections and/or malwere.
You can try downloading PC faster, this is a freeware which helps you maintain your pc to it's top notch status. this is compatible with Windows XP. This will make your computer run faster again. This will automatically kill all the unnecessary background application running on your computer. Just give it a try and see if it helps. I'm using this for a while.
Last edited: