Another way to speed your computer’s performance

The 4 Ways to Speed Up Your Computer's Performance article struck a chord among readers. The article, which includes tips on how to clean up your computer and keep it running smoothly, has been the most popular article on At Work. It has gotten thousands of responses, and most of the feedback has been asking for additional tips.

Here's another way you can speed your computer's performance—change the visual feel of Microsoft Windows XP.

Settings that improve the visual appearance of the Windows XP interface can slow down performance. You can fine-tune the settings in Windows XP Professional to improve your computer’s speed. Although visually it may not look as good, you’ll see a difference in performance immediately. And it won’t change how your computer functions. To make this change you may need to be logged on as an Administrator. Also, applying these settings may change your current desktop theme.

To change the visual settings in Windows XP:

  1. On the Start menu, right-click My Computer and click Properties.
  2. In the System Properties dialog box, click the Advanced tab. In the Performance area, click Settings.
  3. In the Performance Options dialog box, on the Visual Effects tab, you can either click the Custom radio button, and then select which user interface (UI) features to disable to improve performance. Or, if you click the Adjust for best performance radio button, all of the UI features will be disabled. Choose the option that works best for you.
  4. Click Apply.

I have my visual settings adjusted for best performance. Like advertised, it doesn’t look as good, but it is faster.

Jason Kozleski

Comments (41)

  1. Dinesh Jeewantha says:

    Its very help for me

    Thanks a lot

  2. Ismael says:

    Is very helpfull but it looks like if you have windows 95

  3. this is the very best page u have ever put on my pc and so easy to follow instructions. everything so for has worked for me. thank you

  4. One of our recent articles, Optimize your computer for peak performance, talked about some steps you…

  5. Rozz says:

    Not bad. Does look rather bland as mentioned above but if it gets things going faster I can live with that.

  6. Nancy Feeny says:

    It was easy for me to do and helped out right away. Thanks!

  7. dmhoelle says:

    My comment re: "#Get rid of unused programs on your computer"

    This one is not for me.   I may not use all the programs all the time – but there was a reason I put the program/s on the pc in the first place.   I expect the PC to be able to handle and store all the info … provided I supply adequate hard drive and RAM and speed.

    Any other comments I should know about?

  8. dmhoelle says:

    I expect to add more RAM…

    and see if that helps.

  9. cristian says:

    hey, pretty fast. Don’t like the view.  How do you get back the real view, you know, the one that XP originally comes with.

  10. vicki says:

    these tips really do make my computer faster!

  11. Ammad says:


    Well there are many ways to improve your PC Performances using Registry Cleaners, Fast Anti Viruses (other then Norton)and making some changes etc etc

  12. brandon says:

    Get antispyware software and update it frequently, scan daily

    Also, try to only download and install things you need.

  13. Mark says:

    it is very helpful but if you have a windows 98!

  14. Roslyn says:

    I’m afraid I’m addicted to downloading heaps of software onto my computer. There’s so much great free stuff out there I just cant help myself! I certainly don’t use all of them all the time so I put them onto a cd-rw (so I can add more as I go) . That way when I want to use one or more I can just pop my cd in and install from that instead of having to look and find the page/s I got them from. And I dont think I’m breaking any rules because the cd is only for me and my computer. Gee, I think I just gave a tip did I? Dunno how helpful it is though lol. I enjoy reading your blog a lot and visite at least once a week. Keep up the great work, I learn quite a bit from you, ya clever dude xxoo

  15. Michelle says:

    I couldn’t say anything much better than it was said.  I’m a daily cleaner of spyware that is and of cleaning up my disk space.  Although I built and have more than I can handle, even when I had dial up it was a click away.  I didn’t like to want for anything!  I now have DSL and can’t complain, like I said dial up was quick if you know what your doing you’ll get the speed.  Nice blog!

  16. Bonny Hora says:

    Really appreciate the results,who is bothered of the looks,saves a lot of time,viewing sites,thank you very much.

  17. russell munson says:

    looks too different for me. i agree with dmhoelle. i want to be able to use the programs and software i had installed on my puter. unless my computer slows down dramatically, i choose not to use this particular tip. love this blog!

  18. Glenn says:

    I scheduled Disk Cleanup as a recurring task.  However, it still prompts for the disk to clean up and the files to remove, which defeats the purpose of a scheduled task.  Is there any way to provide these settings so it can run unattended?

  19. c says:

    put a check in the custom box and check "slide task bar"/"smooth edges"/ and the last 3 boxes.

    you will still get greatly improved performance with little xp visual loss.

  20. Sc:o)tt says:

    Why not just run everything in DOS mode.  Those text based screens run really fast.  You could get Word 1.0 and never be delayed again.  The XP interface is one of the biggest benefits/enhancements that XP has – to turn it off is, well, dogging it down to the 98 look and feel.  Frankly I’d rather wait a couple seconds for IE to come up than lose the look.

    If you have a slow computer it will make it faster.  NOTE: Some XP PCs are very slow with only 256 Megs of memory (almost useless).  But if you add another 128 or 256 Megs and they speed right up.  With the cost of memory so cheap it might be worth the money to add some rather than lose the XP look!  But that is just my opinion.  

  21. Denton Yoder says:

    I saw a lot of comments about ’95, and ’98.  Sorry for you, but you can speed the machine a lot by setting a fixed swap space, after your defrag.  Choose a low and high size at the same value (3 times ram size max, if that is too small, buy more ram).  If you don’t windows has to think, and allocate space, which requires processing time, and utilizes fragmented space.  You want one large contiguous space, and you don’t want your OS thinking about it!  Major speed advantage, and doesn’t crash as much.

  22. Michel Ouellet says:

    I consider this to be futile, before today you would contact a video card fabricant and upgrade the memory.  Better machines more performance.  Why should that be the old way?

    Is programming really faster than hardware development? 16 million characters of temporary memory, random access memory, flash memory, are we running out of silica or fluore (like the green stuph for night light in watch [radio active])?

    Process that one.

  23. Lawrence Stewart says:

    I tried this and yes it does kind of help.  Icons on desktop are blocked by a background blue color now which is not visually pleasing.  I’ve tried many tips to speed up the performance and recently after resetting something when I restarted the computer I now get a permanent line on the right corner of the desktop that reads, Window XP Home Edition Build 2600.xpsp_sp2_gdr.050301-1519 (Service Pack 2). I have no idea why this has happened nor how to get rid of it.  It always seems that none of these things ever speed up my computer at all and only leave behind another problem to solve. Is there some software that can just zoom through and look for everything unnecessary then let you choose what to remove.  There are all sorts of odd Windows XP update files in the Add Remove section that I dare not touch for fear of setting off a chain reaction of new problems.  Maybe I need more virtual memory.  What is that and where do I get it anyway?  Thanks from Grumpy head.

  24. Nick says:

    My computer seems to use way too much RAM in realtion to the programs that are running.

    After a reboot it can easily go to 300MB of RAM used. I go to the task manager and I can not see what is taking some of the RAM. Is there a better way to see everything that needs RAM and how much.  Also I have 2gb of RAM yet when I use slightly over 1gb I get low memory warnings from XP. How do I fix these problems?

  25. Bill says:

    I do the same thing, but add back the checkmarks for "smooth fonts, shadows, and visual styles.

    You get most of the performance gain w.o. look like Win95.

  26. Jeff L. says:

    If you like this tip but want to keep the overall XP Theme look and feel then instead of selecting "Best Performance" instead select "Custom".  Required to keep the general look and feel are:

    1. Use drop shadows for icon labels on desktop

    2. Use visual styles on Windows and buttons

    I also keep the following selected just for overall experience but disable the rest.

    3. Show Translucent Rectangle Selection

    4. Show Windows contents while dragging

    5. Smooth Edges on Screen Fonts

  27. Jeff L. says:

    If you like this tip but want to keep the overall XP Theme look and feel then instead of selecting "Best Performance" instead select "Custom".  Required to keep the general look and feel are:

    1. Use drop shadows for icon labels on desktop

    2. Use visual styles on Windows and buttons

    I also keep the following selected just for overall experience but disable the rest.

    3. Show Translucent Rectangle Selection

    4. Show Windows contents while dragging

    5. Smooth Edges on Screen Fonts

  28. Beanyboy says:

    one of the most important things people forgot or dont know about it is defragmentation. There is a manual defragmenter that comes free with all the operating systems but I would recommend putting one on that is automatic. The setting I use is Screensaver mode. This means that whenever your screensaver kicks in, the defrag starts automatically. This will speed your pc up heaps. I use diskeeper, its actually the fully blown version of the freebie that comes with XP

  29. Bruce says:

    If you use a P2P service like free limewire or Kazaa, or others, you may wind up with some spyware on your system. You can clean this up after creating a restore point with system restore. You can get to the web in safemode if you are on DSL or Cable by restarting and tapping the F8 key – Choose safemode with networking – hit enter and enter on the operating system highlight. If dialup unfortunately you have to do ti in normal mode which takes more time and may need several tries to clean up. When you get to safemode click yes on the safemode message and go th the web – Trendmicro, mcafee, norton and other antimalware providers all have free spyware and / or virus scans. Run the scan after you have done your downloads and delete all the malware it finds. This will clean all the junk you may have inadvertently downloaded and your system will perk up.  You may have to reset the internet protocols and winsocks to clear up any page cannot be displayed messages that may occur after restarting. A good place to check for steps to fix those errors are the manufacturer websites like – save their ‘resolving internet explorer issues " document (printable Version) to a new folder in  your my documents folder or copy and paste it into a notepad window and save that – there is a lot of good info there.

  30. Flicker says:

    Everyone likes to install cool programs and most of the time do not use many of the programs they install. A very big problem comes up when programs are uninstalled to "speed up" the computer, which can actually cause it to run slower. Whenever a program is installed, 90% of the time it installs "helper" files that start up every time you start windows. Windows cannot delete or uninstall files that are in use, so many times some of these "helper" files are left with nothing to do when the programs themselves are uninstalled. This is usually caused by a poorly written uninstall program – McAfee, Norton, and AOL are notorious for leaving unwanted traces with the associated problems. I have found that using a registry cleaner can be helpfull. Be aware that many registry cleaners and spyware clearners are actually spyware programs themselves. I have found a good one, CCleaner, listed on my web site, Hijack this, another cleaner program, should only be used by people familiar with windows.Thank you, Flicker

  31. Ory Conrad says:

    easy to install, now i will reserve my opinion until i test it.

  32. I have Windows ME,also have XP Professional.Often times I delete tempoary Internet files.Go to tools and Internet Options and click setting and click view setting then on keyboard press ctrl and A sme tme you’ll get highlighted Blue,g to File to Delete and will ask you are you sure delete these files click ok and it be all gone.Then click ok and click ok again it helps go faster.

    Every week I use Ad-Aware and Spy-Bot.And do Defragmenter every week. I have AVG free edition Antivirus it searching for viruses every day in morning at 8 amIt helps run faster.I have ZoneAlarm Free helps too keeps out hackers.

    Thank you for the TipTalk!


  33. I have tried this before and it does cause my computer to respond only a little bit faster, but it’s not worth it to trim off a few seconds. I would rather have the special effects.

  34. TurnThePage says:

    I have 2 Quik, tips. Go to my Computer, Rigt click on your C: Drive, or what !st your main drive, what ever Letter you’ve given that drive. Most common is C: Where you have Windows loaded. Do a Drfrag at least once weely if you are on the Internet often. (Daily) If you do not use your PC often, you fire it up say, Once a week. Then only monthly or when you see it slow down. THen do every drive on your PC, if you have more than one drive. Last, after you’ve defraged. Click on the box above defrag, and check disk at started up or errors. Defrag moves files around to load faster. This sometimes can cause trouble. Just run scan for erros and this will have you running smoothly. It’s even better to find a Good defrag after market program. Makes your PC even faster at bootup.

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