Actually I'm having a Douglas Adams moment; not pondering if my ancestors should ever have come down from the trees (or out of the water) but wondering if I should ever have stopped using Windows 2000. Here's how you can get some speed back.
Microsoft continues to innovate with the desktop, but a lot of what they add is just pretty fluff, and it's not necessarily coded to be light and fast. If you can live without some of that fluff, you might be surprised by how Windows can move with a little more alacrity.
I had the suspicion that XP's native theme is a bit sluggish and I knew I hated the XP File Search wizard with it's ostensibly cute but actually acutely annoying analogue of the Office paper clip, the famous search puppy. Instead of wagging it's tail and running round in circles, it'll have you clicking again and again, and cycling back and forth with Back and Next until you eventually find what you're looking for or finally lose your reason. Please Microsoft, no more "agent" technology, it's even less illuminating than conversing with a chatbot or (I suspect) one of your support people.
So here's what I've done to speed things up on XP:
Lose the search puppy (send him to catch a long ball off a short pier); credits to the Elder Geek:
- Open regedit.exe using the Run (WinKey+R) dialog box.
- Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software
- Right click in the right pane and select New > String Value
- Name the new string "Use Search Asst" and press enter
- Double click the string name and enter "no" (lower case) in the Value Data: line. Click OK
Don't use a desktop background: it still brings up Active Desktop if you do, so pick a nice colour and live with it (who looks at their desktop background anyway?). Oh wait, I do. Oh well, I don't when I turn it off, which definitely improves my performance.
Disable the Windows XP theming engine: hit the Logo key and press R, then run "services.msc", scroll down to Themes, right-click and select Properties, change "Startup type" to "Manual" and finally hit the Stop button. It'll look ugly for a while, and then you'll just notice that windows, menus and dialogs pop into place that little bit faster.
Tell Windows Messenger to take a message: you're just a few changes in the registry away from ending this little beast (if you're not a regular user of the registry, make a backup first).
Kill any autoruns you don't need: Sysinternals Autoruns will show you what Windows starts automatically when you login. It's probably safest to look at the Winlogon tab, a lot of other items are really essential. Before disabling anything, you might want to try using the Processes tab in Windows Task Manager (or just use Process Explorer) to kill the application first (that way, if you kill anything essential, you just need to restart your Windows session to get back to normal).
Use a fast tabbed browser: Since Firefox introduced tabs, I'm an full-on Fx fan (IE is just ridiculously outdated, and IE 7 RC 1 caused my desktop to hang after login). I had a brief look at Flock but it's features didn't strike me as compelling enough to step off the Mozilla mainstream and I even glanced at Opera (now free, no adware), which almost convinced me to switch because it was noticably nippier, but I would miss my extensions (especially Adblock, DownThemAll, and Del.icio.us tagger).
Tabs are much easier to manage than windows, I do all my browsing in just two windows now (and the other window is a separate Firefox process to allow me to use multiple identities with Google services; just set the MOZ_NO_REMOTE environment variable to 1 and run Firefox with the -P option so that you can create and use a separate profile for the second process).
Mmm, also get rid of any viruses that might be eating your CPU: if your anti-virus isn't helping, take a look at one of my earlier posts on how to murder a virus with your bare hands; a symptom of some kinds of malware is that Windows Explorer CPU will go up to 99% and stay around there.