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What to do with a slow Windows PC

Posted 08-15-2008 at 06:58 AM by Avoura
Updated 11-16-2008 at 06:40 PM by Avoura

Recently on a forum, a person said they were given an old PC running Windows and it was getting very slow. If you are in that position, read on.

If you have an old Windows XP PC, there is probably a lot of defragmentation on the hard drive, and lots of files from software that was installed and then uninstalled as well.

You should defragment the hard drive. Also scan for viruses and spyware, and rootkits. If it is still slow, then it might be best to back up all your data, make sure you have installation files/disks for all your software and OS, and then reformat the hard drive.

I always find it best to have a separate partition for the pagefile/swapfile, following the Linux model. This is because if the pagefile is mixed in with the Windows files and your documents, etc., it will get very badly fragmented. And as Windows uses the pagefile as an extension to its RAM, it needs to be in one contiguous file rather than lots of smaller files scattered all over the hard disk.

Decide on the size of pagefile you need. For example, if you have 1 GB of RAM, you might want a pagefile of 2 GB. Although if you have 2 GB of RAM you might want a max of 3 GB pagefile, I do not think there is a need to go larger than that. Now, assuming you are using Windows XP, you need to make sure that there is going to be at least 10% free space on the partition for the pagefile. Even though nothing else is going on there, other than one large fixed-size file, Windows XP complains if any partition has less than 200 MB of free space. So make your pagefile partition 2.2 GB if you intend to have a pagefile of 2 GB.

If you do not know how to create partitions, then you can use a program like GParted. Go to to download a live CD of the software, and then burn the ISO file to a CD as a disc image (not as a file on a disc). When that is completed, you should (after backing up all your data, etc.) then reboot the PC from the GParted CD.
(Remember to change settings in the BIOS if the PC will not boot from a CD, to set the boot priority to CD before HDD).

It will then allow you to erase your existing partition and create new ones. Or you could just resize the existing partition and create a new one for the pagefile in the space created. More instructions on using the software can be found at Remember that for Windows XP you will need to make any new partition an NTFS partition.

Also, the first partition on the hard disk should be a primary partition. The second partition should be an extended partition, with a logical partition inside it for the pagefile. You can have several logical partitions if you wish. I tend to prefer to have a separate partition for my documents and data, away from the partition where the operating system is installed. Then if you need to reinstall the OS, you can format the OS partition without touching your data files.

You might also want to consider creating more logical partitions for other operating systems. For example, you might want to try out Linux in another partition. Ubuntu is very good and nearly all Linux distributions are free. You can download it for free from or request a CD completely free from (choose the desktop edition, unless you really want to set up a server and know how to do that).

The Ubuntu installation CD is also a Live CD, i.e. you can boot from it into a full version of the operating system to try it out before installing it. The Live CD will do nothing to your hard disk unless you request it, so it is perfectly safe. If you like it you can install it. It also comes with GParted, so you could use the Ubuntu Live CD to run GParted and manage your partitions if you so wish. If you do install Ubuntu, it will need its own partition (ext3 format, not NTFS) plus a swap partition. Ubuntu can read and write to NTFS partitions, but Windows XP cannot read or write to a Linux partition.

Whatever you do, I hope you end up with a faster and reliable PC.
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